Opening Day Lineup For The Pirates In 2021

With Derek Shelton giving a little bit of insight into his thought process concerning multiple players during his most recent media session, in lieu of his regular Winter Meeting availability, the powers that be have taken to interpreting exactly what this could mean for the Pirates as a whole, as well as some of its individual players. It’s only the middle of December, mind you, so of course he is only working with a pencil at the moment because you know, pencils have erasers. However, that won’t stop passionate Pittsburgh Pirates Fans already being up in arms.

The Pirates first game of consequence is currently scheduled to take place at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday April 1, 2021; although there has already been some talk about that being pushed back, for obvious reasons. As it presently stands Pittsburgh’s 40-man is full with a lot of decisions and/or moves left to be made via trades, assignments to AAA, free agent acquisitions, minor league contracts and potential DFA’s. Nevertheless for now, Shelton needed to answer some questions and give some insight as to how the roster might shake out.

Unfortunately for Pirates Fans, during this interview, they heard the news that shouldn’t really be a shock to anyone at this point; Polanco is penciled in to play right field. I get the sentiment of not wanting a player who struck out 37.4 % of the time last year and is currently hitting .200 in the Dominican Winter League to be starter no matter what to begin the year. However, there are only two choices; you let him play and hope that you get something in return or you have him ride the pine and have no shot of getting anything for him. It’s far from ideal, but it’s only for one more year, or less if things go right.

The next piece of information was Ke’Bryan Hayes at third, which is another revelation that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Still, I have my own little take on this situation, part of which is far from popular, while being extremely unlikely as well due to his performance over the last month of 2020 along with not wanting to upset an already despondent fan base.

Ke’Bryan Hayes, the man without a heartbeat, has not yet exceeded the service requirements to make him a free agent after the 2026 season. This means Ben Cherington has the power to manipulate his service time with the goal of maintaining an extra year of control of the budding superstar. This can be avoided by either signing him to an contract, buying out his arbitration years plus one or more, which is something I have previously suggested , or simply kicking the can down the road and dealing with it later on when it comes to arbitration or an extension. It would be an extremely unpopular decision to start a player such as Hayes in AAA for service manipulation, but it is something organizations that the Pirates could be emulating would do without giving it a second thought. And no I am not just talking about the A’s and Rays.

The next two players mentioned are the simplest and most straightforward, to a degree, in the forms of starting catcher Jacob Stalling and outfielder Bryan Reynolds. Like it or not, and I happen to, Stallings is your starting catcher for at least one more year. The Reynolds in the outfield comment leads to a little more unpacking. Sure we know he will be out there, but will it be left or center? For Shelton the answer may not be all that complicated if Adam Frazier and to a lesser degree Colin Moran (Josh Bell) are still around, as one of them could play left, and the other can play second; both positions suggested by Shelton for Frazier, who is penciled in at second. This more than likely makes Reynolds your starting centerfielder; the position he seemingly wants to, and can play, although I am not sure what that means for shortstop as it is one of the middle infield spots that is up in the air. Alas, this isn’t the only one, because if Moran and Bell are both there come opening day, and there is no DH, Shelton will have another problem.

The Bell/Moran Conundrum is one I tackled before , which breakdown as Bell at first base on opening day if there is no DH; with my preferred player, Moran, left floating around the infield and outfield.

Needless to say there is a lot that can happen between now and then, even so the Pirates, Shelton and Cherington will eventually have to make some tough decisions. For what it’s worth, with the players who are currently here, my starting lineup in no particular batting order would be; Moran at 1st, Frazier at 2nd, Gonzalez at SS, Evans at 3B, Reynolds in LF, Alford in CF, Polanco in RF and Stallings at C.

It’s obviously not my call, but I would manipulate Hayes service time, which is easy for me to say when it is not my decision to make. I am also starting Tucker in AAA, at either SS or in the outfield full time, although what really matters is his bat. As far as the choices for positions are concerned, they would come together a lot easier if I could trust Newman to field at SS, since I would like to get him on the field and could easily slide Gonzalez over to 3B or keep Evans there if he wins the job.

Now, I don’t think things will necessarily work themselves out in this fashion and I hope some moves are made to clear space; though as of this moment the roster remains full and before we know it Shelton will have to start using pen instead of the less permanent pencil.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at InsidethePirates.com, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

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