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Pittsburgh Pirates 2018: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Expert Insight

Josh Bell

Josh Bell

The Pittsburgh Pirates won 98 games in 2015 but had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, finishing second in the National League Central to the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals. Pittsburgh then ran into a pitcher on a historic run in the NL Wild Card Game and was shut out by the Chicago Cubs’ Jake Arrieta. 

It has been downhill for the Pirates since. They hope to get back to the postseason following a two-year absence, and the makings of one of the NL’s best rotations provides hope. However, the Pirates lack depth on the roster and will need a lot of things to go right — primarily enjoying good health — to make the playoffs or even finish above .500.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the PIRATES

“The best thing for them is to focus on getting the best team they can for 2019, because they’ve already brought most of the next wave up to the majors: Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Felipe Rivero, Josh Bell, Gregory Polanco. I’ll look past the Starling Marte suspension; he’s a great player on a good contract, like Francisco Cervelli. Polanco took a surprising downturn last year, and he hasn’t really added to the power and speed he’s shown so far. But everything I liked about him before is still there. Adam Frazier is a winning player; you can put him anywhere on the field, and he’s a really good contact hitter, which you don’t see much anymore. They’ve got one of the best relievers in baseball in Rivero, that rare three-pitch closer and a lefty who throws 100. Ivan Nova is a stabilizer in the rotation, but they need Taillon and Glasnow to become top-of-the-rotation guys. That’s asking a lot, but Taillon has great stuff and seems like he’s on his way.”

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Beyond the Box Score

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Helping Hand

The Pirates will always be tied to Puerto Rico through Roberto Clemente. The Hall of Fame right fielder and native of the island spent his entire career with the Pirates from 1955-72 before dying in a plane crash off the coast of San Juan while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua. Thus, the Pirates felt compelled to act when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in late September. The team held a drive outside PNC Park during which fans donated enough supplies to fill two cargo planes. Two native Puerto Ricans — third base coach Joey Cora and special assistant to the front office Mike Gonzalez — helped deliver the supplies along with utility player Sean Rodriguez, owner Bob Nutting and team president Frank Coonelly.

Agent of Change

Left-handed reliever Felipe Rivero surprised many when he dropped agent Scott Boras following a 21-save season in 2017. Rivero is now represented by Magnus Sports, which also counts closers Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees and Raisel Iglesias of the Reds as clients. Rivero says his sister suggested that he consider switching to an agency that specialized in relievers from Latin America. He was eligible for salary arbitration for the first time at the end of this season, but Rivero's new representation and the Pirates agreed to a four-year, $22 million contract in January. The deal also includes two option years, which could push the total value to $41 million.

Extra Reps

 Few established MLB players take part in winter ball anymore for fear of injury. However, left fielder Starling Marte, a first-time All-Star in 2016, decided to play in his native Dominican Republic during the offseason to make up for lost playing time after being suspended for 80 games last season by Major League Baseball for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. 

Power Outage Launch angle was all the rage in 2017 as a single-season record 6,105 home runs were hit in the major leagues. The Pirates, though, were 29th among the 30 MLB teams with 151 homers. Not surprisingly, hitting coach Jeff Branson will make launch angle a point of emphasis for hitters during spring training.

Projected Lineup

2B     Josh Harrison (R)
CF     Starling Marte (R)
1B     Josh Bell (S)
RF     Gregory Polanco (L)
3B     David Freese (R)
LF     Jose Osuna (R)
C     Francisco Cervelli (R)
SS     Jordy Mercer (R)
C     Elias Diaz (R)

3B   Colin Moran (L)
UT   Adam Frazier (L)
UT   Sean Rodriguez (R)
OF   Jordan Luplow (R)
RHP     Jameson Taillon
RHP     Ivan Nova
RHP     Chad Kuhl
RHP     Trevor Williams
RHP     Joe Musgrove
LHP     Felipe Rivero
RHP     Daniel Hudson
RHP    Michael Feliz
RHP     George Kontos
RHP     A.J. Schugel
RHP    Kyle Crick
LHP    Steven Brault