Saturday, March 25, 2017

Pittsburgh Pirates 2017 season preview

     With a record of 78-83, the Pittsburgh Pirates finished 3rd in the NL Central, 25 GB of the first place Chicago Cubs. Star CF Andrew McCutchen was nearly traded in the offseason, after a career low in average (.256) and his lowest RBI total since 2010 with 79. He's also switched positions to right field. After a 93 win 2015, the Bucs won 15 less games in 2016. If they want to finish over .500 in 2017, GM Neal Huntington needed to improve the team in the offseason. Let's see what Huntington did.

     Key additions: RPs Daniel Hudson, Pat Light, Josh Lindblom, 2B Phil Gosselin.
     Key subtractions: SS Sean Rodriguez, OF Matt Joyce, RPs Neftali Feliz, Jeff Locke, Ryan Vogelsong.

     Biggest move: The Pirates didn't make that many moves, but they brought in a solid reliever in Daniel Hudson, after signing him to a 2 year, $11 million deal. His lights-out April (0.77 ERA in 11.2 innings) was one to remember, but the Bucs would like Hudson to become a solid set up guy in 2017 and '18.
     X-factor: In 2016, 3B/SS Jung Ho Kang hit 21 HRs in 318 ABs. Legal troubles and the fact that he was denied a work visa can prevent him from playing for the Pirates in 2017 (That's why he is not mentioned in the roster part below). But if he plays, he can help the Pirates win some games.
     Biggest bounce back: Like I mentioned earlier, now RF Andrew McCutchen (am I the only one who thinks that looks weird?) had a bad 2016. If he wants to make sure he stays in Pittsburgh, he'll need to have a way better 2017.
     Biggest breakout: This one is tough to decide. So, I'll put two guys here.
     First, 24 year old Josh Bell will finally get the starting 1B job in Pittsburgh. He made his MLB debut in 2016, after hitting .295 or better in each minor league season since 2014. He hit 3 HRs and .273 in 128 MLB ABs last season. In his first full season, Bell will look to impress many.
     The other guy also made his MLB debut in 2016. Top prospect Tyler Glasnow was called up after a 1.93 ERA in 116.2 innings in the minors. He had an ERA of 4.24 in 23.1 inning last year, and can pitch in the back of the rotation this year. I think 2017 will either be a big breakout season for Glasnow, or a solid development year.
     Guaranteed star: Normally, I'd pick McCutchen in a heartbeat. But, while McCutchen struggled in 2017, new CF Starling Marte had a very nice 2016. His HRs dipped from 19 to 9, but in 90 less ABs. His average raised from .287 to .311. He had a nice raise from 30 SBs to 47. If you're playing fantasy baseball, Marte is a solid pick.
     The Pirates lineup should look like this.

1. LF: Gregory Polanco
2. CF: Starling Marte
3. RF: Andrew McCutchen
4. 2B: Josh Harrison
5. 1B: Josh Bell
6. SS: Jordy Mercer
7. 3B: David Freese
8. C: Francisco Cervelli
9. Pitcher
      Their rotation will probably be this.

1. Gerrit Cole
2. Ivan Nova
3. Jameson Taillon
4. Tyler Glasnow
5. Chad Kuhl/Drew Hutchinson

      1B John Jaso, OF Adam Frazier and C Chris Stewart will be on the bench.
      Tony Watson will be their closer, with Daniel Hudson and Felipe Rivero setting him up.

      Finally, for my prediction, I think the Pittsburgh Pirates will progress in 2017, but miss the playoffs.

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