As of this very moment here is my projected Pirates 25 man roster. Now yes, I understand that April is far away, but these are just my thoughts.
Rod Barajas- The obvious starter. Should have 15 homers and be good defensively.
Mike McKenry- Proved his mettle and the Pirates have not forgotten it. He is great defensively and that could help his chances.
Garrett Jones- He is the starter by default at the position. I am unsure if the Pirates are content with this, but Carlos Pena is a rumor that may not go away for a while.
Neil Walker- The job is clearly his at second. He is still improving defensively but his second half performance needs to be better this season.
Clint Barmes- A plus hitting shortstop and very great defensively. I think fans will be most pleased that Ronny Cedeno is gone.
Pedro Alvarez- Pirates will give him every opportunity to win the starting job. 2011 was a disappointment for Alvarez but the Pirates have a program set for him. If he follows it, keeps his weight going and brings back the power, he will get the job.
Nick Evans- Jones struggles against lefty pitchers, so expect Evans to get the first base nod. His ability to play the outfield will make him the fifth man out there.
Josh Harrison- Harrison may be an odd man out, but he showed grit and determination as a Pirate. His ability to play shortstop will also help him out.
Gustavo Nunez- The Pirates tend to see how their Rule-5 selections work out. They took looks at Evan Meek, Donnie Veal, John Raynor and recently Josh Rodriguez, all recent Rule-5 selections by the Pirates. It is very possible that Harrison and Nunez could compete for one roster spot. If both make it like I have now, then one reliever will be out of the 25 man.
Alex Presley- Showed a lot last season. Despite the blunder of a baseball deflecting off of his arm for a home run, he does have some pop, speed and passion. I like what he brings and the Pirates will give him every opportunity to stop.
Andrew McCutchen- McCutchen really proved his metal last season. He does need to get back to the aggressiveness he displayed on the bases. The glove is there, although sometimes he makes some elementary mistakes out in the field. An automatic start and a five tool player.
Jose Tabata- A little worried about his injuries, but his speed, arm and instincts will give him a starting job. The starting outfield already seems set in stone.
Nate McLouth- McLouth was signed to be the fourth outfielder and with all three Pirates in the outfield experiencing injury last season, he could get lots of plate appearances. He could easily come in and play a corner and his bat at PNC Park has been great.
Starters (in no particular order)
James McDonald- The most consistent starter in the second half of the season. Got that confidence back and showed what we could have seen all season had McDonald not been hurt in Spring Training.
Jeff Karstens- Karstens showed his worth last season but it was fatigue and an innings count which hurt him last season. One can hope he displays that killer curveball once again. This is really the first season in a Pirates uniform that Karstens will not be overlooked. He will be expected to perform.
Erik Bedard- If he is healthy, then Bedard will definitely enjoy PNC Park as it is a pitcher’s park. He is a groundball pitcher and I do believe that with Barmes and Walker, the Pirates have their best defensive infield since Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson graced PNC Park.
Kevin Correia- Despite missing much of the second half of the season, Correia led the Pirates in wins. His road record was a great surprise for this team. For Correia to succeed though, he needs to pitch well at home. He did not get that done last season.
Charlie Morton/Brad Lincoln- I am platooning this as this is based off of Morton’s health. If Morton is healthy and shows that he is ready to pitch, then he will get that rotation spot. If not, I believe that Lincoln showed a lot last season and should get a good look in the rotation until Morton heals.
Tony Watson- Hurdle loves his lefties, and I feel that Daniel Moskos will not be there Opening Day. Hurdle can use Watson however he wants. He can be a long reliever or a situational guy that needs to come in to retire that one hitter.
Jason Grilli- Grilli’s performance in the second half cannot be overlooked. He can be valuable as a long reliever, a middle reliever or in an extreme emergency a closer.
Daniel McCutchen- McCutchen had a breakout season last year and pitched the most innings of any Pirate reliever last season. He will be expected to perform similarly this season.
Chris Resop- Resop was the victim of some rotten luck last season, and I think with Evan Meek back he will lose his setup job. He can still be a setup man if the team wants to ride a hot hand, but Resop projects to be the seventh inning guy.
Jose Veras- Despite what fans think, Veras was a great addition especially when he signed as a Minor League Free Agent. When he is on, his offspeed pitches are deadly, just ask Albert Pujols.
Evan Meek- Meek is expected to help set the bridge. He needs to get as much of that velocity on that fastball. If he can stay in good health and get that lively fastball back, then it will be a good season for him.
Joel Hanrahan- I do not think that Hanrahan will be traded yet. He has shown how valuable he is to this team. Hanrahan will return as the closer and I am sure that will help the team as they know they have a reliable option in to close the door.
In the air: Josh Harrison vs Gustavo Nunez- As I mentioned earlier they could be battling for one spot. Considering the bullpen’s collapse last season they may want another arm. The arm I am thinking is Chris Leroux. He had a great September, and with a great fastball, he did not allow much during his time with the season last year. I believe Harrison, Nunez and Leroux will be battling for two spots. If the team is happy with seven guys in the bullpen, then Leroux will be out. If the team wants another arm, then I think Harrison is the odd man out as they will want to give Rule-5 Nunez an extended look to see if the Pirates have something.