By: Noah Wright
The Pirates are entering spring training with a roster, and bright future with their farm system. Many players the Bucs have are going to get a full season of playing time, and they could really help this team make a playoff push given the right circumstances. So let’s look at some of the things to look forward to on this underrated Pirates team.
- Pitching staff:
This goes for both the rotation and bullpen. The rotation is a squad that’s led off by Jameson Taillon, a guy who put up 2.71 ERA, 3.20 FIP, and opponent .666 OPS from May 27th to the end of the year. Behind him, Trevor Williams, the #2 starter, had a 1.38 ERA and .578 opponent OPS after the all-star break. Though Joe Musgrove did have a 4.06 ERA, his 3.56 FIP, opponent .687 OPS, 1.8 BB/9 rate, and 3.93 SIERA represent a very solid middle of the rotation guy. Though Chris Archer did struggle in his first month as a Pirate, he looked to be settled in during September, tossing a 2.92 ERA in the final month of the season.
The pen looks even better. Felipe Vasquez is returning, and is one of the best closers in the MLB. Behind him, Kyle Crick and Keone Kela are young arms with impressive velocity, and decent control to go along with it. 2018 breakout star Richard Rodriguez also is another set-up arm the Bucs can rely on. Other arms like Steven Brault, and one of either Francisco Liriano, Nick Kingham, or Jordan Lyles will also see some time in the pen as inning eaters.
- The outfield:
Sure, missing Gregory Polanco for the first month at the least does impact the OF, but the Pirates have done a fair job of trying to add depth to the roster. Starling Marte, who provided a 20/30 season last year with decent defense in CF looks to bring his batting average back up to career norms (mid-to-high .280’s), and keep improving on his outfield defense in center. Corey Dickerson looks to maintain his gold glove level defense in left field, and add a bit of his power back that he lost in 2018.
OF replacement for the time being, Lonnie Chisenhall, is a solid addition to the corner OF. He’s not a bad fielder or batter, but is just injured a lot. However if the Bucs can squeez about 100-120 games out of him and 350 plate appearances out of Chisenhall, I don’t see why he can’t replicate something close to his numbers the past 3 years (.291/.347/.468 line). One of Chisenhall teammates from 2018, also will look to crack the MLB roster. Last year, Melky put up another solid offensive season, including a .755 OPS, and you could expect the same from him again this year given time on the field. Other OF eligible players like Pablo Reyes, and prospects Bryan Reynolds and Jason Martin should also be interesting pieces to keep an eye on.
- Mitch Keller:
Mitch Keller may have struggled overall in AAA last season, but he did show some improvements to his strikeout stuff in AAA. Though his 4.82 ERA paints an ugly picture, his 3.22 FIP, .52 HR/9 rate, and 9.8 K/9 rate paint a much better picture. With a little more seasoning in Triple-A Indianapolis, Keller could be in the bigs by early to mid June. That is unless injuries occur.
- A full season from Adam Frazier:
Adam Frazier has silently put up solid numbers year to year. Last year however, Frazier put up very good numbers as the Pirates super utility man. In 352 PA’s, Frazier had a .277/.342/.456 batting line with 10 home runs. His 116 wRC+ was higher than some notable names like Asdrubal Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Ozzie Albies, Jean Segura, Andrelton Simmons, Trea Turner and tied with Joey Wendel. From August onward, Frazier had an impressive .880 OPS and .299 average. With decent defense at second, a full season from Frazier will be a fun one to watch.