2017 Pittsburgh Pirates Rum Bunter Staff Predictions: Marty

Mar 7, 2017; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (13) before the start of the spring training game against the Atlanta Braves at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 7, 2017; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (13) before the start of the spring training game against the Atlanta Braves at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports /
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Pittsburgh Pirates Garcia
Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

Will the Pirates return to the postseason?

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a team capable of returning to the postseason. In 2016 everything that could go wrong did. Yet,  at the end of August, they were only one game out of a postseason spot.

A healthy Gerrit Cole anchoring the rotation gives the Pirates the top of the rotation arm a team needs to be a postseason contender. A full season of Jameson Taillon gives the Pirates a great one-two punch atop their rotation. They will also get a full season, not just two months, of Ivan Nova.

A healthy Francisco Cervelli, Andrew McCutchen being the hitter he’s been his entire career outside of June and July of 2016, and a full season of Starling Marte will make the team better as well. These three factors combined with six months of Josh Bell should help to offset the loss of Jung Ho Kang‘s bat for however long he is out.

The Pirates *should* have a very strong bullpen as well. Felipe Rivero, Juan Nicasio, and Daniel Hudson are all lights out in the backend of the pen. Antonio Bastardo is a very good lefty specialist. As long as Tony Watson is better than he was in 2016, which should not be hard, the bullpen will be very good.

And even if Watson struggles, the Pirates have plenty of other options.

Speaking of other options, the Pirates have much better depth in 2017 than they did in 2016. Nick Kingham and Steven Brault are strong internal depth options for the starting rotation. A.J. Schugel, Dovydas Neverauskas, and Edgar Santana give the Pirates good bullpen depth. A healthy Elias Diaz combined with the emergence of Jose Osuna, and top prospects Austin Meadows and Kevin Newman knocking on the door of the Major Leagues gives the Bucs strong positional player depth, too.

In 2017 the Pirate defense will be better, too. Having Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart all season will increase the defense behind the plate substantially. The outfield defense will also improve drastically with Starling Marte is in center field. Run prevention should be a strength of the 2017 Pirates.

Andrew McCutchen also has a chip on his shoulder this year. And when the baddest dude in the league is looking to prove something, that does not bode well for the rest of the National League. Gerrit Cole is in the same boat, and if these two players return to their pre-2016 selves the Pirates will once again be one of the best teams in the National League.

Another factor that works in the Pirates’ favor is that after the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, and Nationals, the National League is very mediocre. It would not be surprising at all to see the Pirates finish with the fifth-best record in the National League.

Other than those four teams, there are no teams in the National League that are clearly better than the Pirates on paper.

The Cardinals have a great bullpen, however, their lineup is mediocre at best, as is their rotation after Carlos Martinez. The Rockies are going to hit and score a boatload of runs, but, as always, the question remains will their pitching be good enough? The Mets have the best rotation in baseball when healthy, but, once again, their rotation is not healthy. Plus, the Met lineup has a lot of question marks outside of Yoenis Cespedes. The Diamondbacks could get healthy and bounce back, but I would not count on it.

The Braves, Brewers, Marlins, Padres, Phillies, and Reds are just flat out bad.

Next: Dave's Predictions For 2017

2017 will be a lot more fun for Pirate fans than 2016 was. When the calendar turns to October and the leaves begin to change colors and fall, the Pittsburgh Pirates will still be playing. Powered by Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon becoming one of the best one-two punches in the National League, the resurgence of Andrew McCutchen, and the emergence of Tyler Glasnow, the Bucs return to the postseason.

RECORD PREDICTION: 88-74, Pirates earn the second National League Wild Card