Pirates' 25-man roster predictions revisited

Spring competitions help Bucs determine key roles for 2017

Pirates' 25-man roster predictions revisited

MONTREAL -- The Pirates' roster is ready for Opening Day.

The Bucs finished trimming their Spring Training roster on Sunday morning, reassigning three players to Minor League camp and sending Jose Osuna to Triple-A Indianapolis. Gregory Polanco (shoulder) and Chris Stewart (groin) will begin the season on the active roster, not on the 10-day disabled list.

As general manager Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle often say, the Opening Day roster is only one iteration. No team carries the same 25 players throughout a full season. The Pirates will, at some point, lean on a handful of the players they've already sent out.

Before Spring Training began, MLB.com took a shot a predicting who would begin the season with the Bucs. Here is a look at what we said then and what we know now, as the Pirates prepare to line up at Fenway Park on Monday.

Catcher
Initial prediction: Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart
Now: This was a pretty safe and accurate call. Cervelli made it through the spring despite a bout with soreness in his right foot. Stewart's late injury (left groin discomfort) made Elias Diaz a possibility, but it appears the veteran will be ready in time.

Cervelli's two-run triple

First base
Initial prediction: Josh Bell, John Jaso
Now: Bell's Feb. 1 surgery turned out to be well-timed, if such a procedure ever can be, because he had plenty of time to get back on the field. He didn't hit the ball well this spring, but the Pirates aren't worried.

Bell's RBI single

Jaso will continue to see time at first while moving around to right field and third base as he did in Florida. David Freese should see some time here, and Phil Gosselin emerged as a potential late-inning defender at first.

Second base
Initial prediction: Josh Harrison
Now: We did not predict how much the Pirates would talk about moving around Harrison this year, but it still seems likely he will be a frequent presence at second base. Adam Frazier will definitely be a factor, too, especially if he continues to rake and claim a spot atop the order.

Shortstop
Initial prediction: Jordy Mercer
Now: This one was pretty obvious. The Pirates also found some backup options in Frazier, Gosselin and Alen Hanson. Gift Ngoepe's excellent offensive spring made him a legitimate depth option if Mercer is sidelined.

Mercer's two-run homer

Third base
Initial prediction: Jung Ho Kang, Freese
Now: It is safe to say Kang is out of the picture for the foreseeable future, at least, given his legal issues in South Korea. That opens the door for Freese to play regularly, and it seems as if Harrison will move over there more often than he did last season. The utility infielders provide additional depth, though none of them possess Kang's power.

Freese's RBI double

Utility
Initial prediction: Frazier, Hanson
Now: Frazier did nothing to diminish his stock and may have even improved it. Hanson is a wild card. He's out of options, so the Pirates either had to put him on the roster or risk losing him. Hanson's inconsistency is still baffling, but his raw talent is so intriguing. We saw both on display this spring.

Osuna hit his way into the conversation with an excellent Spring Training at the plate, but the Pirates ultimately chose the more experienced and versatile Gosselin. Gosselin has several clear roles: backup shortstop, utility infielder and late-innings defender at first -- not unlike Sean Rodriguez.

The only reason we didn't pick all three to make the club before camp opened? One of the spots was cleared when the Bucs acknowledged that Kang, currently on the restricted list, would not be ready for Opening Day.

Gosselin's grand slam

Outfield
Initial prediction: Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen
Now: It would've been hard to mess up this one.

Rotation
Initial prediction: Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, Chad Kuhl, Drew Hutchison
Now: The Pirates simply couldn't put Hutchison in their rotation after his difficult spring, no matter what he's making or what they gave up to get him. Instead, they will turn to Glasnow, their No. 1 prospect, to round out the rotation.

The good news? Cole, Taillon, Nova and Kuhl enjoyed strong springs, and Glasnow -- named the fifth starter on Friday night -- has enough potential to raise the overall ceiling of this group. There will be growing pains, as Hurdle said, but also the kind of significant growth Glasnow showed this spring.

Glasnow strikes out nine

Bullpen
Initial prediction: Tony Watson, Daniel Hudson, Felipe Rivero, Juan Nicasio, Antonio Bastardo, Jared Hughes, Wade LeBlanc
Now: The first five were pretty well set from the beginning. We wrote back then that Hughes "must prove his rough first half last year was just a fluke," and he didn't. LeBlanc made sense from the start as an experienced long man capable of eating innings or pitching in shorter bursts if necessary.

Trevor Williams is an interesting fit as a reliever, and the Pirates gave no indication at the start of camp they were leaning toward putting a converted starter in the bullpen. Williams is capable of inducing ground balls at a high rate, creating early contact and quick outs while also pitching multiple innings.

Williams strikes out six

The Pirates have immediate depth in A.J. Schugel, and hard-throwing right-handers Edgar Santana and Dovydas Neverauskas may not be far off.

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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.