Pirates Outfield: High Expectations
By Chris Barr
I do apologize for not getting the outfield preview and projections written until today. I hope everyone had a delightful Christmas and enjoyed the time with whomever. I read yesterday on Twitter that there is only 14 Sundays until opening day! Finally, our beloved Pittsburgh Pirates will be back at PNC ready to make another run at the title!
The Pirates outfield is known as one of the best in Major League Baseball. Andrew McCutchen is the rock of the outfield and might be the best center fielder the game has to offer. Cutch had another superb year for the Pirates. He was second on team with a .292 batting average. McCutchen lead the team with the most doubles hit, runs scored, RBI’s, and walks. I look for Andrew to have another career year. If McCutchen needs to work on one thing, it would be his strike outs. He led the team with 133 strikeouts, but he struggled to start out the season. Centerfield will be in good hands with Andrew McCutchen, both defensively and offensively.
Starling Marte is the starter and future in left field for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Marte enjoyed a successful year in 2015, while leading the team in stolen bases. He shuffled back and forth in the clean up spot, but found himself hitting 2nd a lot of the time. I truly believe Marte can hit for more power, but I think my expectations are high on him. Pittsburgh misses a threat in the lineup. Yes, Andrew McCutchen is good, but the team needs more than him to find success. Starling can steal bases. He has the speed and capabilities to score a lot of runs. I think his spot in the lineup is still to be determined, but if he continues to play the way he does, he will gain more confidence and show better results. Marte has had some lackadaisical games where it seemed like he didn’t show up to play. His defense is great and he can cover a lot of ground with his speed. I look for Starling Marte to lead the Pirates in stolen bases, strikeouts, and outfield assists this season. If I was Clint Hurdle, I would steal Marte almost every time he reaches first base. This would help put more runs on the board and for the Pirates to find more success running the bases.
My girlfriend and friends went to a game on June 28, 2015. The Pirates were losing to the lousy Braves 2-1. Gregory Polanco was brought in the game to pinch hit. He swung at two awfully bad pitches and the game ended. My buddy and I were disgusted with Polanco and said that he sucked. Well 2 or 3 months later we ate those words. Polanco turned it on and had a remarkable last few months of the season. With all of the hype surrounding Polanco, he finally showed potential. Gregory finished with a .256 batting average, and led the team in triples. He had 27 stolen bases, but was caught 10 times. Polanco has made a lot of athletic defensive plays in right field. The guy has a cannon for an arm. Right field is well covered when Polanco is starting. I would speculate Gregory will hit lead off again for the Pirates. I wouldn’t hate if the outfield hit 1-2-3, but I think Marte will get moved around and eventually hit 5th. I expect big things for Polanco, but I mainly want him to be a patient hitter. This means not swinging at bad pitches and letting the pitcher work. The more he can get on base, the more he can steal or find ways to score runs.
The Pittsburgh Pirates outfield has high expectations. The talent is there and they work well together as a unit. Last year was Polanco’s first full season, but I don’t anticipate any let down. I think playing small ball isn’t a bad idea when they are struggling to hit. Polanco, Marte or McCutchen all have the speed and capabilities to help this team make the post season. Marte and Polanco have games where they don’t seem to have their heads in the game. They will make a bad throw or drop a routine fly ball. Cleaning up errors will make them better and any team better. Let us not forget about Sean Rodriguez and Josh Harrison, who are utility men capable of playing any outfield position. I would really like to see what Willy Garcia has to offer, but I don’t expect him up this season. Since Keno Braxton was traded, Harold Ramirez is currently on the roster too.
Projected lineup: Polanco, Harrison, McCutchen, Kang, Marte, Cervelli, Morse, Mercer.
There is a lot yet to happen, so we will wait and see!