The 25-Man Roster Should Not Always be the Best 25

We heard it two springs ago. “Starling Marte, right now, is one of the Pirates three best outfielders. No question. He should make the team – now.”

We heard it last spring. “I don’t care that Gerrit Cole only pitched two games at Indy last year. He’s better than Jonathan Sanchez and he should be in Pitttsburgh.”

And we’re going to hear it again soon. On it’s face the argument makes sense. How could it not be the best course of action to put the best 25 players in the organization on the major league roster?

Good question.

Starling Marte was a very good player in the spring of 2012. If he had been put on the major league roster that April, he might have performed better than Alex Presley and Jose Tabata. But he had never played at AAA and, in the previous season, he had a 3.8% BB rate and 17.5% K rate. That’s some poor plate discipline – and it was only Double-A. It was best for Marte and the Pirate organization for Marte to spend a half season at AAA – even if he looked like one of the Pirates three best outfielders in spring training.

Gerrit Cole was obviously a much more talented pitcher than Jonathan Sanchez in the spring of 2013. But he was 22 years old and had only pitched two games above Double-A. And one of them was pretty bad. He needed more time in the minor leagues – and the Pirates needed to push back his arbitration clock and get an extra year out of Cole before he reaches free agency.

It is not always best to have the best 25 players on the 25-man roster.

There will be some good examples of this on Opening Day 2014.

Jeff Locke is likely to be the Pirates sixth best starting pitcher, meaning that he won’t be in the five-man rotation. But he is also likely to be a better pitcher than at least one of the Pirates relievers. Would it be better for the Pirates to have Jeff Locke pitch three innings per week out of their bullpen, instead of, say, Jeanmar Gomez , or would it be better for the major league team to have Locke starting every fifth day at Indianapolis?

My choice would be to have the better pitcher – Locke – starting at Indy, so, he could stay ready (“stretched out”) to replace an injured or ineffective Pirate starter. But that would mean that one of the best 25 would not be on the 25-man roster.

Neal Huntington traded for catcher Chris Stewart in December and stated that Stewart will be the back-up to Russell Martin. Some have complained that Tony Sanchez is a better overall player than Stewart and should be on the major league roster. Huntington has said that Sanchez will start the season in AAA. And it is the right move for Sanchez and the Pirates.

The Pirates are going to need Tony Sanchez to be their starting, everyday catcher in 2015. Sitting on the bench behind Russell Martin six days per week would do nothing to prepare Sanchez to be a starting catcher. He needs to play and the only way that can happen is if he goes to AAA. But, again, that means that one of the best 25 is not on the 25-man roster.

There may be a battle in spring training for the last two spots in the bullpen.  Let’s say that Duke Welker clearly out-pitches Stolmy Pimentel in Bradenton. Welker, based upon the “Best 25″ theory, should get the last spot in the bullpen and open the season in Pittsburgh. However . . .

Pimentel is a 23-year-old with a 95mph fastball and the potential to be a starter – and he is out of options. He would almost certainly be claimed by another team, if the Pirates tried to send him to the minors. Welker has an option left and could be safely sent to Indianapolis.

I’m taking Pimentel to Pittsburgh, even though he was out-pitched by Welker in Bradenton.

For the good of the team, you don’t always put the “Best 25″ on the 25-man roster.


322 thoughts on “The 25-Man Roster Should Not Always be the Best 25

  1. I’m guessing you mixed up the k rate and bb rate with marte’s numbers but I have been checking this site out after Tim recommended it on pp. Keep up the good work.

  2. Nice article. One issue I see though. I do not think Bryan Morris can be optioned. I believe he is out of options. He was one of those special cases last year that gained a 4th option however from the best I can tell he spent more than 20 days in the minors last year (in the 2 stints in April) so that option was used up. barring an inkury it looks like the Bucs are going to have a roster crunch in the bullpen. With 4 spots going to Grilli, Melancon, Wilson & Watson there are 3 spots for Mazzaro, Gomez, Pimentel, Morris & Oliver (long shot) who are all out of options.

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