Pittsburgh Pirates State Of The Union: 2014 Preview
Hunter Stokes (Chief Writer): Follow @stokes_hunter21
Follow The MLB Reports On Twitter Follow @mlbreports
The Pirates not only kicked the playoff curse in 2013, but they also embarked on a journey that saw them improve on their win total for a 4th consecutive season.
In a row, it went 59, 72, 79 and 94 wins respectively from 2010 – 2014.
Neil Huntington could finally show the fruits of his labor in assembling his team.
In the last few years particularly, stalwart Draft pick Andrew McCutchen has asserted himself as one of the premiere players to suit up in the MLB right now.
He won the NL MVP for his efforts, after being in 3rd place for the 2012 season.
The organization has also found some great bargains with their pitching staff.
Plucking A.J. Burnett away for two nice seasons and 400 IP worth of mid 3 ERA’s was well worth the fiscal commitment they only had to burden with the Yankees eating most of his salary.
Wandy Rodriguez was also acquired like that, with the Astros eating a lofty percentage of his salary the last few years.
You add in the value the team received with a $1 MIL salary doled out to Francisco Liriano, and you can see how this club cobbled together a nice 2014 campaign.
Throw in Pedro Alvarez being tied for the NL lead in HRs.
The rotation was once made up with all foreign players to their organization, meaning they were not drafted by the Bucs.
But with Jeff Locke and Gerrit Cole both coming to the forefront in 2013, the teams new core has seen the future look of the Pirates.
This year may also mark the breakouts of prospects Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon. If the 2014 squad competes in the NL Central, or repeats a playoff slot this year. they will need youngsters to step up.
Furthermore, the club hasn’t addressed any real needs in the winter, with a 1B position one of the weakest in the NL right now, and maybe room for another SP or SS.
Huntington went the route of reclamation project, in signing Edinson Volquez. This is the new year’s version of Liriano.
Speaking of the LHP, the 29 Year Old will be hard pressed to finish in the top 10 for NL Cy Young Voting for a 2nd consecutive year.
Liriano went 16 – 8, with a 3.02 ERA in 29 Game Starts, and brought in a 9th place finish for the category.
Liriano is afflicted with the “Bret Saberhagen Syndrome”. What is that exactly?
It means he has a tough time duplicating his success 2 years in a row.
After his awesome debut with the Twins in 2006, where he was an ALL – Star and finished 3rd in Rookie Of The Year Voting, with a 12 – 3 record and 2.16 ERA, he was hurt for all of 2007.
After an 11th place finish in AL Cy Young Voting in 2010, featuring a 14 – 10 record with a 3.62 ERA in 31 Game Starts for Minnesota, he cream puffed the 2011 campaign, with a 5.09 ERA in 26 Games.
For the 2012 – it was just as bad as 2011, before having a nice 2013 year. It is tough to believe this guy is not even 30.
I think he goes 12 – 11, with a 4.50 ERA
Gerrit Cole put up a nice rookie season. with a 10 – 7 record and a 3.22 ERA in 2013, and was in the 5th game of the NLCS.
2014 forecast of 14 – 10, with a 3.45 ERA.
Charlie Morton is listed as the #3 Starter, but he still holds a lifetime ERA of 4.70. He is better than that, but I project 12 – 12, with a 4.55 this year.
Jeff Locke led the NL in walks for 2013, despite having a 10 – 7 record with a 3.52 ERA. I think he can contribute a 12 – 9 year, with a 4.00 ERA.
A bit of regression, as a WHIP of near 1.40 may suggest.
Wandy Rodriguez is now 34 years old, and in the last year of his contract. I expect a decent campaign for the man.
Look for him to have a 11 – 9 year, with a 3.50 ERA. As such, he may be traded near the Deadline if the Pirates are not in contention.
This would pave the way for Jameson Taillon for the last portion of the year. I won’t even put anything up for Edinson Volquez, because I think he is a bust this year no matter what.
The Relief core will also have a tough time putting up back to back great seasons. Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon had fantastic 2013 years.
Jeanmar Gomez will be an addition to the pen in 2014, and could also see some spot starting.
At Catcher, Russell Martin solidified the Pitching Staff in 2013, and he is also clubbed 15 HRs and a .703 OPS.
I think the Canadian will play well in a contract year. Forget about the Batting Average, look for 15 – 18 HRs and solid game calling.
His backup is former Yankees teammate Chris Stewart.
Sanchez still has a .895 OPS in his career versus LHP, while he carries a mark of .700 vs RHP.
Lambo has 32 HRs, 99 RBI – and a combined .922 OBP in Altoona and Indianapolis last year.
McGuiness walks a little more than Lambo. but possesses less power, with a Career Minor League OPS of .809.
I still think Pittsburgh would be involved with a player like Kendrys Morales, but only if he can get to the June timeframe – when he is no longer attached with compensation.
At 2B will be Neil Walker. He has not been able to replicate his 2010 rookie year for offense, but he is still good for a .750 OPS with about 75 RBI. Not bad.
Mercer carried a .772 OPS in 333 AB for the 2013 Bucs, and was playing most of the big games down the stretch.
The former 3rd RD Draft pick in 2008 has a bit of pop, as his 32 XBH indicated in about a half a season worth of work.
