First Pitch: Roster Decisions on the Horizon

The Pittsburgh Pirates will have some interesting roster decisions to make next week. Two minor league players have out-clauses, allowing them to escape from their contracts on June 1st if they’re not added to the major league roster. Those players are Doug Slaten and Jose Morales.

Slaten, a left-handed reliever, has been on fire in Triple-A. The 32-year old has a 0.36 ERA in 25.1 innings pitched. He gave up a solo homer in his first outing of the season, and hasn’t given up a run since, spanning 24 scoreless innings. His ratios aren’t the most dominant, but get the job done, with a 5.3 K/9, and a 2.1 BB/9.

Jose Morales, a catcher, has been getting most of the playing time behind the plate in Indianapolis. He has a .313/.384/.391 line in 64 at-bats. There’s not much power, but he’s hitting for average and getting on base at a good rate. The 29-year old has 218 career at-bats in the majors, with a .289/.365/.344 line, again with no power but good hitting skills.

The decision to keep either player would be tough, as there’s not a need in Pittsburgh. Slaten is just a bullpen guy, profiling as a middle reliever. The bullpen hasn’t been a problem for the Pirates this year, and there aren’t many players who you could justify removing from the active roster.

Morales profiles as a backup catcher. Michael McKenry doesn’t exactly have the position locked down with his .694 OPS, but his heroics over the last week could make a switch difficult.

If there’s one player that would make more sense to protect, it would be Morales. The Pirates have plenty of bullpen depth, so they could afford the loss of Slaten, even with the left-hander refusing to give up a run. If one of their catchers go down, the depth in Triple-A is pretty thin with Morales gone. Eric Fryer would be the second best option, and while his defense is good, his .427 OPS raises a problem.

The Pirates might have to make a decision in the interest of depth, rather than worrying about whether McKenry or one of the bullpen arms deserves to be in the majors. There is less urgency with Slaten, which means it would make more sense to make this decision with Morales. They’ve got a spot open on the 40-man roster, so the addition of Morales wouldn’t be an issue, outside of optioning McKenry down to Triple-A.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates won 3-2 against the Cubs on a walk off hit by pitch. Kristy Robinson’s notebook looks at Hague’s first walkoff.

**Prospect Watch: Alen Hanson has a four hit night.

**Live game reports: Wilbur Miller covers Altoona.

**Clint Hurdle is impressed by Pedro Alvarez’s work at third base.

**The minor league schedule for 5/27: Jameson Taillon on the mound.

About Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He is a credentialed media member with every team in the Pirates’ system, including the Pirates themselves. He’s a regular guest on Extra Innings on 104.7, and makes regular appearances on ESPN 970, 93.7 The Fan, and TribLIVE Radio in Pittsburgh, as well as ESPN 1430 in Altoona and ESPN 1450 in State College.
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-YaZhynka/100000448392567 Richard Ya’Zhynka

    Anybody in the organization who has a .365 MLB career on-base percentage should already be in Pittsburgh. There is no rule against having three catchers on the 25-man roster. McGehee could be released or either Navarro or Hernandez could be sent to Indy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

      My only comment to that would be, if he’s going to be the back up regardless, what kind of value is he really going to bring over the course of the season. At that point I think you have to compare him and McKenry defensively…and I’m not sure what the result of that would be.

  • SweetNick

    Watson has not been impressive, and with an open place on the 40 man I think Slaton will be called up with Watson going out. As for Morales and McHenry it’s anyone’s guess.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

      So far Watson has been a valuable asset to the bullpen.

      That can be seen through his era, strand rate, and k/bb ratio. He even has a lower baa against with righties, and he’s not doing too badly against lefties. Consider all that with the fact that he’s had a better May than April, and that Slaten if he comes in will basically only be able to be a lefty specialist. I’ll stick with Watson throwing how he is now (92-95) and his stats only being in his second season over an old man that’s already had his chance and has only shown that he has no staying power.

      • SweetNick

        You are right Ian. I didn’t check Watson’s raw numbers before I posted. It seemed to me that he was doing worse than he really is. Must be watching every time he struggles.

  • leadoff

    IMO, the Pirates have a lot player movement decisions coming up in about a month, they don’t really have 3 starting outfielders for the major league club, they have a surplus of pitching, I would not be surprised if they don’t try to trade Slaten this week, Morales is a valuable backup catcher, we know what happened last year with catchers. But McGee, Navarro, Jones have to be considered trade or release pieces, Navarro probably going back to AAA. I guess they offered McClouth AAA, but he turned it down.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bill.verno.9 Bill Verno

    Any news on Morales? Is he going to opt-out or will they recall him tomorrow?

  • st1300b

    Morales and Slaten are doing fine where they are, but that doesn’t mean there is a spot for them on the MLB roster. If they find another opportunity the club should let them go, just like Philly did with Grilli to us – wish them well.