Pittsburgh, the City of Champions, as we Pittsburgh sports fans like to call it. The Steelers and their six 6 Super Bowl trophies. The Penguins and their three Stanley Cup wins. Pitt basketball, the reigning Big East regular-season champions. Then, you have the Pirates. With 18 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates are out of place with these other teams, and often out of mind amidst many Pittsburgh sports fans. Can we blame those who count out the Pirates even before the season starts? Until the team is able to put together a winning season (notice I set the bar at a winning season, not playoffs or World Series), then they will remain an afterthought. Coming off a dreadful 57-105 campaign, the Pirates look to right the ship with a new manager, Clint Hurdle. With a few additions and subtractions to last year’s team, Pirates fans will hold their collective breath, as they know the losing streak will end at some point. Will 2011 be the season?
(Player Ratings On A 1-10 Scale: 1 being horrible and 10 being elite)
National League Central Division Finish, Record: 6th, 66-96
Batting Order: Top of the order is good, the bottom, well, not so much.
1. Jose Tabata – Left Field – Projected Stats: .273, 18 HR, 67 RBI – Tabata was impressive in his first year in the bigs and is still developing. The only questions about the former Yankee prospect are his attitude and desire. 7.5/10
2. Neil Walker – Second Base – Projected States: .272, 14 HR, 60 RBI – I look for Walker to take a step back in his first full season at the big league level. Walker is making a name for himself at second defensively after not having a position coming up to the majors. He will have to pick and choose pitches more carefully. Taking more pitches by hitting second could cause a setback. 7.5/10
3. Andrew McCutchen – Center Field – Projected Stats: .301, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 67 Steals – This will be a breakout year for McCutchen, who MLB Network named as the best centerfielder in baseball. Debate over hitting leadoff or third in the lineup, but as the best player, he needs to hit third. 8.5/10
4. Lyle Overbay – First Base – Projected Stats: .264, 13 HR, 56 RBI – Offseason acquisition led baseball in doubles earlier in his career. I am not a fan of him hitting cleanup, and feel that he is better suited as number 6 hitter. Huge defensive upgrade from last season, however. 6.5/10
5. Pedro Alvarez – Third Base – Projected Stats: .273, 30 HR, 82 RBI – “El Toro” made his much-hyped debut last season and didn’t disappoint. He should hit cleanup and will be the big bat for the Buccos. He needs to cut down on his strikeouts and become better defensively. 8/10
6. Garrett Jones – Right Field – Projected Stats: .266, 23 HR, 71 RBI – Pitchers figured Jones out last season and showed that he couldn’t hit a breaking ball. Will split time with the newly acquired Matt Diaz in the outfield. Defensive liability. Solid power. 7/10
7. Chris Snyder – Catcher – Projected Stats: .261, 11 HR, 56 RBI – Starting the season on the disabled list, Snyder will do the majority of the catching this season and next until Tony Sanchez is ready to go. Very good defensive catcher, but struggles at the plate. 6/10
8. Ronny Cedeno – Shortstop – Projected Stats: .254, 10 HR, 47 RBI – The Pirates wanted to acquire a shortstop this offseason, but struck out. Cedeno just isn’t very good offensively or in the field. Doesn’t seem interested at times, but is the best the Pirates have, which isn’t saying a lot. 5/10
Overall Lineup: 7/10
Matt Diaz – Kills lefthanders, will split time with Jones.
Steven Pearce – His last chance at the big league level.
Josh Rodriguez – The Rule 5 pick made team over Pedro Ciriaco. Can’t field, but provides offense.
Ryan Doumit – Pirates wanted the catcher traded, but at $5 million, he is overpriced.
John Bowker – Out of minor league options. Provides a power bat off of the bench.
Overall: 6/10. Best offensive bench they have had in awhile. Defensively though, way below average outside of Diaz.
Starting Pitchers: Among the worst in the majors
James McDonald – Projected Stats: 12 W, 9 L, 3.84 ERA – McDonald, the former untouchable Dodger talent, had a good, short season with the Pirates last year. Pressure is on to live up to expectations as the Pirates’ best pitcher this season. Needs to show teams haven’t figured him out. 7/10
Kevin Correia – Projected Stats: 9 W, 9 L, 4.15 ERA – Correia had a down year for the Padres, but had a good year two seasons ago and will look to recapture that with the Pirates. Opening day starter in Chicago with a lifetime ERA over 8 at Wrigley Field. 6.5/10
Ross Ohlendorf – Projected Stats: 7 W, 14 L, 4.32 ERA – Coming off a one win season, Ohlendorf will look to earn his $2 million contract that he was awarded at arbitration. Needs more offensive support this season. 6.5/10
Paul Maholm – Projected Stats: 8 W, 12 L, 4.01 ERA – Maholm should be traded by the deadline and, for his sake, I hope he is so that he has a chance to win somewhere. The southpaw will open up at PNC Park for the home opener. 7/10
Charlie Morton – Projected Stats: 10 W, 13 L, 4.06 ERA – With Morton, the story never changes. He has the physical tools of Roy Halladay according to scouts, but his problems are all mental. The Pirates best pitcher during camp and, yes, I believe this will be the season he will actually turn things around.
Starting Pitching: 6.5/10
Jeff Karstens – Long relief and good spot starter.
Mike Crotta – Average pitcher who claimed the last spot in the bullpen.
Chris Resop – Impressive year last season, looks to build off of it.
Garrett Olson – Late arrival in camp, good lefty in bullpen.
Jose Veras – Decent pitcher with experience
Evan Meek – Pirates only All-Star a season ago, will be setup man this year, but could have closer job by midseason.
Joel Hanrahan – Named the closer before the season began. Good, hard thrower who is reliable
Bullpen Grade: 7/10
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com