Middle of the order
Batting clean up for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021 will likely be Colin Moran. Following the Bell trade, Moran is the best and most consistent power hitter on the Pirate roster. Seeing that Moran’s best season resulted in 13 home runs, this isn’t a great sign for the Pirates – who might honestly set a record for the fewest home runs hit in an MLB season in 2021.
However, there is a good chance that Moran is successful in the role of clean up hitter for the Pirates. Moran has always shown decent doubles power and in 2020 increased his ISO to .225. In addition, Moran has shown the ability to hit well with runners in scoring position. During the 2019 season Moran hit .328 with RISP.
With Bell out of the picture, Moran should have his first season as a Pirate where he doesn’t need to worry about being platooned. The Pirates really don’t have any other viable first base options and Moran should start every day. Signed through 2023, Moran will most likely be playing for the opportunity to be traded to a contender as he doesn’t really fit into the Pirate rebuild time frame.
Much like Moran, Gregory Polanco will get the 5th spot in the Pirates lineup because he is the best that they have for 2021. He has the potential to hit 15-20 home runs in a season, potentially more, which is honestly something that no one else has the potential to do on the roster other than Moran.
For numerous reasons, Polanco had a rough 2020 season, but this has become the normal for one of the worst signings in recent Pirate history. He also suffered a broken wrist this offseason in the Dominican Republic. The Pittsburgh Pirates will sit Polanco in the five spot and hope that he has a season that resembles his 2018 performance. In his 2018 season, Polanco hit 23 home runs, had a .245 ISO and a career high .340 on-base percentage.
If Polanco does manage to string together a half season that resembles 2018, he will most likely be quickly traded at the 2021 trade deadline. With club options in 2022 and 2023, Polanco’s value to the Pirate rebuild is purely in trade value.
If Polanco continues to struggle and hit in the mid .100s as he did in 2020, I fully expect him to be designated for free agency the moment the Pirates are ready to promote any outfield prospects to the MLB level. My hope is that Polanco is able to stay healthy and is rewarded with a chance to play in the postseason with another club after a trade that bolsters the Pirate farm system.