For years, Andrew McCutchen was the face of the Pittsburgh Pirates, now the Pirates are in search of a new face with Cutch playing in San Francisco and Gerrit Cole toeing the rubber for the defending World Series Champions.
With a bit of a new look team, the Pirates will have an uphill battle to stay competitive in one of baseball’s deepest divisions.
During their run of success, Pittsburgh was a constantly overachieving team. This team will need to do that to avoid taking yet another step backwards in the standings now that their top pitcher and position player from last year play for different squads.
2017 Record: 75-87
2017 Moneyline Record: -8.30 Units
2017 Over/Under Total Record: 63-92-7
Current World Series Odds: +18500
Current Odds To Win NL: +9500
Current Odds To Win NL Central: +4500
Regular Season Win Total: 73.5
The Pirates took a couple steps towards rebuilding in the offseason, indicating that 2018 could be a long year for Pittsburgh fans who suffered for two decades and now have a seemingly long road ahead of them once again.
Two of the team’s top four WAR producers from last years’ 75-win team are gone. By that logic, the Pirates should struggle to eclipse 70 wins in 2018. With that as the threshold, the Pirates are a team that could surprise a few people in 2018. Unfortunately, not likely enough to make a legitimate postseason bid.
While McCutchen and Cole are gone, the team replaced them with Corey Dickerson and Joe Musgrove.
Dickerson was a pickup from the Rays. The outfield bat was an All-Star in 2017, but slumped big time in the second half. Dickerson brings power if he’s on his game and that’s something the Pirates can use.
With McCutchen gone, Josh Bell and Josh Harrison are the only returning players that produced an OPS+ in the triple digits for the Buccos. Dickerson had a 120 OPS+ in 2017 even with the struggles down the stretch. That would have put him neck-and-neck with McCutchen for the team lead if he played on the Pirates last year.
With Dickerson replacing McCutchen’s production and Bell and Harrison providing above-average offense, the bats could even be better than 2017. Of course, that’s not really saying much given Pittsburgh score the third fewest runs in the NL.
Bell had a nice rookie campaign with a .800 OPS, 26 homers and 90 RBIs. He could continue to grow and put up better numbers. Meanwhile, Starling Marte will have a better season. The outfielder will move back to center now that McCutchen is gone and look to put his PED-suspension and .712 OPS season behind him.
Prior to 2017, Marte was one of the more exciting young outfielders in the game, offering a strong average, good OBP and a bit of power along with speed. He’s hit as many as 19 homers in a year and has stolen 47 bags in a year. He’s a five-tool player. But, is he that player now that he’s been busted for PEDs? He’ll certainly be motivated to prove he is the same dynamic player.
Gregory Polanco is another hitter looking for a bounce back season. He broke out in 2016, but regressed in 2017. He’s got 20-20 potential.
Another position player to watch will be third-baseman Colin Moran. One of the keys to the Cole trade, Moran is a bit of a polarizing prospect. The Astros, however, like his bat and believe his adjustment last year in the minors is real. He’s possible the single biggest wildcard to an offense riddled with giant question marks.
On the mound, Cole was the team’s top starter. Ivan Nova will get the Opening Day start now that Cole is gone.
Nova is one of Rey Searage’s reclamation projects and has pitched well since getting to Pittsburgh, but his 4.14 ERA and 4.46 FIP is more indicative of a mid-rotation starter than team ace. Nevertheless, he’s the best option. The rest of the rotation comes out of some combination of Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove and Tyler Glasnow, all of whom had struggles as a starter last year.
There’s some talent to work with and a great pitching coach on hand to try and get the most out of the talent, but there’s little proven outside of Nova.
Pitching is key to any team and the Pirates don’t have much certainty, at least not in the rotation. In the bullpen, Felipe Rivero has proven to be an excellent young closer. He had a 1.67 ERA and 21 saves after taking over the ninth inning for Tony Watson. He’s got the ninth locked up, but who will get the ball to him? George Kontos was good in 15 appearances. Micheal Feliz, another part of the Cole deal, has good stuff. Really, it’s just a big question mark before Rivero.
