Pirates find new faces to complement core

Jaso, Niese among offseason additions who could make an impact

Pirates find new faces to complement core

PITTSBURGH -- For the most part, the core of the Pirates' 98-win team will be back in 2016. Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco in the outfield. Francisco Cervelli behind the plate. Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano in the rotation. Mark Melancon, Tony Watson and company in the bullpen.

But general manager Neal Huntington and his staff were busy all offseason filling out the rest of Pittsburgh's roster. Need proof? In the second part of our Spring Training preview series, let's look at the Pirates' "New Guys" -- the players added to the 40-man roster and a few intriguing non-roster invitees.

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LHP Jesse Biddle: He won't be a factor in 2016 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but this could be a big year for the former top prospect. The Pirates occasionally work to rebuild pitchers during the rehabilitation process.

RHP Neftali Feliz: A high-upside addition to the bullpen, the former American League Rookie of the Year was once a dominant closer for the Rangers but struggled last year. If the 27-year-old returns to form, he could be an effective setup man in front of Melancon and Watson.

INF Cole Figueroa: The non-roster infielder has hit .290 with a .761 OPS in the Minors but hasn't seen much Major League time. He's played second, third and shortstop, so he could crack Pittsburgh's Opening Day roster while Jung Ho Kang works his way back from injury. Huntington has spoken highly of Figueroa on several occasions.

Harrison, Kang lead Bucs' comeback candidates

1B/OF Jake Goebbert: Goebbert made his big league debut in 2014 and spent last year with Triple-A El Paso. The 28-year-old lefty hitter has played first base and all three outfield positions, making him a candidate for a bench spot, and he's a career .283/.370/.452 hitter in the Minors.

RHP Trey Haley: A former second-round Draft pick by the Indians who is likely to pitch for Triple-A Indianapolis, Haley went 4-4 with a 2.45 ERA in 43 appearances between Double-A and Triple-A last year. The 25-year-old posted high strikeout (9.8 per nine innings) and walk (5.2 per nine) totals.

1B John Jaso: Previously a catcher and designated hitter, Jaso will make the transition to first base in his age-32 season after signing a two-year, $8 million deal. Jaso brings a patient offensive approach, owning a career .361 on-base percentage. But will he be an upgrade defensively over Pedro Alvarez?

LHP Kyle Lobstein: The 26-year-old lefty will compete for a bullpen job this spring, but he's more likely to open the year in the Triple-A rotation. Lobstein has put together a 5.33 ERA in 20 big league appearances despite a 3.83 ERA in the Minors.

RHP Juan Nicasio: One of the Pirates' more intriguing offseason acquisitions, Nicasio could fill a variety of roles. He will be stretched out as a starter this spring but figures to pitch out of the bullpen, whether it's one inning or long relief. The hard-throwing righty moved to the Dodgers' bullpen last year, posting a 3.86 ERA while his strikeout and walk numbers ticked up.

LHP Jon Niese: The 29-year-old starter went 9-10 with a 4.13 ERA for the Mets last season. He was 30-28 with a 3.49 ERA from 2012-14, and his 50 percent ground-ball rate should play well in front of the Pirates' defense.

Niese talks about joining Bucs

INF Jason Rogers: Rogers hit .296 with an .808 OPS in 86 games with the Brewers last year, and he's hit well throughout his Minor League career. Rogers cost the Pirates a pair of prospects, so they clearly think highly of him. Hitting is his strength, but with experience at first, third and left field, he also offers some defensive versatility.

RHP Jorge Rondon: The non-roster invitee has struggled in limited big league time, but he's coming off an excellent season in Triple-A. Rondon posted a 2.23 ERA for the Orioles' and Rockies' affiliates, allowing 40 hits and striking out 50 in 60 2/3 innings.

RHP Ryan Vogelsong: The 38-year-old righty has fallen out of the big leagues, pitched in Japan, revived his career in San Francisco and won two World Series with the Giants since he last put on a Pirates uniform in 2006. After making a strong return to the Majors in 2011-12, he's gone 21-30 with a 4.63 ERA over the past three years. Vogelsong will try to bounce back and solidify the Bucs' rotation.

LHP Robert Zarate: The Pirates invited a trio of potential lefty relievers to big league camp on Minor League deals: Jim Fuller, Kelvin Marte and, most interestingly, Zarate. The 29-year-old has had an unusual career, going from Rookie-level ball to Japan before returning to pitch in the Rays' system last year. Zarate pitched well in 17 Triple-A appearances, posting a 2.90 ERA with 49 strikeouts and 15 walks in 40 1/3 innings.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.