Pirates’ Spring Position Battles: Corner Outfield

Not really any battle here; the left and right fielders are probably set in stone.  There probably aren’t any other corner outfielders in camp who have a realistic shot at opening the season in the majors, either.  But there are a couple good prospects who’ll be getting a quick look.

Gregory Polanco:  With Polanco ostensibly healthy and with one option year left, the Pirates have made it clear that they’re going to follow this through.  Personally, I’m convinced that his sudden inability to make contact even with fastballs down the middle shows that his shoulder never fully recovered.  I guess we’ll see.

Odds of playing in Pgh. this season:  100%

Cal Mitchell:  Mitchell is one of a number of players in the system whom scouts like a lot, and who hasn’t either refuted or lived up to those evaluations.  He had 15 HRs and a .406 SLG in 2019 in the Florida State League.  That doesn’t sound like anything special, but those numbers were good enough to rank sixth and tenth, respectively.  (In recent years in the FSL, it’s been like batted balls were traveling through swamp water.)  And he was only 20.  But Mitchell swings and misses a lot, struggles with LHPs, and goes into lengthy slumps.  There are enough outfielders in camp fighting for 2020 jobs that Mitchell, who’s probably headed for AA, may not get a ton of opportunity, but the NRI at least shows the Pirates are hopeful he can improve his approach.

Odds of playing in Pgh. this season:  <10%

Canaan Smith-Njigba:  Picked up in the Taillon deal, Smith-Njigba is one of several players added by the Pirates in the off-season (Brian Goodwin and Troy Stokes, Jr., being others) whose primary asset is power.  That’s a departure from the previous FO.  Well, Smith-Njigba adds a great deal of patience, too.  Those are the abilities he’ll sink or swim with, as his defense isn’t great.  He’s another player the team has brought to camp despite the fact that he hasn’t played above the low minors, low A specifically, so it’ll be the fans’ first chance to see him.

Odds of playing in Pgh. this season:  <10%

Troy Stokes, Jr.:  Stokes was a pretty interesting waiver pickup from Detroit.  He’s a speedy outfielder with good defensive ability, except his arm, and he started showing good power in 2017-18.  He also started striking out in bunches and had trouble in AAA in 2019.  The Pirates dfa’d him soon after they acquired him and he cleared waivers, which probably says something.  He’s probably at least theoretically in competition for a job, but he seems to need more time in AAA.  If he gets added to the 40-man roster at some point, he’ll have two options left.

Odds of playing in Pgh. this season:  30%