2019 Team Preview #4: Pittsburgh Pirates

Welcome to the Team Previews! If you’re new ’round here, give a read to the 3 Team Previews you’ve missed!

On to the preview!

Last Year

2018 Record: 70-92, 4th in NL Central, 11 games back

What a difference a division makes! Yesterday’s preview, the Astros, had the same 70-92 record as the Pirates, but finished 21 more games out of 1st place. That’s little refuge for baseball fans in the Steel City though, as they are yearning for the Pirates to finally make a true playoff push. Will they get their wish this year?

Key Additions

RP Joba Chamberlain (FA)
SP Will Smith (Waivers)
1B Tyler Moore (FA)
RP Mario Andres (TBR via Rule 5)
2B Jean Segura (Waivers)

Key Losses

SP CJ Wilson (FA)
SP Jarrod Parker (FA)
1B Anthony Rizzo (FA)
2B Dee Gordon (FA)
SS CJ Hinojosa (FA)
2B Luis Perez (FA)

Lineup/Rotation Projection

The most interesting change for the Pirates may be at the top where John Yuda takes over at the top GM spot, looking to get the team over the hump. The offense will again be formidable (2nd in NL in HR in 2018). It will be led by a world-class OF of Josh E. Bell (.291, 36 HR, 115 RBI), Tink Jones (.286, 30 HR, 79 RBI) and Michael Conforto (.293, 24 HR, 82 RBI). That trio combined for nearly 14 WAR in 2018. The infield is a bit more messy, with no real SS on the roster. Rookie 3B Alex Bregman (.301) was great after his call-up, and 2B Jean Segura (.836) should have 2 spots locked down, but 1B might be a bit of a black hole. Behind the plate will be veteran Devin Mesoraco (16 HR)

On the mound the Pirates are also pretty top heavy, with stalwart starters Carlos Meza (3.02 ERA), Gerrit Cole (3.58 ERA) and Chris Scalise (4.15 ERA) bolstered by a relative group of unknowns. The pen was worked hard in 2018 with Mark Melcancon (13 Saves), DJ Mitchell (2.44 ERA), Brett Oberholtzer (3.02 ERA) and Trent Stevenson (19 Holds) each working over 80 innings. Rule 5 pickup from Tampa Bay, Mario Andres could be a great find having posted a 1.17 ERA in over 60 innings in AAA last year.

 

Outlook

The NL Central, in general will be a tough one to make a call on for 2019. It was mediocre at best in 2018, and with only 1 player over 3 WAR entering the division this offseason, it’s shaping up to be more of the same in the coming season. I think if the Pirates with a core of quality players can solve their few black holes (SS, 1B, back end of rotation) they can compete with anyone in the division.

I don’t quite think it’s theirs for the taking though. While they’ll be in it throughout, they’ll finish in 2nd place at 82-80. It will mark their first time in the top-2 in the divison in MLB History, but not quite good enough to make the playoffs.