With nine days left in spring training, there has been plenty of time to check out the 2008 Pittsburgh Pirates.
First, an 8-15 spring training record means nothing. What happens in spring training really means nothing. A player can be amazing, and once the regular season starts, he turns out to be a dud. So, putting total emphasis on spring training is dumb.
Starting Rotation: It’s no doubt that Ian Snell is the main man in the rotation. With his contract extension, Snell is primed to be the Pirates leading right handed starter for many years. Next in line is Tom Gorzelanny, he's still growing as a pitcher, but with his second full major league season about to begin, he is ready.
The third, fourth, and fifth rotation spots are up in the air however. It’s no doubt that Duke, Maholm, and Morris will be in the rotation, it’s just a matter of where. However, i believe it will go to Duke-Morris-Maholm. That way it places a righty between two lefties. I completely believe that Zach Duke will have a comeback season because he is back with his minor league pitching coach, Jeff Andrews, and he will bring him back to the pitcher he was when he first entered the league.
Morris is that veteran guy that the rotation needs. If its not working out, they can trade him, but for now, a group of young guys need him more than people think. Then we come to Maholm. Hopefully he picks up where he left off last year.
Bullpen: Now this is a different story. It is obvious that Matt Capps is the closer, and will be one of the best in the league. It is also obvious that Damaso Matre will most likely be his set up man. After that, it’s anybody's guess. As of now, i would say that Franquelis Osoria will have a spot, as well Juan Perez. The hope to have Byung-Hyun Kim as a long relief guy seems to be just that, hope. He hasn't proven much, and it seems that his delivery and just about everything he use to have, is gone.
So, there is not much hope there. Evan Meek, the Pirates Rule 5 pick this year, seems to have a good shot at making the team now. Also, Sean Burnett, a once top starting pitching prospect has been, has been converted to the pen in Triple A, so it won't surprise me if a few weeks into the season, we see him as the long relief guy.
Battles: The battle of Nate McClouth and Nyjer Morgan and center field, seems to be going to McClouth. That’s easy to see. While Morgan may be faster on the bases, McClouth has the ability to get on base, and have a sixth sense to know when to run. Morgan will start the season in Triple A, but he could be back if a trade occurs. Also, Ronnie Paulino and a noticeably slimmer Ryan Doumit seem to be a surprise of spring training.
However, I see Paulino getting the nod, but Doumit could quickly take it if Paulino starts the season poorly.
Line-up: 1. McClouth
Now, while Wilson prefers batting eighth, management will start him second. It is possible that he could drop if he does terrible, but you never know. Bay, LaRoache, and Nady could switch up as well if Bay continues to do nothing.
Bench: Ryan Doumit is a given. However, Josh Wilson i expect will be a surprise. Chris Gomez will make it as well.
Prospects:Andrew McCutchen and Steve Pearce are about a year out still. However, they will be up in September. However, if Nady is traded, Pearce could be the back-up. Brian Bixler is a different story. Expect him after the trade deadline. This short-stop is just about ready, so with a trade of Jack Wilson, he'll be ready to go.
Bonds back in the 'Burgh: NEVER! No need to continue.
Final Predictions: This season, i expect an 82-80 season, nothing special, but enough to make it over that hump. I don't expect them to contend for another year or two. But in the weak NL Central, you never know.