Pittsburgh Pirates: My 2015 Bold Predictions


Sep 5, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Jared Hughes (48) in the seventh inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

After an unsuccessful 2014 season of bold predictions, it is time to once again try my luck in 2015. My mentality is that these cannot be any worse than last year. Without further ado here are my thoughts:

1. Pirates starters stay healthy- This one is easier said than done. It is extremely hard for an entire pitching staff to not fall to the injury bug. Going in it is unlikely that Charlie Morton would be ready Opening Day, however otherwise I think the Pirates will be fortunate. At times in the past, injuries and incorrect treatment has hurt the Pirates but this current medical staff led by Todd Tomczyk has done a great job in analyzing injuries and making the correct decisions.

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2. Pedro Alvarez will solve the Pirates problems at first base- Yes I know Alvarez had a down year in 2013 on both sides of the ball. Alvarez much like Ryan Zimmerman with the Washington Nationals is making a move across the diamond from third to first base to eliminate the consistent need to make the longer throw to first. This will allow Alvarez to stress a lot less in the field and worry about becoming a more consistent hitter. For years, many expected Alvarez to have to make this move anyways so I am not concerned. It is a shame that Alvarez could not regain form from 2013 when he had a great season at third base but with Josh Harrison having a breakout year last season, the Pirates are not forcing their hand by making this switch. Furthermore, I feel that Corey Hart will improve against left-handed pitching and Gaby Sanchez who before had thrived against lefties did not do the same in 2014, which is why he is in Japan playing in 2015.

3. Francisco Cervelli will play a full season and not be too much of a drop off from Russell Martin- The signing of Russell Martin proved that pitch framing was an overlooked component the Pirates had overlooked. Now with Martin gone, fans may feel the Pirates are just taking another Yankee but really Cervelli is also a good pitch framer. I do think that he will stay healthy and that is an important thing for him. Cervelli finally gets a chance to be the guy, because Chris Stewart by no means deserves it, even if he is known as a defensive catcher. Tony Sanchez has proven he is not ready to start which I believe is a disappointment to the Pirates. Cervelli has never played more than 93 games in a season so preparations this season will be more crucial than ever, but I have a good feeling about this.

4. This is Neil Walker‘s final season with the Pirates- I just have this vibe that “The Pittsburgh Kid” will not be needed. The fact that the two were $1 million behind in the arbitration process tells me all I need to know. The signing of Jung-Ho Kang also provides insurance the Pirates did not have before. I think Mercer will beat Kang out, but if the latter produces up to expectations than someone will have to be the odd one out. Walker may be the one that becomes expendable and I believe that will happen. Already the Pirates will have to fill A.J. Burnett’s contract for 2016 as he has already proclaimed 2015 to be his last season.

5. Pirates will win the NL Central- I have already ruled out the Chicago Cubs (sorry Anthony Rizzo) and now the Milwaukee Brewers after the Yovani Gallardo trade. The Cincinnati Reds will have a bounce back season but will sorely miss Alfredo Simon’s 15 wins from last season which now are with the Detroit Tigers. That once again leaves the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. While the Cardinals did lose All-Star Pat Neshek it has gained Jordan Walden who also has an unorthodox delivery. Jason Heyward was a big off-season addition and Randal Grichuk could have a breakout year in the outfield. Still the Pirates now know they belong in the top of the division and I feel will take the division. I just think the third consecutive year will be the charm and the Pirates will play smart baseball.

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  • 6. The signing of Antonio Bastardo will be the best one from this offseason- It is well known how much Clint Hurdle loves having two lefties in the bullpen. Last season Justin Wilson did not get the job done and despite his high velocity, was traded to the New York Yankees. In his place is Antonio Bastardo. Bastardo and the Pirates have been linked since the trade deadline. His 3.94 ERA in 2014 is up from his 2.32 mark in 2013, but PNC Park is a perfect fit for him. Additionally against three of the four NL Central teams in the past three years, his ERA is 2.08 or lower, which is a good sign. Bastardo also has shown he does not wear out when the pitch count gets higher as evidenced by a .063 batting average against from 2012-14. I liked this signing from the beginning but these statistics lead me to believe he will be a huge part of the Pirates 2015 success.

    7. Jared Hughes will have back to back breakout seasons- I left Jared Hughes for dead in 2014, but could not have been further wrong. Hughes had seven wins, a 1.96 ERA, allowed 51 hits in 64.1 innings and had a WHIP of 1.088. Normally relievers such as Hughes will have one good season before regressing, however I feel that will not happen in this case. The Pirates love Hughes’ mentality on the mound almost as much as they love that he is an extreme ground ball pitcher which is something the team consistently covets. The bullpen has consistently been a strong suit for Pirates teams and that will continue in 2015. Hughes will see the above stats regress slightly but still he has shown that he can be a valued member of this team.

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