Provided he can hit, the only way he is not the Starting Shortstop is if Neil Walker is injured, and he has to move to 2nd for awhile.
Mercer might hit in the teen for HRs, add 30 Doubles, and hit about .270 this year.
Barmes had a .579 OPS in 2 seasons with the Bucs, but guaranteed he will make some starts at SS if Mercer struggles, and he is still good defensively.
Pedro Alvarez has back to back 30 HR campaigns under his belt, and look for a 3rd one in 2014.
I am sure the 3B would like to have an OBP of over .300 too, but if he can continue to mash with guys on base like Marte, Walker and Cutch, all will be well.
2014 Projection .240/.300/.500 – 35 HRs and 100 RBI.
This is the year I think McCutchen turns loose more power. The reigning NL MVP will be the next member of the 30/30 club.
I project .330/.415/.550 – with 30 HRs, 95 RBI and 31 SB. He may challenge for a Batting Title, and will score 100
Runs. I think teams will start pitching around him more though.
The LF Starling Marte provided Pittsburgh with a dynamic leadoff man for last year. He swiped 45 bags, and scored 83 Runs in just 510 AB.
You can probably expect a few slumps in 2014, but I think .275/.350/.448 – with double digits in 2B, 3B and HRs will help, and probably 50+ SB.
Marte might be close to scoring 100 runs if he can have these 1st set of numbers.
Tabata was better out of the 2, with a .771 OPS in 308 AB – compared to a .614 clip for Snider.
If these guys can just hit a combined .250/.320/.400 – with maybe 15 HRs and 60 RBI, I am sure the club would take.
The loss of Garrett Jones by not tendering him a contract offer might bite the club in the butt. A career .778 OPS was worth an Arbitration hearing for the guy.
He was perfectly situated with your clubs weakness, being able to play 1B and RF. He absolutely can crush Right Handed pitching too.
I would have understood the team not offering him this if there were better options, but for their sake, maybe Andrew Lambo will work out all the same, and at 1/10th of the price in 2014.
Gregory Polanco may also be your RF of the future, but he hasn’t exactly crushed it in the Minor Leagues yet, with a .770 OPS in nearly 1500 AB.
Polanco needs some more seasoning – and may be a better candidate to be the 2015 starting RF.
Having said that, if the players currently with the club don’t produce, you may see him get some reps way earlier than that.
This team was said to have been sitting on some money to spend. I just hope they don’t bury themselves in the standings before they act on that.
If they can somehow stay close by the end of June, the franchise could make some trades to improve the club like they did in 2014.
Jameson Taillon also might be able to provide a 2nd half presence in the Bucs Pitching Staff.
My prediction for how Pittsburgh will fare ranges from 81 – 87 wins.
Doesn’t this just smell of the 2011 – Dbacks heading into 2012, and the Orioles of 2012 – heading into 2013?
Teams that overachieved based on incredible Bullpen work in close games, matched with timely hitting, only to see it is impossible to duplicate it in consecutive years.
Don’t get mad at me Pittsburgh fans, your team is just coming about. 2015 – 2018 looks incredible.
You have the the NL MVP McCutchen locked up until then, with several outstanding young core players.
The team will have Cole, Locke, Taillon, Alvarez and Marte still, and that is a great springboard for success.
I will say the 2015 team will probably do a lot better with another year under everyone’s belt.
Hang in there PNC faithful. You won’t have to wait until 2033 for your next playoff appearance.
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com ***
For all of the Rosters, Depth Charts, State of the Unions and Salaries Posts that we do, please visit our dedicated page link here.
A big thank-you goes out to Our ‘Chief Writer‘ Hunter Stokes for preparing today’s featured article. Hunter is a Baseball Writer for MLB reports.
Hunter grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia and played baseball with Sheldon Bream (Sid Bream‘s son) at Liberty University in the NCAA.
His favorite player is Brian Wilson (how could you guess?), and he hates when people can’t think outside the box!
His favorite expression – is ‘ this At Bat is about ten seconds away from a Toe – Tag!
You can reach Hunter on Twitter Follow @stokes_hunter21
Please e-mail us at: email@example.com with any questions and feedback. To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox, click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.Follow @mlbreports
Like us on Facebook here
Posted on March 16, 2014, in MLB Teams State Of the Unions and tagged 2013 NLDS, a.j. burnett, adam dunn, altoona curve, Andrew Lambo, Andrew McCutchen, bryan Morris, Chris McGuiness, chris stewart, clint barmers, francisco liriano, gaby sanchez, garrett jones, Gregory Polanco, ike davis, James MacDonald, jameson taillon, jared hughes, jason grilli, jeanmar gomez, jeff karstens, jeff locke, Jordy Mercer, justin morneau, Justin Wilson, kendrys morales, mark melancon, marlon byrd, mitch moreland, neil huntington, neil walker, NL Central, pedro alvarez, pedro alvatez, pittsburgh pirates, pittsburgh pirates 2014 MLB preview, pnc park, russell martin, starling marte, tony watson, travis snider, vin mazzaro, wandy rodriguez. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Pittsburgh Pirates State Of The Union: 2014 Preview.