INDIANAPOLIS - With two weeks remaining in Spring Training, the Pittsburgh Pirates roster is beginning to take shape. Regarding its infield, Pittsburgh is all but locked into 3B David Freese, SS Jordy Mercer, 2B Josh Harrison, 1B Josh Bell and C Francisco Cervelli as starters around the diamond. Who will serve as bench players for the Pirates remains to be seen and is one of Pittsburgh's tougher decisions before camp breaks.
Chris Stewart, John Jaso, Adam Frazier, Alen Hanson and Phil Gosselin appear to be the frontrunners in serving as primary backups and utility players for the Pirates. Longshots like Elias Diaz, Jose Osuna and Gift Ngoepe, among others, have impressed in Spring Training, but are on the outside looking in when determining the 25-man roster in Pittsburgh. That trio will likely head to Indy for Opening Day and receive calls to the Major Leagues if and when injuries or slumps arise in the bigs.
Elias Diaz: Rated by Baseball America as Pittsburgh's No. 10 prospect, the 26-year-old Diaz bookended his '16 campaign with stints on the disabled list. He opened the season on the 15-day DL due to the removal of bone chips in his right elbow, and he ended the year on the shelf after being treated for cellulitis on his left leg in early September. The Venezuelan appeared in just 35 games overall, 25 of them coming with Indianapolis. In those contests, he hit .266 (25-for-94) and remains Pittsburgh's No. 1 option for a promotion if Cervelli or Stewart struggle. Diaz has played for Indy each of the last three seasons.
Jacob Stallings: A son of University of Pittsburgh men's head basketball coach Kevin Stallings, Jacob continued his ascension in Pittsburgh's system last season, reaching Triple-A and eventually the big leagues for the first time. In 80 games for the Tribe, he hit .214 (55-for-257) with 17 doubles, six home runs and 28 RBI. He appeared in two games for the Pirates in June and another three over the final month of the season, recording a .400 average (6-for-15) in limited action. This spring, he's batting .375 (6-for-16) and has already shown the ability to replace Diaz in the event of an injury. He and Diaz will be a reliable one-two punch behind the plate for Indy in 2017.
Chris Bostick: Acquired by the Pirates on September 26, 2016 from Washington, Bostick enters the '17 season on Pittsburgh's 40-man roster as infield depth. Still at just 23 years old, his upside remains high as he's shown the ability to play second and third base while displaying a blend of power at the plate and speed on the bases. He split last season between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, batting .250 (121-for-484) with 22 doubles, 10 triples, eight home runs, 51 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 135 contests. He could serve as the Tribe's Opening Day second baseman, competing with Erich Weiss for regular at-bats.
Max Moroff: A man of many positions, "Mr. Utility Man" Max Moroff ping ponged around the infield last season for Indy, making 60 starts at second, 37 at third and another 17 at shortstop. He clubbed 30 extra-base hits in 133 games overall, and while his .230 average (97-for-421) wasn't all too appealing, he posted the eighth-best on-base percentage (.367) in the International League thanks to a league-high 90 walks. Ranked by Baseball America as the Pirates' No. 13 farmhand, Moroff's keen eye at the plate and versatility make him an attractive bench piece for Pittsburgh, but he'll likely open 2017 where he was on Opening Day 2016 - as Indianapolis' starting third baseman and in the upper-third of the Tribe lineup.
Gift Ngoepe: After serving as Indy's Opening Day shortstop in 2016 and primary starter at a premium position (97 starts), Ngoepe is tabbed for a return to Triple-A with Pittsburgh's 2015 first-round selection, Kevin Newman, slated for Double-A Altoona. Ngoepe slashed .217/.289/.355 for the Tribe last year, but he's rebounded this spring with a .333 average (9-for-27). A career .232 hitter in the minors, Ngoepe is an organizational depth piece who will bat at or near the bottom of Indy's lineup on a near-nightly basis until Newman arrives.
Jason Rogers: Designated for assignment by the Pirates in late December 2016, Rogers cleared waivers and was outrighted to Indianapolis, where he hit .263 (98-for-372) with 18 doubles, six homers and 40 RBI in 105 games last summer. At 29 years old, Rogers will see time at first and third base and will be one of Andy Barkett's best options at designated hitter when playing American League-affiliated teams.
Joey Terdoslavich: A veteran of the International League, Terdoslavich could enter his sixth season on the IL circuit. He spent most of 2016 with Double-A Bowie in the Baltimore system, flashing a return of power at the plate as he clubbed 14 home runs for his fourth career double-digit homer season (2011 - 20, 2013 - 18, 2014 - 15). He could get the nod as Indy's Opening Day first baseman with Toledo coming to town.
Erich Weiss: A bit of an unknown and on few, if any top prospect lists, Weiss has quietly put together a solid four seasons in the Pittsburgh system after being selected in the 11th round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of the University of Texas. He spent his entire 2016 campaign at Altoona and hit .276 (126-for-456) with 24 doubles, nine triples, six home runs and 65 RBI while batting in the two-hole. Two years Bostick's senior but without Triple-A experience, Weiss' role in Indy is yet to be determined, with a return to Altoona not out of the equation.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.