Pittsburgh Pirates 2021: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

How will things shape up in the NL Central?

The Major League Baseball season was shortened to 60 games from 162 in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it still felt like an eternity for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates started 4–17 under first-year manager Derek Shelton and finished with the worst record in the major leagues at 19–41. That extrapolates to 51–111 in a normal year. Shelton, though, believes he was able to establish a new culture within both the clubhouse and organization.

 

General manager Ben Cherington is still in player evaluation mode as he begins his second season on the job. He was the GM when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2013, which is something the Pirates have not done since 1979.

 

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates logo"They're in real trouble for at least another year or so, especially after losing cornerstone Josh Bell. They've got a lot of guys whose upside is really low — at best, they can stick around a while as average big leaguers. The big exception is Ke'Bryan Hayes, who has a chance to be a megastar. He does everything right. He's got power, he's great with two strikes, he's got the bat control to break a shift if he has to. In the field, he's right there with Nolan Arenado. He's got range, arm strength, and everything is fluid. On the pitching staff, Mitch Keller has the pedigree, but he's not the same hard thrower he was at Triple-A. He's still hard to hit, but I don't trust him as a long-term answer. Steven Brault had a nice finish; he knows what he's doing out there. There's nothing special in the bullpen."

 

Beyond the Box Score

 

Changing the culture Like every new manager, Derek Shelton wanted to establish a new culture when he took over the Pirates last season. He felt that happened in a Sept. 19 game against the St. Louis Cardinals when the rest of the starting pitchers begged Shelton to leave rookie Mitch Keller in the game when he was working on a no-hitter through six innings. Though Shelton pulled the righthander because of pitch count, he was impressed with the way Keller's teammates took a stand.

 

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Fixing the hitting The Pirates finished last in the major leagues in runs scored last year with an average of just 3.65 per game. They were also last in MLB in on-base percentage and slugging percentage while finishing 28th among the 30 clubs in batting average. Shelton says he and hitting coach Rick Eckstein have had long talks over the winter about how to attempt to fix the situation, and better communication between the staff and players will be important.


Top pick One positive of having the worst record in the majors last season is the fact that the Pirates have the first pick in this year's amateur draft. Speculation centers heavily around the Pirates selecting Vanderbilt righthander Kumar Rocker, son of former NFL defensive lineman Tracy Rocker.


Rule 5 picks The Pirates selected two righthanders with high upside in the Rule 5 Draft, Jose Soriano from the Los Angeles Angels and Luis Oviedo from the New York Mets. Both must stay on the major league roster throughout the season or be offered back to their original clubs. Soriano sat out last season because of Tommy John surgery.


Farm clubs in the fold While across the nation, the minor leagues underwent a major upheaval when franchises were contracted in December, the Pirates' top four farm clubs will remain the same this season — Triple-A Indianapolis, Double-A Altoona, High-A Bradenton, and Low-A Greensboro.

 

Projected Lineup

 

LINEUP

2B     Adam Frazier (L)

3B     Ke'Bryan Hayes (R)

1B     Colin Moran (L)

LF     Bryan Reynolds (S)

RF     Gregory Polanco (L)

CF     Anthony Alford (R)

C       Jacob Stallings (R)

SS     Erik Gonzalez (R)

 

BENCH

C      Tony Wolters (L)

UT    Kevin Newman (R)

UT    Phillip Evans (R)

UT    Cole Tucker (S)

OF    Brian Goodwin (L)

 

ROTATION

RHP     Mitch Keller

LHP     Steven Brault

RHP     Chad Kuhl

LHP     Tyler Anderson

RHP     JT Brubaker

 

BULLPEN

RHP     Richard Rodriguez (C)

RHP     Kyle Crick

RHP     Chris Stratton

LHP     Sam Howard

RHP     Michael Feliz

RHP     Geoff Hartlieb

LHP     Chasen Shreve

RHP     Luis Oviedo

 

2021 Prediction: 5th in NL Central

 

(Ke'Bryan Hayes photo courtesy of mlb.com/pirates)

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