2014 Record – 88-74, 2nd NL Central
Francisco Cervelli, Jung Ho Kang, Corey Hart, A.J. Burnett
Russell Martin, Ike Davis, Edinson Volquez
Projected 2015 Lineup
- 3B Josh Harrison
- LF Starling Marte
- CF Andrew McCutchen
- 2B Neil Walker
- 1B Pedro Alvarez
- RF Gregory Polanco
- C Francisco Cervelli
- SS Jordy Mercer
Projected 2015 Starters
- Gerrit Cole
- Francisco Liriano
- A.J. Burnett
- Charlie Morton
- Vance Worley
As you’ll see below, the Pirates are far from done, despite the very little play they’ve gotten with the rise of the Cubs in the NL Central. They still have one of the youngest and most promising outfields in baseball and have the prospects to create a young, cost controlled rotation with high end upside very soon. Even if this isn’t THE year, they’re gonna be around for awhile…maybe longer than the Cardinals. Could this be a Cubs/Pirates division in the future?
X-Factor – Josh Harrison
Harrison will be competing with our next player for 3B duties, but certainly has the inside track now that Pedro Alvarez moved to 1B. It is anything but a sure thing though. Before 2014, Harrison’s best season at the plate came in just 95 plate appearances in 2013 with a .250/.290/.409 triple slash. The diminutive Harrison changed that last season with a .315/.347/.490 in 550 PAs all over the diamond. If he can keep the bat going, he will be in the lineup whether it is at third base or another season as a super utility player.
Most To Prove – Jung Ho Kang
You can see our breakdown of Kang here, but the additions to this team are fairly tame outsisde of Kang. This has all the high upside, low floor chance we love to see. The upside is almost certain not to occur and unfortunately Kang’s most useful position to this team would be shortstop, which he played in KBO. Those skills won’t likely transfer to MLB and he could be competing with Harrison for 3B duties or could be a utility infield player if Harrison delivers on his X-Factor potential.
2015 Impact Prospect – Jameson Taillon – RHP
In great Canadian glory, mispronounce this name at your own peril. You’ll be caught as an imposter similar to pronouncing Jonathan Toews as “toes.” This one is “tie-on.” Regardless, the Pirates have plenty in the hopper for the 2015 season if they need it or want it. It could be used to acquire an ace, or it could be used to bolster the rotation and lineup. Glasnow is the general #1 in the Pirates system but I’m very intrigued to see what Taillon can do coming back from TJ surgery. A lightning fastball and building off-speed looks good, but he has to gain command beyond what he had prior to surgery, no easy task. Taillon will be given all the chance in the world to break this rotation sometime this year and we could see a GREAT rotation featuring Cole, Taillon and Glasnow in the future.
Why They’re Worth Watching
Andrew McCutchen patrolling center field, flanked by Polanco and Marte? This could be one of the most young and talented outfields in the majors. Most of the time that means they’re all hitters and suspect fielders. Well, that’s still kinda true. Suspect may be a bit much, but these three will be a great set of players to follow this season.
The defense in the outfield stays good and possibly improves with more seasoning for Polanco and Marte. Moving Alvarez to first base should help both in the lineup and infield defense and if the rotation can pitch well, this team could run away with the NL Central. The Cubs are on everyone’s mind, but the Pirates aren’t done yet. 89-73
The loss of Russell Martin has the ability to be season changing. The ability to measure pitch framing is still forming, but some measurements have that ability as worth more wins than any other factor. I’m skeptical, but it’s a possibility. If Martin’s replacement in Cervelli doesn’t live up and some of this young talent hits some learning curve issues, they will struggle. 76-86