As baseball continues its slow progression into positionless baseball, where flexibility of a player to play multiple positions (and pitch, in some cases) is prized, the Pirates may have the chance to utilize such a player in Pablo Reyes.
The days of a defense-first shortstop or slow-footed 1B sitting on the bench are dying. The ability to produce offense is becoming valued over defense by many organizations. With the current setup of the Pirates’ roster, there’s a very good chance that Reyes can be the 25th man on the roster and be a high-energy bat off the bench.
In this scenario, let’s presume the Pirates carry a 12-man pitching staff of — Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove, Jordan Lyles, Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela, Kyle Crick, Richard Rodriguez, Nick Burdi (Rule 5), Michael Feliz, and Steven Brault.
That leaves a 5-man bench behind the 8 presumptive starters. There’s some chatter that the Pirates may carry three catchers in order to free up the bat of either Cervelli or Diaz as a pinch-hitter in late game situations. That’s out of the ordinary, but it would put Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings on the bench. Assuming Erik Gonzalez is the starter at SS, Kevin Newman would be the backup middle infielder. Jung-ho Kang would probably start on the bench behind Colin Moran. That leaves one spot for either Jose Osuna or Pablo Reyes.
I’ve never been enamored with Jose Osuna, even during his time in the minors. He’s a very bland bat with not that much offensive upside and next-to-no defensive chops at 1B or the outfield. There was a brief experiment with 3B that didn’t go anywhere. Now that Kang and Chisenhall are both on the roster, that’s two other options at 3B ahead of him.
On the contrary, Pablo Reyes has already demonstrated he can play multiple positions with some degree of aptitude. He came up as a 2B through the minors, but flexed out to four positions (2B, 3B, LF, and RF) in his short 18-game debut in September. His defense in the outfield was a revelation.
Now I wouldn’t expect him to replicate his .293/.349/.483 triple slash line (832 OPS, 126 OPS+) over a full season, but he’s always had good contact with low strikeout rates in his ascent through the minors.
Giving the last spot on the bench to Reyes instead of Osuna would leave the Pirates without a ‘true’ 1B-type to spell Bell occasionally. And that certainly won’t fall to the 5′-8″ Reyes. But maybe Colin Moran can get a little work in or Lonnie Chisenhall, who has stood at 1B before, can fill in once or twice a week instead of having the non-dynamic Osuna occupy a spot.
Instead of the norms of bench construction, I hope the Pirates think progressively and include Pablo Reyes in the mix. If they’re going to carry an offensive black hole in Stallings on the bench, the presence of Reyes may at least counter-balance that. Who knows…maybe Reyes will eventually supplant Newman and/or Gonzalez at SS. Crazier things happen every baseball season.