The Pirates made some move this offseason, but none of them were very flashy. General manager Neil Huntington is sticking to the strategy he used to build this team. He makes low-cost free agent signings and continues to develop his farm system.
The NL Central will be the most competitive division in baseball. The Cardinals and Cubs made some big free agent signings this offseason. Will the Pirates refusal to open their checkbook hurt them this year?
Here is the 2016 MLB season preview for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
2015 Win/Loss Record: 98-64
Key Additions: 1B John Jaso, SP Jonathan Niese, 3B David Freese, RP Neftali Feliz, SP Kyle Lobstein, SP Juan Nicasio, SP Ryan Vogelsong, RP Daniel Bard, OF Matt Joyce & SP Cory Luebke
Key Losses: 2B Neil Walker, SP A.J. Burnett, 1B Pedro Alvarez, SP J.A. Happ, RP Joakim Soria, SP Charlie Morton, RP Antonio Bastardo, SP Joe Blanton, 3B Aramis Ramirez, RP Vance Worley, & 1B Travis Ishikawa
Interleague Schedule: AL West
Projected Starters: Francisco Cervelli, John Jaso, Josh Harrison, David Freese, Jordy Mercer, Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen & Gregory Polanco
Projected Starting Rotation: Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Jonathan Niese, Jeff Locke & Juan Nicasio
Closer: Mark Melancon
Fantasy Sleeper: SP Juan Nicasio – Colorado chewed him up and spit him out. He bounced back with the Dodgers and became a reliable arm out of the bullpen. He came to Pittsburgh’s camp ot battle for a spot in the starting rotation. He has been impressive and I believe he’s earned the job. He’s a risk, but the Pirates will win games and Pittsburgh is a much better place to pitch.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: SP Tyler Glasnow – He’s only 21 years old, but he has been impressive since Pittsburgh took the 6’8 pitcher in the 5th round in 2011. He’s been a little wild, but he’s been missing bats. He has sported a 10+ strikeouts per nine innings rate in the minors. He has all the usual tools a tall pitcher has used in the past. His power stuff is incredible. He just needs to work on controlling his breaking pitches. He could eventually give Gerrit Cole a run for his money as the staff’s ace.
Team Analysis: The Pirates were unlucky last season. They had the third best record in the National League, but only earned a Wild Card spot. They lost their Wild Card game to the Chicago Cubs.
The Pirates lost a few bats that came through their farm system. Pedro Alvarez will be a minor loss since he hasn’t recently hit consistently. Neil Walker is probably the position player they will miss the most. His bat was consistent and his defense will be hard to replace. He always showed up big in games against the Cubs. Josh Harrison will take over the everyday duties at second.
The Pirates had to tweak their starting rotation this offseason. They lost A.J. Burnett, Charlie Morton and J.A. Happ to free agency and retirement. They signed some cheap veterans in hopes one or two of them are good enough to hold down the back-end of their rotation. This strategy worked last season when they traded for J.A. Happ, who was lights out for Pittsburgh.
The Pirates will battle the Cubs and Cardinals all season for the NL Central division. They could once again finish the season with three of the best records in baseball. It will be a cutthroat race.
2016 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 86.5 (Prediction: OVER)
2016 Projected Win/Loss Record: 90-72 (2nd-tie in 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.