Last season, Russell Martin. The year before that, A.J. Burnett. Each year a player emerges as the voice or vocal leader of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Many fans probably expect Batman, A.J. Burnett, to swoop in and take over right where he left off as the leader of the team. In what is likely his farewell season, I don’t see him filling this role like he did before. Don’t get me wrong here, he will be a veteran leader in the clubhouse. I just think it is time for someone to step up as the voice of the 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates. I will touch on three guys I think are likely to do so.
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Neil Walker, everyone knows his story. Years ago he was just that local kid who was drafted by the Pirates. For awhile, some wondered if he would be buried in the minors. Today, he is arguably the second best player on the team and one of the top second basemen in Major League Baseball. He has shown he can perform on the field while representing this team, and city, off the field. If he stays healthy this season, combined with a nice big contract extension, I believe he can step up to the plate and take on this role.
Gerrit Cole, potentially the ace of this pitching staff, has shown glimpses of this role. I can think of several times last season where Cole could be seen leaning over the dugout railing screaming at an opposing team or umpire. Of course, we know the fireballer takes to the mound and throws with authority. As fellow Rum Bunter writer Jason Rollison stated, Cole now has a complete arsenal of pitches for 2015. With his demeanor, and tutelage from A.J., Gerrit could embrace this type of role and become the vocal leader for many years to come.
Josh Harrison has shown his versatility on the field with his glove and the bat. On the heels of a career year last season, Josh showed many flashes of greatness. I think of his many base running moments that just left you staring at the field in awe. We can’t forget his clutch hits and amazing defensive plays as well. Let me be clear, one amazing season does not make you a star. However, it does set the expectation level high. As the starting 3rd Baseman this season, it’s time to extend his role even further. I expect Josh to continue to play the game how it is meant to be played and become a leader of this team!
I know I said three but I can’t conclude this without touching on one final player. Andrew McCutchen is the face of the franchise. He is one of the most recognized players in all of MLB. Talented, humble, All Star, and MVP are just a few words that come to mind when asked to describe Andrew McCutchen. Vocal leader of the Pirates? No. Quiet leader? Yes. Is this the season that Cutch explodes and becomes the vocal leader? While possible, I expect Cutch to remain a player who lets his performance do the talking.
As Spring Training games continue to get into full swing, followed by the trip north to begin the regular season, we shall see how things unfold.