With pitchers and catchers already in the fold for the Pittsburgh Pirates, it is time to look ahead at the 2014 season and some items that could make or break the team.
Coming off their most successful season in two decades, followed by a less-than-spectacular offseason, there are plenty of questions on whether the Bucs will duplicate their 2013 success or take a step backwards in 2014.
With that being said, here’s a look at the top five storylines to follow in spring training
5. Can the bullpen have similar success?
With all of the great stories of the 2013 Pirates, perhaps the most underrated one was the performance of the Bucs bullpen.
The “Shark Tank” turned out to be the heroes of the season as they finished with the third-best bullpen ERA (2.89) in all of baseball. More times than not if the Bucs held a lead after six innings, the game was over.
Can that type of success be duplicated this season?
The good news is that the entire pen is likely to be back on the Opening Day roster. If the Pirates are to have a similar type of season, the likes of Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris, Vin Mazzaro and Jeanmar Gomez will have to have big seasons once again. Throw arms like Stolmy Pimentel and Jared Hughes into the mix and the Bucs will have plenty of power arms to turn to.
4. Will we see top prospects make an impact?
Much has been made this offseason about the talent in the Pirates’ farm system, which was rated the top farm system in all of MLB by Baseball America.
The farm system is the future for the Bucs and we saw the impact that Gerrit Cole had a season ago.
If we do and they have the type of impact that Cole had in 2013, the Pirates could be dangerous down the stretch.