In the end, the offense should be better for the Pirates, but the pitching is likely to regress after being in the middle of the pack in the NL last year. There are some arms, but nothing to rely on for a team that’s clearly well behind the top three clubs in its division. Essentially, it’s the Reds and Pirates battle for fourth in the NL Central.
|Baltimore Orioles||Baltimore, Maryland||Oriole Park at Camden Yards|
|Boston Red Sox||Boston, Massachusetts||Fenway Park|
|New York Yankees||New York City, New York||Yankee Stadium|
|Tampa Bay Rays||St. Petersburg, Florida||Tropicana Field|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Toronto, Ontario||Rogers Centre|
|CENTRAL||Chicago White Sox||Chicago, Illinois||Guaranteed Rate Field|
|Cleveland Indians||Cleveland, Ohio||Progressive Field|
|Detroit Tigers||Detroit, Michigan||Comerica Park|
|Kansas City Royals||Kansas City, Missouri||Kauffman Stadium|
|Minnesota Twins||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Target Field|
|WEST||Houston Astros||Houston, Texas||Minute Maid Park|
|Los Angeles Angels||Anaheim, California||Angel Stadium|
|Oakland Athletics||Oakland, California||Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum|
|Seattle Mariners||Seattle, Washington||Safeco Field|
|Texas Rangers||Arlington, Texas||Globe Life Park in Arlington|
|EAST||Atlanta Braves||Atlanta, Georgia||SunTrust Park|
|Miami Marlins||Miami, Florida||Marlins Park|
|New York Mets||New York City, New York||Citi Field|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||Citizens Bank Park|
|Washington Nationals||Washington, D.C.||Nationals Park|
|CENTRAL||Chicago Cubs||Chicago, Illinois||Wrigley Field|
|Cincinnati Reds||Cincinnati, Ohio||Great American Ball Park|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Miller Park|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||PNC Park|
|St. Louis Cardinals||St. Louis, Missouri||Busch Stadium|
|WEST||Arizona Diamondbacks||Phoenix, Arizona||Chase Field|
|Colorado Rockies||Denver, Colorado||Coors Field|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Los Angeles, California||Dodger Stadium|
|San Diego Padres||San Diego, California||Petco Park|
|San Francisco Giants||San Francisco, California||AT&T Park|
March 29-April 1: at Detroit Tigers
April 2-4: vs Minnesota Twins
April 5-8: vs Cincinnati Reds
April 9-12: at Chicago Cubs
April 13-15: at Miami Marlins
April 16-18: vs Colorado Rockies
April 19-22: at Philadelphia Phillies
April 24-26: vs Detroit Tigers
April 27-29: vs St. Louis Cardinals
April 30-May 3: at Washington Nationals
In an interleague start, the Pirates have a series in Detroit and then one in Pittsburgh against the Twins to open the season. In a season where Pittsburgh was 12-games under-.500, they were 10-10 in interleague play, so perhaps it’s a good thing they start against the AL.
Once they’re back in the right league, two of their next three series feature the Reds and Marlins, two rebuilding franchises. The early schedule, featuring Detroit, Cincinnati and Miami, certainly gives the Pirates a soft start that they can use to build some confidence. That said, the Pirates were 13-6 against the Reds, but combined to go 7-4 against Detroit and Miami in 2017.
Overall, the Pirates toughest series in April feature the Cubs in the middle of the month, the Cardinals near the end and the Nationals’ in the final day, kicking off a series on April 30. That said, Pittsburgh held its own against Chicago, St. Louis and Washington, instead struggling against the teams they should beat like Cincinnati.
At Bookmaker Sportsbook you will always find offers various types of betting lines for every Major League regular season game, plus hundreds of futures and baseball prop bets.
Sign up now for your free baseball account, it’s as easy as 1-2-3.
MLB Betting Specials: MLB Sportsbook Bonus
MLB Baseball Odds: Live MLB betting odds
Sports Betting Help: How to bet on sports
Sportsbook Rules: The Sports Betting Rules
Sports Betting deposits: View MLB Baseball Deposit options