Pittsburgh Pirates preview: Will Jolly Roger flag be raised in 2013?
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We know things are looking good for the Pittsburgh Pirates when star center fielder Andrew McCutchen is landing on covers of video games. Although, exactly how good the Pirates look is subjective.
Last season, the Pirates teased its fan base into believing the streak of losing seasons would end after 19 years. Following an epic collapse in August and September, baseball’s worst losing streak turned 20.
The offseason was less than enchanting for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The only way to feel good about the Pirates is by riding shotgun with Marty McFly in a DeLorean. The additions of Francisco Liriano and Russell Martin will not make the Pirates favorites by any means. Then again, stud prospect Starling Marte will be with the club for an entire season.
Pittsburgh Pirates position players
For the Pirates, the potential for relevancy in the National League begins with their outfield. McCutchen, Marte, Travis Snider and Jose Tabata are all 26 years old or younger. Marte, the 2011 Eastern League Rookie of the Year, possesses the most talent among the latter three, but he must improve his hitting against right-handed pitching. Snider and Tabata are likely to platoon in right field. Neither has yet lived up to his projected ability.
Second baseman Neil Walker is one or the better middle infielders in baseball. The 27-year-old had a breakout campaign in 2012 by hitting .280 with 14 HR and 69 RBI. Joining him in the middle of the diamond is the less-than-tantalizing Clint Barmes.
Gaby Sanchez and Garrett Jones are expected to platoon at first base. An All-Star in 2011, Sanchez has disappointed since last spring. However, he does provide a better bat versus lefties than Jones. In regard to Jones, the 27 HR from a year ago are likely an aberration. While his strikeout totals have declined each of the past two seasons, the 32-year-old is expected to drift back to normalcy with less than 23 HR and 80 RBI in 2013. Expect to see Jones carry most of the weight in the first-base platoon.
Martin was brought in to be the everyday catcher, not because of his bat but because of his defensive makeup. He is one of the best pitch framers in baseball. Martin’s numbers may suggest he is getting better with time, but the 30-year-old is expected to regress in 2013. He will be backed up by the heavy-swinging Michael McKenry.
Finally, the biggest question mark: What will third baseman Pedro Alvarez do in 2013? At just 26 years old, Alvarez had been considered a mild disappointment until his breakout season last year. It may be a case where Alvarez was rushed to the majors a year or two early. With 30 HR and 85 RBI last year, it is clear Alvarez has the potential to knock a dinger out of the park in each plate appearance. On the other hand, Alvarez must improve on his dismal batting average and strikeout percentage. If he can improve in the latter two aspects, he could develop into an all-star third baseman for years to come.
Pittsburgh Pirates pitching
The current Buccos starting rotation is A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald and Jeff Locke. The battle for the fifth and final spot comes down to Jonathan Sanchez and Kyle McPherson. Liriano and Jeff Karstens are both doubtful for the start of the season. With that in mind, Sanchez is unlikely to stick in Pittsburgh. He is not guaranteed a spot in the rotation and will not accept a triple-A assignment.
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