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These five players could help the Pirates reach the next level in 2015

click to enlarge Pittsburgh Pirates Sean Rodriguez
Sean Rodriguez

Sean Rodriguez: Every team needs a super-utility guy. For the Pirates, that used to be Josh Harrison. But his ascension to superstar status left the job wide open. Enter Rodriquez, the former Tampa Bay Ray. In 2014, he had a career season at the plate, but his importance to the Pirates, according to Clint Hurdle, is his "defensive versatility." Rodriguez is currently listed on the Pirates depth chart as the backup at four different positions. Hurdle says "he has a nose for the ball, he's confident and can cover seven positions in my mind."

click to enlarge Pittsburgh Pirates Jameson Taillon
Jameson Taillon

Jameson Taillon: This year should have been the big right-hander's first full season in the major leagues, but after suffering an elbow injury requiring Tommy John surgery in 2014, Taillon will start the year in AAA. Still, expect to see him sooner rather than later. Adding his young arm to the lineup will strengthen a Pirates rotation that is fairly solid even if it does have a few soft spots, mainly A.J. Burnett's age and Charlie Morton's injury history.

click to enlarge Pittsburgh Pirates Jung-ho Kang
Jung-ho Kang

Jung-ho Kang: So far in spring training, Kang hasn't shown the offensive power that persuaded the Pirates to offer him a four-year, $11 million deal in the offseason. Last season, playing in his home country of South Korea, Kang showed monster power, whacking 40 home runs and 117 RBI. His glove has looked solid, but as an infielder he's locked behind Josh Harrison at third and Jordy Mercer at short. Yet like Harrison last year, if Kang can start hitting regularly, they'll find a place for him to play.

Corey Hart: During his years with the Milwaukee Brewers, Hart always seemed to put up big offensive numbers against the division-rival Pirates. Now he's one of them in, at least for now, a platoon at first base with Pedro Alvarez. Hart hasn't played much since 2012 due to injury. He missed all of 2013 and played sporadically last year in Seattle. But there was a time when you could pencil him in before the season for 25-30 homers and 80-100 RBI. At 33, those days might be behind him. But if he's even half of his former self on a part-time basis, the Pirates have made a good investment.

click to enlarge Pittsburgh Pirates Tony Watson
Tony Watson

Tony Watson: Everyone knows how important closer Mark Melancon is to the Pirates. But a very close second in the bullpen is left-handed power pitcher Tony Watson. Watson was an All-Star in 2014, posting a 1.63 ERA and an impressive 81 strikeouts in 78 games, typically as the setup man. He was second in the entire league in holds (34) — meaning if the Buccos can get him the ball with a lead in the eighth, it will likely stay that way.

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Kaibur Coffee

By Mars Johnson