Pittsburgh Pirates (NL)
There are little defensive or offensive options on the farm. The Pirates will need to turn to Free Agency to land themselves a new corp of backstops, a starter at both key Defensive positions Short and Center and a solid hitting outfielder. They will need to raise their payroll to do it right
First baseman Lorenzo Estrada has 2 more years in his 25M deal that he signed in S16, His production dipped majorly in S18 only driving in 81 runs and hitting .244, 50 points below his career average. Expect him to rebound this season and move closer to his performance norms. The middle of the lineup is pretty set going into S19 with Shaggy Inglett, Larry Perry and Estrada providing fuel to Robert Schultz is huge bat. Schultz might aid the team in a move to 2B and he will compete with 2B rookie Mickey Ramirez until Ramirez's defense is solid enough to cover the infield. This move might allow room for another huge bat to be brought in to patrol RF or the return of the often neglected Bill Sheehan for a huge discount. Anyway Pittsburgh rolls the dice he will find a great bat for under 4M a season to cover the outfield hole cheaper than looking for an defensive position like second. Mickey Ramirez will be close to ready, but he might be better suited as an occasional player.
The Bigger issue might be what to do with the two key defensive position shortstop and centerfield. At SS Dwight Jameson is penciled in to take the fulltime role. Last season in limited action he batted .320 with limited power and some poor base running getting caught stealing in 3 of his 7 attempts. Scouts see his future more at 3B defensively and rate his bat at the bottom half of the batting order. The Pirates might need to spend some cash or look to make a trade to fill this gap. Rod Sierra's injury and advancing age will limit his effectiveness in the field. The Pirates might try to get one more year out of him, but it will have to be a huge discount to consider. The Addition of Jordan in Center does offer some hope that the position will have a good fulltime starter this season and depending how he holds up for the next few seasons.
The big three of the Pirates rotation look as strong as ever all are coming off solid campaigns and as they mature and improve they will become more a force to reckon with. Lew Crosby and Rob Black should be the future of this organization for seasons to come. Magglio Salinas at 30 is not the future, but has shown flashes that brought him his current 30M dollar deal. His 16-5 record on a team with a losing overall is quite extraordinary. Rookie Max Picasso will be slated into the #4 spot, he struggled in his brief stint with the big boys playing long relief. The Pirates hope a move to they spotted a flaw in his delivery late in the season and can correct it in the spring. Time will tell. John Jensen's elbow injury was a sour way to end a solid effort. He went 11-8 with a 4.65 ERA, probably the best you can expect from him. He might get a shot at the #5 spot this season. AAA prospects Alberto Rodriguez, Carter Hensley and Chris Martin might get some looks but they are still a season away from the big time, but if they might be worth rushing if they look like they can handle the pressure.
The Middle relief was a huge concern in S18. Innings split between Vic Benavente (1-9 with a 7.55 era), Luis Perez and Benjamin Upshaw looked inviting for opposing batters. They need to change this area around and see if they can patch together a more formable corp. The Answer might be in Rookie Dizzy Wynn who got a late season call up and showed dominance in a long relief role at AAA. He will be given every opportunity to win the job win Pittsburgh. Other options might be in on the farm with Hugh DeWitt (AAA) pretty close to ready and Eduardo Pena (AAA) maybe a season away. It will be interesting to see how they react in spring training and if they can force the Pirates to look at them long and hard. Another option is Desi Nieto who struggled in s18 with a 10.12 ERA in early season action. His ship might have sailed out of Pittsburgh with his lack of control. The Late innings look a lot steadier. Closer Howard Neal moves into his last season of arbitration and should be locked up for a few more seasons in Pittsburgh to steady the pen. Add in setup titan Joe Coleman and solid prospect Torey Darnell and you have the makings of a sweet back end of the game.
Summing up with a Quote:
"its been 7 years since the playoffs, the Pirates time is Now!" - ravid Pirate heads in the Blogosphere.