February 28, 2013; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez (36) throws a pitch in the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates: Surprises that could crack Bucs Opening Day roster

I have never been one to take spring training stats seriously. Every year there are guys competing for what I like to call the “Mr. March Award” (think Mark Johnson and Steve Pearce).

But with that being said, every season there are guys who use a strong statistical spring to open up some eyes and ultimately end up cracking an Opening Day roster.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have some of these guys currently in camp- non-roster invitees and little known prospects- who are making their case to potentially head north with the big club for the April 1 opener at PNC Park against the Chicago Cubs.

February 28, 2013; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Felix Pie (26) reacts after he hit a 2-run home run during the fifth inning against the Boston Red Sox at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With that being said, here’s a look at some guys that have been making their case and some guys that aren’t.

Opening Eyes

Brooks Brown: There could be a spot or two open in the Bucs bullpen and Brown certainly throwing his name into the mix.  He has appeared in five spring games so far and has had some pretty good results. Brown has thrown 5.2 innings and has a 3.18 ERA, but looked better in his first three outings than he did in his previous two, where he combined to allow five hits and two earned runs to the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox.

Brown is  former first round pick, drafted 34th overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006 and was signed as a minor-league free agent. He typically throws hard with a good curveball, but control has always been an issue. So far in spring, teams are hitting .292 against him, which isn’t a good sign, but if he finishes strong he could pitch his way onto the roster.

Felix Pie: The Pirates may not keep five outfielders because Garrett Jones can play the outfield as well, but if they do they have a host of guys to choose from. One of them is Pie, a former top prospect with the Cubs.

He was signed as a minor league free agent in the offseason and has looked good so far, batting .357 with a 1.223 OPS in 14 at bats through eight games. Again don’t read much into the stats, but Pie is opening a few eyes and in the process potentially putting himself ahead of the likes of Alex Presley, Darren Ford, Clint Robinson, Jerry Sands and others.

Close Your Eyes

Jonathan Sanchez: Many felt that Sanchez could have the opportunity to pith his way onto the Opening Day roster, but through three outings Sanchez is doing his best to pitch his way off of it with a 13.50 ERA in only 3.1 inning pitched. He has allowed six hits and five earned runs in those three-plus innings but more disturbing has walked seven while surrendering a .400 average.

Brad Hawpe: Hawpe, being a former Colorado Rockies star, naturally is a favorite of Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle. He was signed as a minor-league free agent hoping that he could reclaim the stroke that he had from 2006-09 with the Rockies when he averaged 25 homers and 93 RBI during that four year span.

So far it hasn’t worked as Hawpe as only two hits in 14 at bats this spring and has fanned seven times. He will have to get very hot and do some big things the rest of spring training in order to get himself in contention for a roster spot.

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Tags: Brad Hawpe Brooks Brown Felix Pie Jonathan Sanchez Pittsburgh Pirates

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