MLB Team Previews

Pittsburgh Pirates 2020 Season Preview

Kody Clawson  | March 28th, 2020

The Pirates’ 2019 campaign was a rough one, to be sure, going 69-93, finishing last in the division, and ending with the firing of manager Clint Hurdle, general manager Neal Huntington, and beginning a possible rebuild that has, unfortunately, seemingly been a long time coming. Hiring former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and pairing him with manager Derek Shelton, the team looks to retool its major league roster while also restock the farm system to prepare for the next chance to retake the division and become competitive once more.


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C/IF Projections

C Jacob Stallings/Luke Maile
1B Josh Bell
2B Adam Frazier
SS Kevin Newman
3B Colin Moran

Jacob Stallings will get most of the cracks at catcher. He has solid enough skills that if he can put them together he can be an effective starting catcher. Josh Bell had some great moments during his breakout campaign last season, but he had some struggles during the course of the year, too. He will look to get more consistent this upcoming season. Adam Frazier is a solid average player to man second for the Pirates. The same could be said of Kevin Newman at shortstop, as he had a great season compared to any expectations for him. Colin Moran is a solid power hitter, but he struggles against lefties. There’s a small chance that if prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes shows some development, he could possibly replace him at third at some point this year.

OF/DH Projections

LF Bryan Reynolds
CF Jarrod Dyson
RF Gregory Polanco

Bryan Reynolds broke out last year to some extent, hitting .314 with 16 home runs and a 131 wRC+. While it’s doubtful he can maintain a .387 BABIP, he should still be an above-average hitter and a solid enough defender to be super useful in left field. Jarrod Dyson has two skills, but he does them very well: speed and defense. Look for him to swallow up half the outfield by himself for most of the season. Gregory Polanco might be one of the biggest “if-he-can-stay-healthy” guys in MLB history. There’s easy 20-20 potential there, but it feels like he’s never going to be healthy enough to see it again. Perhaps this is the year he sees his potential fully blossom.

SP Projections

Chris Archer
Joe Musgrove
Trevor Williams
Mitch Keller
Chad Kuhl/Derek Holland/Steven Brault (injured)

Chris Archer is the former Rays ace that the Pirates overpaid for in a trade with Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow. Now trying to retool his arsenal, he hopes to recapture his former glory days to anchor this rotation. Joe Musgrove is possibly the actual best pitcher in this rotation, and that’s ok. He’s got an interesting repertoire that makes him tough to hit and has shown number-two-starter qualities before for large enough stretches for me to think that upside is still in him. Trevor Williams is the definition of an average innings eater. Mitch Keller is another possible number two upside guy if he can put it all together, not to mention put his major league debut behind him. The back end of the rotation will be some kind of mix between Chad Kuhl, Derek Holland, and the injured Steven Brault.

Bullpen Projections

Keone Kela
Kyle Crick
Richard Rodriguez
Michael Feliz
Chris Stratton
Nick Burdi
Dovydas Neverauskas
Clay Holmes

Kela will start the season as the closer, but if he struggles, the Pirates have a bevy of options at their disposal. I’m a personal fan of both Richard Rodriguez and Nick Burdi, as they have shown particularly interesting skillsets in short bursts before.

Player(s) to Watch for

Chris Archer has been toying with his pitch mix again, and if he can find something that works for him, there could be a return to his a-level potential that he showed with the Rays way back when. I can’t be the only one hoping for the eventual full bounceback season from Gregory Polanco. When fully healthy, he has 20/20 potential with good on-base skills.

Prediction

In a full season, Fangraphs projects the Pirates to win 72 games. Even in my rosiest glasses, I can’t see much better for them. The offense, though dynamic in parts, is still left wanting overall, and there’s just not enough pitching to help overcome those deficiencies. They should be more fun to watch than you would think for a 72-win team, but not by much. Here’s to the rebuild.

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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images

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