2012 Pirates: Five Burning Questions


Sometime next month, the Pirates’ pitchers and catchers will report to Bradenton, Florida to start the 2012 season. -Regardless of how the major league team performs this year, 2012 will be the most important season for the Pirate organization in several years.

1. Bouncing back- On the major league level, the Pirates will be looking closely at the seasons of Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez. Both players made their debuts in 2010, and performed well. However, both of them suffered sophomore slumps, and missed a lot of time due to injury. If the Pirates are going to make any noise this year, they will need both Tabata and Alvarez to not only regain their 2010 form, but to improve on it.

As for the minors, no prospect was more disappointing last year than catcher Tony Sanchez. Sanchez made the move to AA Altoona last year, after having his 2010 season cut short due to a broken jaw. Sanchez struggled at the plate with the Curve, hitting for just a .241/.340/.318 line. Did Sanchez just have a bad year, or did we see the real Sanchez?

2. The Journey Begins/Continues- Speaking of the minors, it will be a very interesting year for a lot of Pirate prospects. Can Robbie Grossman keep up his stellar minor league numbers? More importantly, how will pitchers Stetson Allie, Jameson Taillon, Gerrit Cole, and Luis Heredia handle the 2012 season? How will outfielder Josh Bell do in his first professional season?

3. Can Erik Bedard stay healthy? Bedard surprised a lot of people by signing with Pittsburgh in early December. Bedard, who will make his NL debut this season with the Pirates, has been a good pitcher when he’s been healthy. Unfortunately, he’s had a tough time staying on the field during his career. If he can stay off the DL and perform like he did with Seattle, Bedard could be a very good offseason move for the Pirates.

4. Can the Pirates get high value for Joel Hanrahan at the trade deadline? Let’s face it. For some reason, closers are bringing in a huge haul across the league. Didn’t Moneyball teach GM’s anything? If I’m the Pirates, I’m definitely fishing the waters to see if I can get a good return for Hanrahan. The closer role is one of the silliest “positions”in all of sports, so if Pittsburgh is able to sell Hanrahan at a high value they should pull the trigger.

5. It all comes down to pitching. Can Charlie Morton keep improving on pitching out of his new arm slot? Can James McDonald take the next step? Will Brad Lincoln win a starting job? Can prospects Jeff Locke and Rudy Owens rebound from their tepid 2011 seasons?

I honestly believe that after this season we’ll have a very good indication of where the Pirates organization is heading. One thing’s for sure: it won’t be boring.