Pittsburgh Pirates Mailbag: April 4, 2018

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 02: Gregory Polanco
PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 02: Gregory Polanco /

Welcome back to Rum Bunter’s weekly Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag with this week’s edition being the first of the 2018 regular season

The 2018 Major League Baseball season is underway and it could not have started better for the Pittsburgh Pirates. After sweeping the Detroit Tigers to start the season, the Pirates returned home to PNC Park to defeat the Twins 5-4 in Monday’s home opener. That victory, which you can read more about here, propelled the team to a 4-0 start to the 2018 season.

Now that the regular season is underway, it is time for the first Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag of the regular season here at Rum Bunter. As always, thank you to everyone who participated in this week’s mailbag by submitting questions.

Let’s begin!

Barring any setbacks, Nick Kingham will make his Major League debut this season. That said, his career has had plenty of setbacks so he’ll need to show is that he is healthy.

In 2015 Kingham seemed primed to make his Major League debut. Well, six starts into his Triple-A season he had Tommy John Surgery and plans changed. Kingham was then back to full healthy in 2017 making 21 minor league starts. Had the Pirates not been concerned about his workload, he would have earned a September call-up last season.

The Pirates still view Kingham as a huge part of their future starting rotation. Look for that future to become present sometime this summer, potentially sooner if another starting pitcher were to get injured.

The home runs are a tough call, but I’ll take the under on 22 home runs with Corey Dickerson, Gregory Polanco, and Josh Bell. I believe Colin Moran will be around the 20 home run mark as well, but I’ll be cautious and say he does not quite get to 22.

As for 32, I’ll say over. I’ll predict that either Dickerson or Bell get to 32 home runs this season.

Regardless of the sport I believe team chemistry is insanely important. Good chemistry was a big reason for the success of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates, and the 2018 Pirates seem to have great chemistry as well.

Albeit this is easy to do when you’re 4-0, this team looks like they are all having a lot of fun and that they genuinely like each other. The past two years this was not always the case and that is a pleasant change.

When a team has good chemistry it makes it even easier for the players to fight for each other on the field and often times leads to the next man up mentality. These are the types of teams where any player is capable of powering a team to victory and, as an opponent, you never know who will burn you.

This team has a never say die attitude which was on full display in the season opener last Friday. Also, since day one of Spring Training, this group has played for each other and is playing with a purpose. They are playing to prove people wrong and that can not only build chemistry but also make a team dangerous.

All of this sounds a lot like the 2013 – 2015 Pirates, doesn’t it?

If the 2018 Pirates continues to play well and win baseball games, good team chemistry will be a big reason why.

Through the first four games of the season Gregory Polanco looks the best he has since at least before the 2016 All-Star Break, if not the best he ever has. Most encouragingly this goes back to Spring Training where he was crushing the ball and driving it to all fields. He has also been very patient at the plate and it seems like he is seeing a beach ball, not a basebal, right now.

The biggest factor for Polanco is health. Starting in July 2015 through July 2016 he appeared to be developing into the player he was expected to be as a prospect. Now, for the first time in almost two years, he is healthy and once again he is looking like this player. If Polanco stays healthy, look for him to have an All-Star caliber 2018 season.

Apparently the Pirates have concerns about Kevin Siegrist‘s velocity and arm strength. This is why he will being the season with Triple-A Indianapolis.

Siegrist has an out clause in his contract that will allow him to opt out and become a free agent if he is not on the Major League roster by June 1st. However, if he can regain his velocity then that’s when I’d expect him to join the Major League roster.

Josh Smoker leaves a lot to be desired as a left-handed pitcher out of the bullpen and that has been on display through the season’s first four games. If/when the Pirates believe Siegrist has regained his old form and is a better option than Smoker, he will be in the Major Leagues.

While the entire rotation for both Triple-A Indianapolis and Double-A Altoona are not yet known, there are some spots that are locked up.

Tyler Eppler, Nick Kingham, and Clay Holmes appear to be locks for the Triple-A rotation. Although, due to Joe Musgrove‘s injury, Holmes may have a new home in the Pirate bullpen.

Down at Double-A, Mitch Keller will start the year in the rotation but should be to Triple-A sooner rather than later. Alex McRae, Brandon Waddell, Dario Agrazal, and JT Brubaker will make starts as well. Waddell and Brubaker, like Keller, could be at Triple-A sooner rather than later, though.

There is also Austin Coley who pitched at Double-A last season, but it would not be a surprise to see him start this season at Triple-A.

Next: No. 7 Prospect - Kevin Kramer

That will do it for this week. If you ever have a question for the mailbag keep your eyes peeled on Twitter each week for our Tweet asking for mailbag questions!