Well another season is under way and projections on the Pirates are all over the map. But I think this is a year that will be a good one for the Pirates. I think they ought to be able to make the playoffs, and PERHAPS, win the central.
I say this because the Pirates are going all in with their best talent in the rotation. Cole, Taillon, Nova, Kuhl and Glasnow. While Cole may not be Cy Young quality #1, he is still a #1, and 2-5 I think is better than most teams. And if say a Kuhl cannot duplicate last year’s success or Glasnow struggles, the Pirates should not have to wait too long to bring up Nick Kingham or Brault or bring Williams out of the pen to the rotation. That is a lot of options to sure up the back of the rotation.
The bullpen also looks good. Watson is set in as closer. Rivero is a late inning guy as is Hudson, who the Pirates added in the off season. They have Nicasio in the pen, who showed a lot of ability there last year. Williams is up too to add long relief and serve as insurance for any starting rotation melt downs. The decision to release Hughes, I think shows commitment to win now. Hughes had some good years, but collapsed last year and showed no sign in pulling out. They went with those who looked better right now.
And the pen is a place where you can expect AAA help every year, and the Pirates have that in spades. AJ Schugel was okay last year, and Neverauskas and new comer Pat Light all throw hard and are currently on the 40 man. If Edgar Santana continues as he has, you can expect him to make the 40 man and the majors before the year is out. All four are mid 90’s guys who can strike people out. The Pirates have in the past been very high on Angel Sanchez as well, who will be in the bullpen for Indy. And I have long thought Cody Dickson would be a good lefty bullpen guy. This is his first year in the pen, so he may not be helpful in Pittsburgh this year, but a left throwing low 90’s with some ability to get ground balls cannot be dismissed lightly.
The same can be said of the starting 8. Bell is up. Frasier is up. Hanson is up. I think there is a lot of potential in that line up. And if McCutchen struggles Austin Meadows is waiting in the wings in AAA. And let us not forget that at some point the Pirates ought to get Kang back to add in some more power to the lineup. While middle infield help is probably more than a year away Max Moroff could be available for that. He is right on that boarder line, and needs to take that next step. AAA does have Eric Wood, who looked great in the Fall League, as well as Jose Osuna. Osuna dominated Spring Training. And I know that does not mean much, but it can’t hurt Osuna’s confidence. The problem is he is behind Bell, but wow he looked great this spring.
Which brings me to the next point. The Pirates have talent to spare for trades down the stretch. If they need another starter, and don’t want to have to rely on a rookie to pull off the playoffs, they could trade lots of people to get it. Osuna, sadly, might be at the top of this list. You have some guys like Clay Holmes or Steven Brault who could go as pitchers. Position guys like Barrett Barnes and Wood in addition to Osuna could be used. Even further down the minor league ladder like Kevin Kramer or Cole Tucker (assuming they want to run with Kevin Newman as the future short stop) or a Gage Hinz could easily help make a big deal sweet enough to happen.
If things are looking south for the season you could see McCutchen get traded and/or Josh Harrison. Arugably those trades could improve the Pirates with the addition of Meadows and the regular playing of Frasier in addition to whatever prospect were picked up in the trades.
The Pirates are also well equipped for minor trades to garner a backup catcher or veteran bullpen arm. Men like Jaso could be traded for such pieces and then replaced from the farm system (hello Osuna!).
Despite the two kind of quirky losses I am ready for this baseball season for the Pirates. I think it should be a 90 win kind of year.