By: Caleb Luketic
Baseball season is fast approaching, and it is that time again to pick our pre-season favorites.This season, same as last year, the Washington Nationals are predicted to be the best team in baseball, but the most intriguing prediction is that the Pittsburgh Pirates will win the NL Central over the Cardinals of St.Louis. This pick has a lot of people interested, but not entirely surprised because the Pirates have played the Cardinals extremely close the past 3 years.
The Pirates have made some key offseason moves, like adding the likes of catcher Francisco Cervelli from the Yankees for Justin Wilson, signing pitcher A.J. Burnett, resigning pitcher Francisco Liriano, and perhaps the signing that made the biggest news was signing shortstop Jung Ho Kang from Japan. The Pirates have also kept their key players from last season which is the biggest news of all.
The reason the Pirates are ranked 3rd is because of their pitching staff. Gerrit Cole is headlining this great pitching staff, who had a fantastic season last year. However, you can’t forget the incredible bullpen that the Pirates have. They had the best bullpen in the NL last season, and it looks like they will be amongst the top bullpens this season. In my opinion, Cole will have a breakout season this year, and will position himself to become a number 1 or 2 guy who throws 200 plus innings with a sub-3.00 ERA. Cole also has Liriano and Burnett to learn from which will take his game to the next level.
The Pirates have one of the most solid infields in the majors with Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Neil Walker, and Pedro Alvarez. The Pirates also signed shortstop Jung Ho Kang who can challenge Mercer for the starting job, but it will give the Pirates more depth in the middle of the infield.
The Pirates have one of the best outfields in the majors with Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, and headed by NL MVP Andrew McCutchen. This is one of the best outfields in the past decade because of their insane amount of speed and amazing throwing arms. The ball can be hit to either gap and they can hold whoever hit the ball to a single because of their closing speed. They also have fantastic bats and are 3 of the top base stealers in the majors. McCutchen is the front runner for the NL MVP this season, and I believe that he will take home his 2nd MVP award. McCutchen will lead the the Bucs to the NL Central division title and a postseason run.
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