With Spring Training less than a month away, it's time for an in-depth look at the Pirates' 2017 roster. This is the second of an eight-part series checking in on their current and future options at each position. Next up: first base.PITTSBURGH -- Big question: Is this the year the carousel
With Spring Training less than a month away, it's time for an in-depth look at the Pirates' 2017 roster. This is the second of an eight-part series checking in on their current and future options at each position. Next up: first base.
PITTSBURGH -- Big question: Is this the year the carousel stops?
Over the past seven years, the Pirates have had seven different Opening Day first basemen. David LaRoche made three straight Opening Day starts from 2007-09, then the wheel started spinning: Jeff Clement, Lyle Overbay, Garrett Jones, Gaby Sanchez, Player Page for Travis Ishikawa, Pedro Alvarez and John Jaso.
With a designated hitter in play at Fenway Park on April 3, Jaso could make his second consecutive Opening Day start at first. But this year should see the emergence of a new, long-term answer at the position.
The starter:Josh Bell
Bell showed he was ready for the big leagues this past season, beginning his career with a single off Jacob Arrieta and a dramatic pinch-hit grand slam the following night at PNC Park. The switch-hitting slugger batted .273/.368/.406 with more walks (21) than strikeouts (19) in his first 152 Major League plate appearances.
Bell's bat will be critical for the Pirates this year as he takes over at first, but it is less of a concern than his glove. The 24-year-old has certainly put in the work -- no one can question his effort or commitment -- but defensively, he remains a work in progress.
To that end, Bell has trimmed down and focused on flexibility this offseason. He hopes those workouts will pay off, and the Pirates believe Bell can still hit with authority without the same singular focus on strength training.
Backing up: Jaso, David Freese
The first-base platoon from 2016 likely will back up Bell in '17. Jaso noticeably improved on defense as the year went on, and Freese immediately held his own. It was a surprisingly smooth transition for both.
Jaso and Freese could see some late-game action at first while Bell finishes his development; Sean Rodriguez would often replace Jaso (and Alvarez before him) when the Pirates were leading. But Jaso and Freese will stay busy elsewhere, too, and the Pirates expect their bats will benefit from regular -- but not necessarily everyday -- roles.
Jaso is working in the outfield, and he expressed a desire to take some ground balls at third base, making him a more versatile left-handed bat off the bench. Freese will back up Jungho Kang at third, and he could get more starts there if the Pirates occasionally slide Kang over to shortstop on Jordy Mercer's days off.
Depth:Jose Osuna, Jason Rogers, Joey Terdoslavich
Osuna, who split his time between first base and the corner outfield last season, was added to the 40-man roster in November and could find a spot on the Bucs' bench at some point. If not, he's valuable depth at both spots.
Rogers spent most of last season in Triple-A before being designated for assignment in December. Rogers can be a quality depth option if he recaptures his form from 2015, when he hit .296 with an .808 OPS.
Pittsburgh invited Terdoslavich to big league camp on a Minor League deal. It's hard to see him earning an Opening Day roster spot, but the 28-year-old owns a .744 OPS in Triple-A and played for the Braves from 2013-15.
Next up: Bell
Bell has been the heir apparent since he moved to first full time, and there doesn't appear to be a ready-made replacement. Aside from Osuna, Bell is the only first baseman on MLBPipeline.com's list of the Pirates' top 30 prospects.
Will Craig, the Pirates' first-round Draft pick last year, could eventually move across the diamond from third base. Craig, 22, hit .280 with a .412 on-base percentage while playing third base and DH in his professional debut with Class A Short-Season West Virginia this past year.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.