The journey to the World Series starts for the Pirates with all the hope and dreams of what could be in just 7 short months from now. After last season’s taste of the playoffs, this young team is poised and ready to take the next steps forward in reaching the World Series for the first time since 1979.
It’s been 35 years since the Pirates have been to and won a World Series while 20 of those years were spent below .500. It’s time to start forgetting about the past and look forward to the future because it’s a bright one and we Black n Gold faithful have bigger dreams.
For once the team doesn’t have a ton of open position battles trying to be won by older veterans trying to re-establish their careers. The team doesn’t have a barren farm system that we can’t look to if things aren’t going so well with the major league roster. Not this time, now it’s a team of young players maturing into professional athletes with a couple of holes to fill, which could be taken care of by some almost-ready minor leaguers once they pass Super Two status.
As an example, in Right Field, the team will trot our Travis Snider and Jose Tabata as a platoon while waiting for Gregory Polanco to arrive around mid-June. The 5th pitchers spot is up for grabs between one of those veterans trying to re-establish their careers in Edison Volquez and Jeff Locke who made the All Star team last season. If neither of them work out or if an aging guy like Wandy Rodriguez can’t come all the way back, there is Jameson Taillon ready to arrive this summer.
The biggest worries this season is the team takes a huge step backwards with guys who made progress last year to having terrible seasons this year. Francisco Liriano is one of those players the Pirates absolutely need to have another great year while Pedro Alvarez needs to be hitting bombs and Jordy Mercer needs to be solid defensively at SS but also solid at the plate. Jason Grilli returns as the closer but will he stay healthy, will Mark Melancon and the rest of the bullpen be as spectacular as they were last year? Is Charlie Morton going to continue to be a good #3 in the rotation? Will the team be looking for a 1st baseman at the trade deadline this year?
There are so many questions that need to be answered but the good news is, it’s very true for just about all 30 teams and in some cases, a lot more uncertain about what to do if the guys they will rely on doesn’t live up to the expectations. I think the Pirates will need to have huge seasons by the guys I’ve mentioned above to reach the World Series and I also think the most crucial player for the Pirates this season will be Neil Walker, not only for his defense at 2nd base but moreso with his bat. If Neil can hit around .270 with 15 HR’s and 75 RBI’s, he will earn a contract extension and be counted on as the team’s 2nd baseman of the future.
The future is bright indeed and the dreams are very real for the Buccos, the questions start now and the answer could come in those short 7 months from now.