Pirates work on shaping Opening Day roster

Rotation, bullpen spots to be determined before facing Red Sox on April 3

Pirates work on shaping Opening Day roster

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Last month, as pitchers and catchers pulled into Pirate City, MLB.com attempted to predict the Pirates' Opening Day roster.

The Bucs typically make their decisions based on players' full, comprehensive bodies of work rather than a couple of weeks' worth of games in Florida. So while some things have come into clearer focus since Spring Training began, not much has changed.

With two weeks to go before spring camp breaks, we'll take another shot at predicting who will line up for the Pirates on April 3 at Fenway Park.

Catcher: Francisco Cervelli
As long as he's here and healthy, he's the guy. Having returned from the World Baseball Classic, he's here and healthy.

First base: Josh Bell
Feeling good after surgery on Feb. 1, Bell is the presumptive Opening Day first baseman. The only way that could change? If he's the designated hitter in Boston's American League ballpark.

Second base: Josh Harrison
Harrison will bounce around the field more than he did last year, manager Clint Hurdle has said. But we'll pencil him in at second base to start the season.

Mercer's RBI double

Shortstop: Jordy Mercer
With their starting outfield, catcher and second baseman away for the World Baseball Classic, their first baseman coming back from surgery and their third baseman caught up in the South Korean legal system, Mercer has been a steady presence among the Bucs' starters this spring.

Third base: David Freese
This is the first and only change from our initial projection. It's simply too hard to imagine Jung Ho Kang being ready for Opening Day. Kang is still in South Korea, awaiting his work visa. He hasn't faced live pitching yet, so whenever he arrives, he'll need some time to get in game shape.

Freese's RBI double

So for now, we'll say Freese is Kang's replacement and, for the second straight year, the Opening Day third baseman.

Outfield: Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen
Nothing new but the alignment. We already know McCutchen will bat third, too.

Bench: Chris Stewart, John Jaso, Adam Frazier, Alen Hanson, Phil Gosselin
Stewart (backup catcher), Jaso (first baseman/corner outfielder, left-handed bat) and Frazier (super-utility man/backup shortstop) are locks. Hanson is out of Minor League options, and the Pirates are unlikely to risk losing him. The switch-hitter offers speed and defensive versatility, and the Bucs could use both.

Jaso's line-drive single

The last spot might be up for grabs. Jose Osuna is off to a hot start this spring, but the rookie would be somewhat redundant with Freese as a hitter and Jaso as a defender. So let's say the Pirates will go with the more experienced and versatile option in Gosselin, who has played just about everywhere this spring.

Rotation: Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, Chad Kuhl, Drew Hutchison
Cole, Taillon and Nova are locked in. Cole will start Opening Day, Taillon after him and Nova in the home opener on April 7. Kuhl hasn't done anything to veer from the "inside track" on which he entered Spring Training, so let's assume he's in.

Taillon on adjusting to Majors

As for the fifth starter competition between Hutchison, Tyler Glasnow, Steven Brault and Trevor Williams? We'll still give Hutchison the edge. He is the most experienced option, and he's looked good this spring. Glasnow hasn't irrefutably claimed the job as his own. Keep an eye on Brault as the only left-handed option, and scouts have spoken highly of Williams this spring.

Bullpen: Tony Watson, Daniel Hudson, Felipe Rivero, Juan Nicasio, Antonio Bastardo, Jared Hughes, Wade LeBlanc
The Pirates feel good about their core group, and the first five seem set in stone. Hughes struggled early last year, he has a Minor League option remaining and he has endured a few rough outings this spring, so it's worth monitoring his status the rest of camp. But he has a track record, and the Pirates tendered him a contract for a reason.

The front-runners for the final spot still look like LeBlanc and Tyler Webb, the Rule 5 Draft pick. LeBlanc pitched well in his brief Pirates debut last September and seems like the better immediate fit as a long reliever, considering he's already been stretched out to pitch three-inning stints this spring.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.