The Pittsburgh Pirates won 98 games in 2015, but then went on a backslide and won only 78 last season. A handful of players regressed and they made a few trades at the deadline to add to their farm system.
All was not lost for the Pirates as a player they traded for in August became a crucial part of their future. The Yankees traded pitcher Ivan Nova to the Pirates for the equivalent of a used 1975 Ford Pinto. He went on to pitch 64 innings for the Pirates and had a 3.06 ERA. Pittsburgh re-signed him this offseason for three more years.
The NL Central is expected to be controlled by the Cubs for the next few years. Can the Pirates hang with them and possible earn a Wild Card spot this year?
Here is the 2017 MLB season preview for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
2016 Win/Loss Record: 78-83
Key Additions: RP Daniel Hudson, RP Pat Light, 2B Phil Gosselin & RP Josh Lindblom
Key Losses: SS Sean Rodriguez, RP Neftali Feliz, OF Matt Joyce, RP Jeff Locke, RP Ryan Vogelsong & C Eric Fryer
Interleague Schedule: AL East
Projected Starters: Francisco Cervelli, Josh Bell, Josh Harrison, Jung Ho Kang, Jordy Mercer, Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte & Andrew McCutchen
Projected Starting Rotation: Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, Drew Hutchison & Chad Kuhl
Closer: Tony Watson
Fantasy Sleeper: SP Ivan Nova – It’s hard to label Nova a ‘sleeper’ after the awesome run he had after the Pirates acquired him. Pitching coach guru Ray Searage working his magic on him. He is currently just in the top-70 fantasy starting pitchers in baseball. The reason I have him labeled as a sleeper is because I feel that he will greatly outperform where he is getting drafted. I should probably change this section to ‘fantasy baseball value pick’, but sleeper is easier.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: SP Tyler Glasnow – He’s only 22 years old, but he has been impressive since Pittsburgh took the 6’8 pitcher in the 5th round in 2011. He didn’t have much success in four starts late last year, but he will probably start this season in Triple-A. He won’t be there for long since he’s just about ready for the Majors. The Pirates have a bit of a logjam at the back-end of their rotation, so they may need to bump someone to long relief. He should be really good when everything clicks for him at the Major League level.
Team Analysis: After three-straight postseason appearances, the Pirates regressed last season. Ace Gerrit Cole had injury troubles and former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen had his worst season in the Majors. I’m sure if they got 30 starts from Cole and McCutchen performed at his previous rate, they would have been in the Wild Card race. The front office didn’t feel the need to spend a lot this offseason since they have faith in their current roster to get them back into the postseason.
What I said in the previous paragraph should have an asterisk next to ‘they have faith in their current roster’. They spent a few weeks of the Winter attempting to trade McCutchen. It looked like they had a trade in place with the Nationals, but it fell through when Washington balked when asked to include prospect Victor Robles. The Nationals then pulled the trigger on a trade for outfielder Adam Eaton, thus eliminating that trade partner.
The NL Central will most likely be won by the Cubs and the Cardinals will be in the Wild Card race, so the Pirates find themselves out of the picture. They could push the Cards, but I have them finishing with only 79 wins. I think they could struggle in the Summer and the Pirates front office could start to shop McCutchen once again. The Pirates have plenty of outfield prospects to step in his role, but the team would immediately be less competitive. The prospects aren’t on McCutchen’s level, but it would save the Pirates money and help the young outfield gain experience.
2017 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 83 (Prediction: UNDER)
2017 Projected Win/Loss Record: 79-83 (3rd 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.