Opening Day Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

CalebOnSports.com
CalebOnSports.com

By: Caleb Luketic

The Pittsburgh Pirates are young and have a lot of room to grow. The Pirates have one of the best young outfields in the majors with Andrew McCutchenStarling Marteand Gregory PolancoAndrew McCutchen is the best outfielder in the National League, and he is in his prime. Marte and Polanco have huge upside, and if they can reach that upside, they could be ranked with some of the best outfields of all time. I look for these three players to become perennial all-stars.

The Pirates finished last season 88-74 and their manager, Clint Hurdle, was a finalist for manager of the year. The Pirates had some major losses in C Russell Martin and LHP Justin Wilson. But the Pirates did add C Francisco Cervelli in a trade from the New York Yankees. The Pirates also resigned starting pitcher Francisco Liriano to a 3 year / $39 million contract.

Projected Starters:

Francisco Cervelli – C

Pedro Alvarez – 1B

Neil Walker – 2B

Jordy Mercer – SS

Josh Harrison – 3B

Starling Marte – LF

Andrew McCutchen – CF

Gregory Polanco – RF

These starters are the exact same as last season, except for the switch of Pedro Alvarez from third base to first base. Alvarez has played third base his entire career, but in 2014 he led the National League in errors by a third baseman. Alvarez has made the switch fairly smooth, but he still has some things he needs to learn when it comes to playing first base.

The Pirates batting order will differentiate weekly because manager Clint Hurdle likes to mix things up to keep the players motivated to play and it keeps the other teams off guard. I can almost guarantee you that McCutchen will bat third and Alvarez will bat fourth. Alvarez will be the key to be Pirates offensive success this season.

Starting Rotation:

  1. Francisco Liriano
  2. Gerrit Cole
  3. J. Burnett
  4. Vance Worley / Jeff Locke
  5. Charlie Morton

The Pirates have a solid pitching staff once again. The Pirates went out and signed A.J. Burnett from the Philadelphia Phillies. It has been officially announced that Francisco Liriano will start for the Pirates on opening day against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati. Gerrit Cole is one of the best young arms in baseball and he is only entering his second full season in the majors. Cole will become the Pirates ace over the next 2 or 3 years.

The most interesting competition for the Pirates is who will win the starting spot between Vance Worley and Jeff Locke. As of right now, Vance Worley is in the lead to win the spot, which will move Jeff Locke over into the bullpen.

Bullpen: 

  1. Mark Melancon
  2. Tony Watson
  3. Antonio Bastardo
  4. Jared Hughes
  5. Vance Worley / Jeff Locke
  6. Radhames Liz
  7. John Holdzkom / Arquimedes Caminero

The Pirates bullpen was one of the top bullpens in the National League in 2014, and I look for the Pirates bullpen to be right up there once again. The Pirates have a solid closer in Mark “The Shark” Melancon, and his set up man is the dominant Tony Watson.

The Pirates have an interesting competition between John Holdzkom and Arquimedes Caminero. These two pitchers are extremely similar in style and that is what is creating this competition. The Pirates could keep both of these guys, but they will not because these two guys are fit for the same role. As of right now I think that Caminero is in the lead for the final bullpen spot because Holdzkom still has options available for AAA.

Predictions:

Pirates Record: 96-66

NL Central Finish: 1st place

All-Stars:

Andrew McCutchen – CF

Josh Harrison – 3B

Pedro Alvarez – 1B

Gerrit Cole – SP

Francisco Liriano – SP

Mark Melancon – RP

Photo: Blacksportsonline.com

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