Pittsburgh Pirates 2016 vs. 2017 Part 1: The offense
Left Field: Gregory Polanco
Right Field: Andrew McCutchen
Center Field: Starling Marte
The personnel is the same, but the positions have changed. We know Starling Marte will be an outstanding defensive center fielder. Let’s be honest, he is one of the best defensive outfielders on planet earth. But what about Gregory Polanco moving from right to left, and Andrew McCutchen from center to right? Polanco is an interesting case, as he had his struggles in right field when that was his home.
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On the surface, it seems concerning that a player who is still learning one position would now have to conquer a different area of the field. However, Polanco’s speed should play well into the dimensions of PNC Park, as Andrew McCutchen would not be able to handle the pesky “North Side Notch.” Speaking of McCutchen, his ineptitude in center field, particularly last season, is the main cause for all of this turnover. While I think that big #22 is better off in right than he would be in left or center, his weak throwing arm might be an issue in the position that has the most use for a cannon. A lot of questions dog the Pirates outfield defensively. But offensively, they could be kings.
With the stick, Starling Marte will do what Starling Marte does; hit for a high average, play great defense, and swing at everything he sees. I believe that, although he may never reach his 2012-14 status, Andrew McCutchen will be improved. To me, his letter for the Players’ Tribune was convincing, and I expect Cutch to be back with a vengeance. Polanco is the one that I am most excited to watch in 2017. This man has put on some serious muscle over the off-season. Polanco has shown that he can be a star, and all he needs is to find consistency. Hopefully, that happens in 2017, and you know what, I think it will.
The Pirates prized outfield is what will ultimately make or break this offense. Given the pedigree, and the talent of these three men, I’d bet on “make.”
Overall, the Pirates offense is pretty solid. In my view, the biggest issues that plagued the Pirates on offense in 2016 were consistency, and injuries. I expect the Bucco bats to be a strong point of this team in 2017. With that being said, I am anxious to see if I am right.
That’s it for Part one. Part two will detail the Pirates projected starting pitching rotation, as well as their bullpen.