It has been a wild, busy, and confusing week for the Pittsburgh Pirates….so what better time than that for a Pirate mailbag!
It has been a week for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Team president Frank Coonelly is out, general manager Neal Huntington may or may not follow, and it appears the team has Coonelly’s replacement lined up. So, what better time than now for a Pirate mailbag!?
As always, thank you to everyone who submitted questions this week and participated. Now, let’s dive in!
After missing all of 2019 due to Tommy John Surgery, righty Chad Kuhl will be back to full strength in 2020. Kuhl has some nasty, nasty stuff. That said, he has always struggled with consistency as a starting pitcher. In all honesty, he has all the looks of a dominant reliever.
The Pirates remain high Kuhl as a starting pitcher. That said, right or wrong, Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove, Mitch Keller, and Trevor Williams appear to have rotation spots locked up entering 2020. It would be a stunner if the team does not add at least one starting pitcher this offseason. All of this likely leaves Kuhl without a spot in the starting rotation, and potentially in the bullpen.
Entering 2020 the Pirates will need some help in the back of their bullpen. Keone Kela is entrenched as the closer and is one of the best in the National League. Their other back end of the bullpen options are all coming off poor seasons (Kyle Crick, Michael Feliz, Richard Rodriguez) or injury (Edgar Santana). So, Kuhl becoming a dominant back of the bullpen arm would be welcomed by the Pirates.
Gabe Kapler is a name that a lot of Pirate fans have mentioned as a potential fit as the team’s new manager. Personally, Kapler is a candidate I would stay away from.
The 44-year-old Kapler spent the previous two seasons as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. While his overall record of 161-163 is not awful, especially considering the Phillies were not built to compete in 2018, he left a lot to be desired in the City of Brotherly Love.
Kapler often times made baffling decisions with managing his pitching staff. The 2019 Phillies were built to win now and failed to do so, despite jumping out to an early lead in the division. Kapler is not the answer for the Pirates.
It’s not what fans want to hear, but not much will change with the Pirates’ starting nine entering 2020. Bryan Reynolds is entrenched in left field, Kevin Newman and Adam Frazier up the middle of the infield, and Josh Bell at first base. Unless he is traded, Starling Marte will be in center field. The team is likely to roll with Colin Moran at third base to start the season, especially with Ke’Bryan Hayes on the doorstep of the Major Leagues.
Now, they will need to address catcher before Opening Day. The duo of Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings simply is not good enough. Right field could also be up in the air, but if Gregory Polanco is healthy it is his job.
Third base and second base could use an upgrade, but do not count on them. At least not to start the season. Now if Hayes hits his way into being the third baseman and Cole Tucker the shortstop with Newman sliding to second base, things could change.
As for the starting rotation, as was said above, four of the five spots are likely locked up already with Kuhl as a potential option as well. As was also said above, it would be a stunner if the team did not add to the rotation this offseason. Trades are always tough to predict, but looking at the free agent market veterans such as Alex Wood, Jhoulys Chacin, Michael Wacha, and Rick Porcello all seem to fir the Pirate mold and could be targets in free agency.
This is a great question. There is no denying the ability of Huntington and company to identify talent in the draft. Austin Meadows, Gerrit Cole, Josh Bell, and Tyler Glasnow all come to mind. The team also drafted Paul DeJong, Trea Turner and Walker Buehler out of high school, but they chose not to sign.
Identifying talent is not an issue for the Pirates. Developing said talent, however, is the issue.
Outside of Bell, and potentially Kevin Newman, the Pirates have struggled to help their draft picks reach their max potential. The question is why?
A big issue was likely the outdated pitching philosophy of former pitching coach Ray Searage. After leading one of the best pitching staffs in baseball from 2013 – 2015, Searage’s group began to struggle. Their pitch to contact philosophy became outdated and the Pirate failed to adjust with the times. Hopefully, a new pitching coach will bring a new philosophy that maximizes the talent of the Pirate pitching staff.
Former hitting coach Jeff Branson also had a lot of problems with his ways. This led to him being dismissed following the 2018 season, and new hitting coaches Jacob Cruz and Rick Eckstein led to an improved Pirate offense in 2019.
That will do it for this week. If you ever have a question for the mailbag look for our Tweet each week asking for questions. Also, do not ever be afraid to ask mailbag questions on Twitter or Facebook.