The Pirates are coming into the 2018 season with a lost identity. The face of their franchise for upwards of 9 years, Andrew McCutchen, is now gone. The Pirates also lost their ace Gerrit Cole in the offseason and are now left without their best pitcher and one of the best players to ever put on the black and gold. The Bucs finished the 2017 season with a 75-87 record and finished second to last in the NL Central. This team is going to get worse before it gets better but the question becomes just how bad will things become in 2018?
One of the key factors for the Pirates coming into the upcoming season, is going to be the production of their arms. Their rotation is led by two really young faces who will be a bright spot for the Bucs during the 2018 season. Jameson Taillon is only 26 years old, but commands the game like he is a 35 year old veteran. The former 2nd overall pick in the 2010 draft is coming off of a 8-7 record and is looking to improve this year and solidify himself as one of the best young pitchers on the east coast. At the two, the Pirates trot out a 24 year old from California who has a nasty curve, Tyler Glasnow. Glasnow is young, but is extremely confident when he takes the mound and I expect him to have a productive 2018 campaign. Supporting Glasnow is the former Yankee, Ivan Nova. Nova is a hard throwing righty from the Dominican who is looking to respond from a disappointing 2017 season: a season in which he finished with a 11-14 record and a 4.14 ERA. Nova has the potential to be really good, but has shown too many signs of inconsistency throughout the years for me to be able to rely on him to have a good year. The Pirates cap off their rotation with Chad Kuhl and Joe Musgrove who might as well play for my high school JV team. If I had to describe this starting rotation in a few words it would be front heavy. I think that Taillon and Glasnow are both very talented but other than them, this rotation is just poor and is one that is going to get abused in a very offensive loaded NL Central.
As far as the offense is concerned for the Pittsburgh Pirates, I think they have some holes, but overall they are a talented lineup. The offense is led by a guy who was suspended for PEDs just a year ago, Starling Marte. Marte, when he was at his best, was one of the best hitting OF in the majors. He is also an insanely talented fielder and is a overall freak of nature. The question coming into this season concerning Marte is one, can he stay off the juice, and two how good can he be when being kept off it? It’s hard to say but I he is definitely intriguing. Marte is supported by one of the better young power bats coming on to the scene, Josh Bell. Although Bell played closed to 50 games in 2016, he had his official rookie season last year and showed the country just how special he is. Bell finished the year with 26 homers and 90 runs batted in. Bell is only going to get better and I think he will be a 30, 100 guy in 2018. The three headed beast in the lineup for the Pirates is completed by OF, Gregory Polanco. Polanco is one of the most underrated OF in the game and is a guy who is going to give you consistent numbers with his bat year in and year out. The Bucs also have one of the best utility guys in all of baseball in James Harrison, a veteran SS in Jordy Mercer, and a veteran catcher from Italy who everyone loves, Francisco Cervelli. I like this offense and think they have a chance to produce a lot of runs this summer and make the Buc faithful very happy.
Overall, I think this Pirates team is going to be better than people expect. I am a big fan of Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow and think this is a power heavy offense. That being said, I do not think this team is talented enough to be anywhere near competing for a playoff spot and don’t think they will be for a couple of years. I have them finishing the season with a 73-89 record and have them finishing either last or second to last in the NL Central. Raising the Jolly Roger will be oh so jolly in 2018 because it will become a rare occurrence and will not be a term fans will get used to saying.