The Pittsburgh Pirates should be a competitive ball club in 2017. They competed for most of 2016, falling out in September, with a pitching staff that struggled. McCutchen will be better, and if not the season will be a total flop. On the downside, Jung Ho Kang won’t play for time period x. Meanwhile, Gregory Polanco is currently hung up with a shoulder injury and a passport issue.
But the Cardinals are worse than they were last season. The Marlins pitching staff is… something. The Mets will be without Steven Matz for at least a month. Furthermore, Zack Wheeler hasn’t pitched with health for a couple of years, and Matt Harvey is no longer Matt Harvey. With an improved pitching staff, without really any outside additions, the Pirates overall record should be too.
Francisco Cervelli might not be the popular name thrown around as being the most valuable to the Pirates. Gerrit Cole, Starling Marte, and Andrew McCutchen will be thrown out there. But the Pirates need Cervelli to be healthy. He’s one of the best pitch framers in baseball and is a large help to the Pirates pitching staff. Getting closer to 2015 offensive production is a big key to the Pirates returning to success.
Felipe Rivero might have already broken out, in Pittsburgh at least, but nationally he will too. His pitch arsenal is nasty, and nobody has shown the ability to really touch his changeup. If used like Andrew Miller in 2016 postseason, Rivero will be a household name.
Marty and Nick will have their predictions in the next few days. Baseball is almost back.