With the baseball season officially underway and our beloved Buccos starting about 12 hours from now, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to spew a bunch of predictions at ya. Plus, it will allow me to focus on something positive in the Pittsburgh sports scene. So, no particular setup to this, but I’ll offer some thoughts on the Pirates roster first.
Outfield: Starling Marte is poised to have a breakout, All-Star-caliber year. Gregory Polanco had his struggles last year and hopefully can move forward. Because if he flops and needs more time in the minors, the options to replace him aren’t the most appealing. Sure Corey Hart could regain his old form, or Andrew Lambo figures out big-league pitching, or Jose Tabata shows he gives a shit at Indy. Hell, maybe Bobby Bo comes back and takes it over. But none of those are sure things. Oh, and there’s this guy named Andrew MacClinton or something like that in center. I heard he’s supposed to be pretty good.
Infield: Josh Harrison was one of the best stories in baseball last year. It will be almost impossible for him to repeat what he did. But hit .275 or higher and provide energy to that line-up, especially if at the top, and I’ll be happy. Jordy Mercer isn’t flashy, but he gets the job done. Neil Walker, when healthy, is a top 5 2B in the game. Pedro Alvarez is possibly the biggest key to the season. Produce like he did two years ago and watch out. If not, watch out for him to make his way out of town.
Catcher: Ridiculous contract aside, the Pirates will absolutely miss Russell Martin. Francisco Cervelli is a nice addition. He had a good spring and maybe he finally establishes himself as a starting catcher in this league. His strength is his game-calling ability. That will help to make up for some of Martin’s absence. The back-up spot for now is Tony Sanchez’s. Had a hot spring at the dish, but I still don’t trust him behind the plate. When Chris Stewart is healthy, if Sanchez is hitting like he was at the start of last year, Bucs should keep him up. That bench has some question marks, so why dump a guy who is hitting? Especially if in their minds, they don’t think he is the future catcher on this team. Stewart’s skills behind the plate provide him with a job, although he did hit .294 last year.
Starting Pitching: Bringing back Francisco Liriano was essential. Gerrit Cole is an ace in waiting. And A.J. Burnett can recapture some of his magic for one year and bring attitude to the field and clubhouse. Just hope it’s more positive, than negative. So, top 3, I feel really comfortable with. I planned on writing about Charlie Morton’s health being a huge factor. And sure enough, where is he starting the season? On the DL. Apparently it is more of a delivery problem and not pain related. Bottom line is your No. 4 guy, who you gave a fairly nice extension to before last year, is gonna be absent from your rotation to start the season. It provides a chance for Jeff Locke to prove himself. Inconsistency and control are his biggest issues. Also, struggles deeper into games. Maybe once Morton is back, they could piggyback Locke and Vance Worley. While neither had a great spring, he would have been my choice for the five spot. And whether it’s one of those three, or Nick Kingham, Casey Sadler, Clayton Richard, or outside help, the 4 and 5 guys have to contribute to that rotation in order to contend.
Bullpen: I still have trust issues with Mark Melancon, but he got the job done last year on most occasions once he was made the closer. Tony Watson is beyond trustworthy. Antonio Bastardo was a great acquisition. Jared Hughes went from being left off the NLCS roster two years ago, to being an important part of that bullpen last year. After that, there are some interesting stories, but what impact can they have. Arquimedes Caminero was lights-out this spring. And Radhames Liz has a dynamite arm too. Unfortunately, they have 47 games of Major League experience between them. And Morton’s absence opened up a spot for Rob Scahill. I can hear you asking yourself ‘who the fuck is that guy?’ He was cast aside by the Rockies after pitching parts of the last 3 seasons for them. That’s all you need to know about him. But the bullpen can be a very fluid situation. And John Holdzkom leads a list of guys who will be at Indy waiting for their chance.
Bench: Another area of concern for me and something that could have a lot of moving pieces. Andrew Lambo provides a threat to go deep or strike out off the bench. Sean Rodriguez is too reminiscent of Clint Barmes for my liking. He’s versatile, has some pop, doesn’t hit for average. Hey, at least the Pirates didn’t sign him to a ridiculous contract. Speaking of ridiculous contracts, Jung Ho Kang. Time will tell if he was worth it, but in order for it to be, he has to at least be a contributor off the bench. Corey Hart is intriguing. Was an All-Star in Milwaukee. Injuries have done him in the last 2 years. If healthy, he could be a steal of a signing.
People actually have expectations for this team and it will be interesting to see if they can handle that. Fortunately, they have Clint Hurdle leading them. He fits this team almost perfectly. I think they end up with the first wild card for the 3rd straight year, but absolutely can win the division with big seasons from Pedro, Polanco, and the pitching.
Running out of steam to make this very in-depth
1. Nats- Cocky, but talented bunch
2. Marlins- Exciting young team will meet Bucs in Wild Card game
3. Mets- Definition of mediocre
4. Braves- After collapse last year, completely gutted their roster.
5. Phillies- Will be another tough year for fans on the other side of the state
1. Cards- Hard to bet against them
3. Brewers- Could brew a recipe to get into a wild card spot
4. Cubs- Heading in right direction, but young talent will need a few years to develop
5. Reds- Will finish above .500 despite last-place finish.
1. Dodgers- Magic’s men will light up La La Land
2. Padres- Got Kimbrel tonight. They are certainly going for it. It won’t quite payoff, but they will be much improved.
3. Giants- It’s an odd year, so they will suck.
4. Rockies- Injuries did them in last year. Have the talent to be somewhat competitive.
5. D-backs- I will root against any team associated with that arrogant cocksucker LaRussa. It will be easy with as shitty as this team will be.
NL Wild Card
Pit def Mia
Pit def Was in 5
LA def STL in 5
LA def Pit in 6
1. Red Sox- The dicks in Beantown won’t have to cry in their chowder this year…until playoffs
2. Blue Jays- Seemingly start hot every year. They keep it up this year and take the 2nd wild card.
3. Orioles- The O’s face will be one of disappointment
4. Yanks- Tough times continue for the Evil Empire
5. Rays- Wanna root for them, but they are intentionally trying to lose I think.
1. Tigers- Hear them roar. As long as Verlander is healthy and recovers from breaking up with Kate Upton.
2. Indians- Scrappy bunch could make Harry Doyle happy and reach playoffs.
3. Royals- Magic of last season disappears.
4. White Sox- Spent money just like their Northside counterparts. Will miss playoffs just like them as well.
5. Twins- Not good omen when the biggest free agent signing in team history gets suspended for 80 games before season even starts
1. M’s- Rooting for Lloyd and the boys
2. Angels- If they can keep Josh Hamilton under control, should make playoffs again
3. Astros- Sleeper team in the AL
4. A’s- Hard to exactly figure out Beane’s plan for this year.
5. Rangers- Best of luck to Jeff Bannister. Without Darvish will be long season. He better find Ron Washington’s coke dealer
AL Wild Card
LAA over Tor
LAA def Bos in 4
Det def Sea in 5
Det def LAA in 7
Tigers over Dodgers in 6