Pirates 2016 Season Predictions

Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

This is an article about what we expect from the Pirates in 2016.  It was a collaborative article by myself, Marty Leap, and David Slusser.  We talk about what we expect the Pirates record and outcome will be this year.  We also identified who the breakout player, best hitter, and best pitcher will be this year for the Pirates.

2016 Pittsburgh Pirates record:

David: The Pittsburgh Pirates will regress from last years mark of 98-64 and go 89-73. Although I think they are a more complete team this year, and will provide a more complete and consistent lineup with better defense, the losses of AJ Burnett and JA Happ leaves some questions in the rotation, primarily with Juan Nicasio and whether or not the prospects in Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon will be ready when called upon, presumably in June. They will finish second in the division, and once again be in the National League Wild Card game.

Marty: I also believe the Pirates will regress in 2016, but most teams coming off a 98 win season will regress. However, I still see the Pirates as a playoff contender this season. The Pirates lineup will be more complete and more potent this year than last, especially with OBP god John Jaso batting lead off. I also expect the Pirate defense to be better this year without Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez. While the rotation does somewhat worry me until the

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reinforcements arrive, I believe the bullpen will once again be a strength to help offset that. Ultimately, I see the Bucs finishing


and playing the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL Wild Card Game.

Nick: I believe that the Pirates will win the NL Central at a record of 94-68. Seems very optimistic I know, but this team has been outperforming expectations for the last 4 years. They filled some holes in the lineup, have more depth on the bench, and a strong AAA team to pull from than every before.  I look at the Cardinals as an aging team that is relying on a lot of bounce back performances.  The Cards are hoping that Wainwright can come back to form, Adams can produce after missing a year, and for Jaime Garcia to stay healthy, among many other things.  They also did not do much to better their team.  I think that the Cubs have all the weight on their young shoulders and that they will falter somewhat because of it.  I believe the Pirates will have consistency to lead them to the top of the Central, while the other two teams will battle in a one game playoff.

2016 Pirates Breakout Player

David: Neftali Feliz might be more of a bounce back pitcher than a breakout one, but even so he will prove to be a reputable reliever pitching in the seventh inning, a role that Joakim Soria held after the Pirates traded for him. After

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

having a 2.53 ERA from 2009-2014. The former All Star closer battled injuries in 2012 and 2013, and really struggled last year, as he had a 6.38 ERA in 48 games. Working with pitching coach Ray Searage will do wonders for him, and he will be a big arm in the bullpen, setting up the best 8/9 combo in baseball.

Marty: I am going to pick Juan Nicasio here. I believe he is primed for a big breakout season as a starting pitcher in 2016. Last season for the Dodgers he posted an ERA of 3.86, but he had a sparkling FIP of 2.83, while averaging 10.03 K/9 in 58 ⅓ innings pitched. This spring Nicasio was outstanding striking out 24 batters in 15 scoreless innings, and will finally get a chance to start at a ballpark other than Coors Field in Colorado. Nicasio has electric stuff, PNC Park is a very good pitchers park, and Ray Searage is, well, Ray Searage. I look for Nicasio to have a big season this year.

Nick:  I am going with the newest member of the Pirates in David Freese. Like Dave I am thinking more in terms of bounce back, however he would be considered breakout as many fans do not know what to expect from Freese.  He was a late signing who has been in the AL for the last two years. I think Freese already has a solid reputation in town and I believe that he will continue to hold that in PIttsburgh.  It shocked me to see that he was still a free agent come the start of spring training.  Leading up to it I mentioned to my colleagues above about how the Pirates made a lot of sense for him.  The Pirates agreed with me.  I think Freese is in for another solid campaign.  No he is not going to win a batting title here, but I think he will improve as an all around hitter.  Last year he hit .257 with 14 homers and a slash line of .323/.420/.743.  I think he will hit closer to his career marks this year with a .270 average and get on base at a .340 clip with a .420 slugging.  As I said Freese is not going to be an all-star, but I think he will make it very hard on the Pirates to take him out of the lineup come May.  He is a hard-working, true professional who has thrived in the NL Central before, and I believe he will find that success once more.  This will make the Pirates look fantastic for getting him on a 1 year 3 million dollar deal, and will allow the soon to be 33-year-old to get one more nice contract to end his career.

2016 Pirates Most Valuable Player

David: After another strong campaign in 2015, hitting .287/.337/.444, Starling Marte will continue to prove why he is a top left fielder in the Major Leagues. He will post career bests in slugging and home runs, while maintaining

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

his elite defensive prowess in left field. Marte is a star in the making, and this year the 27-year-old will not only be the Pirates MVP, he’ll look to compete and finish in the top 5 in the National League MVP race.

Marty: While Starling Marte should give him some strong competition, I am sticking with Andrew McCutchen here. The man who is arguably the best hitter in the National League not named Bryce Harper will be hitting in the two-hole this season and is primed for a big year. Since he debuted in June of 2009, only Miguel Cabrera has a higher WAR than Cutch and there is a reason why. Despite battling a knee injury in April that caused him to hit under .200, he still finished the season with a .380 wOBA and a wRC+ of 146. Both of these numbers were his lowest since 2011, and I look for both to jump significantly this season. It would not surprise me at all if Cutch wound up NL MVP this season.

Nick:  I will be short and sweet, the obvious, Andrew McCutchen.  Talk about one of the best all around in the game. He is fantastic on and off the field.  Watching him this spring has really struck a chord with me.  He seem to have a different mentality this year.  I am sure that he is sick of being second best in the division, he is still upset with his slow start last year, and he is prepared to lead this team to a division day from day one.  The move to batting

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

second in the lineup will help him as he will get more RBI and run scoring opportunities.  I think McCutchen will bounce back by putting his hat back into the batting title discussion and will mash around 25 homers this year.  If he hits over .300 and hits 20+ bombs he will be one of the main reseaons that this team will have success by default.

2016 Pirates Cy Young

David: The Pirates will once again have a dominate 1-2 punch in the rotation and a top 5 bullpen in all of baseball. This season the Pirates Cy Young will be closer Mark Melancon. Melancon has been one of the best closers in baseball, having 100 saves since 2013 and leading the league with 51 last year. Although his ERA rose to 2.23, the only time so far it has been over 2.00 in his three years as a Pirate, Mark had a 1.66 ERA from April 23 and on. After giving up 6 runs in two of his first seven games, he only gave up 13 earned runs (16 total) in his final 71. He’ll once again be the Pirates best reliever, and be the Pirates best pitcher.

Marty: Even though many people on Pirates Twitter do not think that Gerrit Cole is an ace, he is. Last season he finished 4th in National League Cy Young voting with a 2.60 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 8.74 K/9, 1.90 BB/9, and a 5.4 WAR in 208 innings pitched. I fully expect Cole to post another 200+ inning, 190-200 strikeout, and sub-3 ERA season. Gerrit Cole will once again be the best starting pitcher on the Pirate roster, one of the best in the National League, and will continue to prove Pirates Twitter wrong and will continue to be an ace.

Nick:  Gerrit Cole said that thing he likes about Ray Searage is that he challenges him to be the best every day.  Cole is that kind of guy and you can see that from the emotion he displays on the mound.  Cole averages the best average fastball velocity out of any starting pitcher. He is coming into his 3rd full season and has learned to be more of a complete pitcher.  His numbers last year were better than many realize pitching to a 2.60 ERA and averaging almost 9 strikeouts per game.  I expect Cole to pick up where he left off and avoid that “one bad innings” that has plagued him thus far in his career.