Now what? The Pirates hit their 18th straight losing season in 2010. The 105 losses of the 2010 season are six more than 2009, which would lead most people to think they only got worse. That isn't exactly the case. Although they had one of their worst seasons in franchise history, they also showed off a few guys that could really make an impact down the road. Maybe these few guys could even get the Pirates back into the light of a winning season.
The 2011 season promises to bring a lot of questions, and a lot of potential as well. The pitching was a huge problem in 2011, and while there is some promising youth in the batting lineup, the pitching hasn't improved much. Let's take a look at some of the guys to watch in 2011 as potential up and coming stars.
#31 Jose Tabata, LF
2010 Stat line (102 games): .305 avg, 121 hits, 61 runs, 4 HR, 35 RBI, 19 steals
Jose Tabata showed some amazing things in 2010 as a rookie for the Pirates in only 102 games. He definitely isn't a power hitter, but more of a get-on-base and steal kind of guy. Tabata reminds me a lot of Andrew McCutchen, he has speed and gets hits. He isn't McCutchen quite yet, but give him a few years and he may get there. He is only 22 years old, he has a ton of time to do it.
The Pirates just need to continue to work with him throughout the many spring trainings to come, and he will develop into something special. In five years or less, look for Tabata to be a big factor for the Pirates.
#18 Neil Walker, 2B
2010 Stat line (110 games): .296 avg, 126 hits, 57 runs, 12 HR, 66 RBI
Walker is a lot like Tabata, coming on the scene at about the same time, and they both have tons of potential. Walker is a big older than Tabata at 25 years old, but he still has plenty of room to grow. I don't think he will reach the same height as Tabata, but he will have enough to make an impact on the dying Pirates.
I see Walker as being another get-on-base kind of player, although I think he will develop more power as his career moves along. Those 12 homers in 110 games look somewhat promising. I say by the age of 27 (the so called "power age") is when Walker will break out. With McCutchen already growing into a veteran, Walker brings a nice balance of youth to the Pirates. He shouldn't disappoint in 2011.
#17 Pedro Alvarez, 3B
2010 Stat line (95 games): .256 avg, 89 hits, 42 runs, 16 HR, 64 RBI
Pedro Alvarez, like Walker and Tabata, came up to the MLB with about 100 games left in the season. Alvarez, as you can see, has some pop, but also has some trouble getting contact with that .256 average. I expect him to bring that average up a good bit, and at the same time bring the home run total up. He only has room to grow, being only 23 years old. I expect at least 20 home runs and at least a .260-.270 average next year.
This season will be his first full season of his career in the MLB, along with Tabata and Walker, so look for them to work out the kinks and improve greatly off of this season.
#53 James McDonald, SP
2010 Stat line (with Pirates) (11 games started): 4-5, 3.52 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 61 K's, 24 walks, 64 innings pitched, 8.6 K/9
The Pirates pitching in 2010 was absolutely horrific. McDonald may be able to change that in 2011. He ended the season with six straight starts in which he did not let up more than three runs. He is more of a strikeout pitcher than any of the other Pirates on this staff. He will most likely be the Pirates ace for 2011, and look for him to make an impact.
At just 26 years old, McDonald has a couple more years to grow. He will have to work on limiting the hits, as he had a fairly high 1.30 WHIP. He seems to be able to limit the walks, but the 59 hits he gave up with the Pirates is a bit high. I can see McDonald being a very valuable pitcher in a pitching system that is completely depleted.
These four guys are all guys I could see making a big impact on the 2011 season. Spring training will be a crucial time for them, as will the next couple of seasons. If these guys stay with the team and improve and grow on yearly basis, the Pirates could very well put together a winning season in two to three years.
So, can the Pirates break the terrible streak before it hits 20? I guess we will have to wait and see.