Key Additions—Chris Snyder, Lyle Overbay
Key Losses—Octavio Dotel, Zack Duke
Lineup—Andrew McCutcheon is turning into a real superstar and will continue to develop into the leader of this team. He has all of the skills to be an all-star, and is without a doubt a 5 tool player. With Jose Tabata in LF and Garret Jones in RF, this outfield is at least good enough to put up some runs. The hope is that the infield will be led by 3B Pedro Alvarez, who showed signs of being a good player last year. It will be fun to see what he can do with a full season to work with. Lyle Overbay was a nice pick-up, as to me he has always been a bit undervalued as a 1B. He won’t put up great numbers, but year after year is fairly solid. Neil Walker showed that he can play and hit at 2B. Although this lineup is not near good enough to compete, they are making strides, and have a few pieces in McCutcheon, Alvarez, and Walker to get fans in Pittsburgh excited.
Rotation—The pitching staff is where this team gets scary. And I don’t mean scary in a good way. John McDonald is a nice young pitcher, but to have him as the ace of your staff is not going to help you get back to over .500. When looking at the rest of the staff you are basically looking at guys who wouldn’t be locked in on most teams in the 5 hole, and they are filling the early slots behind McDonald. Really, I am not sure any of these pitchers would even make the rotation for the Reds or Brewers in the division, which is not a good thing for the 2011 Pirates. With guys like Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia, Ross Ohlendorf, and Charlie Morton, this reads more like a list of guys battling for a spot in spring training. It is going to be a rough year for this rotation in Pittsburgh.
Bullpen—Unfortunately for the Buccos fans, this isn’t any better of an outlook than the rotation. Joel Hanrahan is a good 7th inning man, not a closer. However he will be thrust into that role with the hopes that he will be able to get the job done. Although Evan Meek was an all star last year, he is not a closer type, and I expect him to regress a bit. With the combination of the rotation arms and this bullpen, I expect the Pirates to have one of the worst overall staffs in the big leagues.
Impact Rookie—Bryan Morris, RHP. After the prospect graduation of Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Neil Walker last year, the Pirates system is thin at the upper levels. Morris came to Pittsburgh in the Jason Bay trade of 2008. Morris will head the AAA Indianapolis staff to start the season but should finish it in Pittsburgh.
Outlook—There is a big part of me that would love to see the Buccos become relevant again, and would like to at least see them be competitive. I do think, for the first time in a while, the do have some good young talent that would be worth checking out. But they are still a few years away, mainly on the pitching side. Hopefully their youngsters can continue to develop, and they can find ways to win games, but I am afraid in this division the Pirates are in for another last place finish.
Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent
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