With the start of the 2019 regular season just two days away for the Pittsburgh Pirates, our staff predictions here at Rum Bunter continue
Coming off their fourth winning season in the last six years, the Pittsburgh Pirates enter 2019 with a little different look. The Pirates will roll out an interesting lineup, fitted with young stars in the making alongside some veteran leadership. While they should be competitive overall, there are some glaring weaknesses that need to be addressed.
What are these weakness? Who could wind up as the team’s Cy Young winner? MVP? Rookie of the year? Read on to find out!
Team Cy Young – Jameson Taillon
After a breakout 2018 season, Jameson Taillon is looking to repeat his success in 2019. Last season he went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA and 179 strikeouts. He walked 46 batters, the same number of walks he issued in 2017 in nearly 60 fewer innings. It’s likely that he’ll see some regression, but with much better control, he appears locked in.
Chris Archer will hopefully give Taillon a run for his money, though. The massive trade deadline acquisition struggled as a Pirate last season with a 4.30 ERA in 52.1 innings after joining the team. Much of the team’s success will rely on him and Taillon anchoring the rotation and Archer has plenty to prove this season.
Team MVP – Taillon/Josh Bell
If Taillon finds a way to improve on his terrific 2018 season, he’ll almost undoubtedly be the team’s MVP. However, let’s pretend two different players will receive the team’s MVP and Cy Young awards. In comes the switch hitting Josh Bell.
The big-bodied first baseman burst on to the scene in 2017 but fell off in 2018 with just 12 home runs and a .411 slugging percentage. Like Taillon, he’ll need to be on his A-game for the Pirates to have a chance at competing in this tough division. If he can get back over the 20-homer mark it would make a world of difference for the lineup.
Team Rookie Of The Year – Mitch Keller
The most popular pick here might be Kevin Newman. The 25-year-old that could take over the starting shortstop job at some point this season. However, with some uncertainty in the back-end of the Pirates’ rotation, Mitch Keller could carve out a role.
Keller is the Pirates’ best prospect and a top-20 prospect in all of baseball. While he hasn’t made his MLB debut yet, the 22-year-old threw 142 innings across three levels of minor-league ball during the 2018 season. He recorded a 3.48 ERA with a 12-4 record while striking out 135 batters.
Keller got roughed up during spring training, giving up 10 runs in just four innings. Still, he’s a top prospect for a reason, including his high velocity and an improving curveball. Keller is down the list of call-ups this season, but once he gets his chance, he should seize the opportunity.
Of course, for the sake of transparency, here are my picks for the MLB awards this season:
Predicting The Record
This would be almost identical to last season’s finish where the Pirates went 82-79, finishing fourth in the division. The NL Central is one of baseball’s best this season, with the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals making big improvements this offseason.
Pittsburgh lost Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer after the 2018 campaign, leaving a noticeable hole in the middle infield. Adam Frazier should fill in at second base just fine after playing 113 games last season with a near-.800 OPS. For now, However, the lack of quality options at shortstop appears to be the biggest issue at the moment.
Erik Gonzalez was named the Opening Day starter for the position, but Kevin Newman could leapfrog him down the road. Between that and some gaps in the starting rotation, the Pirates won’t contend with the big boys in the division but they will still record their second consecutive winning season, and fifth in seven years.
2019 record prediction: 82-80