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Restoring the rosters: No. 23 – Pittsburgh

Aug 15, 2009, 2:59 AM EDT

This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
The shame of the steel city has been better at developing talent than some of the other usual cellar dwellers, not that it’s done the franchise a lot of good. As a result of the latest rebuilding effort, just six of the following 25 players remain in the organization.
Rotation
Zach Duke
Chris Young
Tim Wakefield
Paul Maholm
Bronson Arroyo
Bullpen
Mike Gonzalez
Matt Capps
Leo Nunez
John Grabow
Ian Snell
Joe Beimel
Tom Gorzelanny
It’s ace-less pitching staff, but one that would likely be very solid. When Young or Wakefield goes down, Gorzelanny can move into the rotation and perhaps even improve it. Snell is another fallback starter, but he might be more valuable helping out in a bullpen that’s rather lefty heavy.
Left-handed relievers are what the Pirates have excelled at developing through the years. Besides Gonzalez, Grabow and Beimel, there’s also Sean Burnett and Brian Shouse who failed to make the cut. The top right-handed alternatives for the pen were Jonathan Albaladejo and Jeff Bennett.
Lineup
LF Nyjer Morgan
CF Andrew McCutchen
RF Nate McLouth
3B Aramis Ramirez
C Ryan Doumit
1B Steve Pearce
2B Jeff Keppinger
SS Brent Lillibridge
Bench
OF Barry Bonds
OF Jose Bautista
OF Rajai Davis
C Ronny Paulino
INF Brian Bixler
I debated whether or not to include Bonds. He’s eligible, since he hasn’t technically retired, but I have doubts that he’d be of much use as an outfielder right now. In the end, I decided to include him as the team’s top pinch-hitter. He wasn’t seriously factored into the team’s 23rd-place ranking.
If Bonds were excluded, then Jose Guillen would have claimed the final spot. As is, I see no reason to bump anyone for Guillen.
Jason Kendall also fails to make the cut.
The young outfield is nice and there are a couple of quality power hitters in the middle of the order, but the real problem here is that the Pirates simply can’t develop middle infielders. They deserve partial credit for Jack Wilson, but he did spend two years in the St. Louis farm system. It looks like the last above average middle infielder they developed themselves was Rennie Stennett, who debuted in 1971. Keppinger gets the nod over Jose Castillo at second base here. He’s a liability against righties, but he won’t embarrass himself. Shortstop was a tossup between a pair of disappointments in Lillibridge and Bixler.
Summary
Tim Lincecum, Matt Wieters, B.J. Upton and Stephen Drew. All of them could have been Pirates. Sure, we can play that game with every team, but that the Pirates were making bad choices while picking early in so many recent drafts was obvious at the time and only became more frustrating when money the team refused to spend on a potential superstar went instead to veterans with no chance of making the team a contender.
The Pirates are well on their way to finishing below .500 for a 17th straight season, and it’s practically assured that they’ll make it an 18th in 2010. Still, they’ve utilized better strategies since bringing in Neal Huntington as their new GM. I’ve disagreed with some of the execution, but at least the team is no longer aiming for that elusive 81-win season. Better to lose 100 games now if it will help the chances of putting a real contender on the field a couple of years down the road.

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