Andrew McCutchen lead the team into the playoffs and won the National League MVP. He’s entering his year-27 season, which is when most players begin to hit their peak. If McCutchen puts up the same numbers he had in 2013, he could easily win another MVP.
The Pirates bring back most of their starters this season. The Cardinals and Reds made a few moves, but Pittsburgh chose to wait for their top prospects to eventually appear in the Majors. Was that a mistake or the right move?
Gerrit Cole was brought up last season and looked like a future ace. Is he ready to replace A.J. Burnett in the rotation?
Here is the 2014 MLB season preview for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
2013 Win/Loss Record: 94-68
Key Additions: C Chris Stewart, SP Edinson Volquez, SS Robert Andino, OF Cody Eppley, RP Josh Kinney & RP Daniel Schlereth
Key Losses: A.J. Burnett, OF Garrett Jones, C Michael McKendry & 2B Brandon Inge
Interleague Schedule: AL East + Detroit Tigers
Projected Starters: Russell Martin, Gaby Sanchez, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Jordy Mercer, Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen & Jose Tabata
Projected Starting Rotation: Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke & Wandy Rodriguez
Closer: Jason Grilli
Deep Fantasy Sleeper: 1B Gaby Sanchez – It’s hard to pick a sleeper on the Pirates. Most of the players are ranked perfectly. There are a few prospects I could list, but I have a separate section for that. Sanchez was once a top prospect in the Marlins organization, but has looked like a Four-A player in the Majors. He has a long leash at first base with Chris McGuiness as his only competition. Sanchez is a nice NL-only sleeper. He has the tools to hit double-digit homers and will get a good number of at-bats.
Prospects To Keep Your Eye On: OF Gregory Polanco & SP Jameson Taillon – Polanco and Taillon are the top two prospects in the Pirates farm system. They will both start the season in Triple-A, but will no doubt make their MLB debuts this season. Polanco is a five-tool player and will eventually replace Jose Tabata in the outfield. He’s a better defender, has more speed and projects to hit around 20 homers. Taillon didn’t breeze through the minors as expected. He has good control, but only had a 3.73 ERA in Double-A and Triple-A last season. If anyone in the starting rotation struggles or gets injured, Taillon would be the first guy they would call up to the Majors.
Team Analysis: The streak of futility ended in Pittsburgh last season. They finished over .500 and found themselves in the playoffs. Years of having one of the best farm systems finally paid off. They still have a few holes in their lineup at first base and shortstop. They could look to improve those positions with a trade. The starting rotation also has some questions. They signed Edinson Volquez and lost A.J. Burnett. There is a significant drop off between those two pitchers. They will get a full season from Gerrit Cole, who could develop into a 20-game winner. He was one of the top prospects in all of baseball and is only 23 years old. St. Louis and Cincinnati will both compete with Pittsburgh in the NL Central. St. Louis has a talented, young pitching staff and a better overall lineup. The Cardinals should win the division, but Pittsburgh will be right there in the Wild Card race.
2014 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 84 (Prediction: OVER)
2014 Projected Win/Loss Record: 87-75 (2nd NL Central)
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.