Andrew McCutchen, the face of the Pittsburgh Pirates. If you haven't heard of him yet... you will
Alright, kicking off my 30-team preview, we're starting in the wonderful city of Sixsburgh. A city of rich sports tradition, and champions all around.
Whether you're on the frozen pond, or on the gridiron, Pittsburgh knows what it takes to win championships. Even the dismal Pirates were once synonymous with success back in the early 1900s as well as the entire 1970s.
Since their last postseason appearance in 1992 the Pirates have had no winning records, and two 100-loss seasons. The Pirates ship sank a long time ago, and with any hope of bringing it back, well...not even Johnny Depp could produce a winner out of this one. A modern tragedy over 18 years in the making.
The 2010 Pirates were one of two teams in all of baseball with more than 100 loses, and trading away Zach Duke early in the offseason sent a message—that this franchise is in a long, drawn out rebuilding process. But how long does it take to rebuild?
The hiring of manager Clint Hurdle was a great move in my opinion, he's someone who can help the Pirates immediately. Hurdle is going to put his best lineup on the field every day, and he is a winner.
Unfortunately, he doesn't have much to work with. Here's what the Pirates' lineup and starting rotation looks like right now.
C: Chris Snyder
Is Clint Hurdle the right man for the Pirates?
1B: Lyle Overbay
2B: Neil Walker
3B: Pedro Alvarez
SS: Ronny Cedeno
LF: Jose Tabata
CF: Andrew McCutchen
RF: Garrett Jones
SP: Paul Maholm
SP: Ross Ohlendorf
SP: Charlie Morton
SP: James McDonald
SP: Kevin Correia
CL: Joel Hanrahan
The Pirates were relatively quiet this offseason and that should come as no surprise, but I like the move they made by signing Lyle Overbay. He's an experienced first baseman who brings a consistent bat to a very inconsistent lineup.
Jones and McCutchen are the best players on this team though, without question, and it will be interesting to see what happens with both of these player throughout the course of the regular season.
This is McCutchen's team, and he is an emerging superstar. Leading the Pirates with a .286 AVG last season, as well as 33 stolen bases. There is no doubt in my mind that McCutchen is an all-star talent, but as Pittsburgh has proven in the past. They simply are not willing to pay up in order to keep their talent.
If Pittsburgh manages to hold onto both of them, the rebuilding may be over sooner rather than later...unfortunately, the Pirates are also in one of the toughest divisions in baseball year in and year out.
Pitching is the key concern for the Pirates, as their "ace" Paul Maholm won a total of nine games last season and had an ERA of 5.10. However, their is no lack of talent, or prospects in this rotation.
Ross Ohlendorf has solid stuff, a high 90s fastball and a nasty sinker, he was the only Pirate's starting pitcher with a winning record during his first full season in 2009. If this club wants to climb out of the cellar of the NL Central, they will be needing a big year from Mr. Ohlendorf.
An interesting position battle surrounds this team heading into spring training as well. That is the battle for the full-time closer between Hanrahan, and Evan Meek. Hanrahan was the closer during the 2010 campaign, but I expect his duties to be handed over to the surprisingly dominant Meek.
As the setup man in 2010, Meek posted impressive numbers for a less than impressive bullpen with a 2.14 ERA, as well as 15 holds for a team that only won 57 games. Meek was also selected to the NL All-Star team and is one of the few bright spots on a team that has not been able to hold on to their talent for over a decade.
Although the Pirates still have many questions, including the middle of their batting lineup, as well as the bottom half of their starting rotation. This is a team who has more potential than the rest of the bottom feeders.
But as for this season, well...the 2011 Pirates may not win any Oscars (or more than 60 games), but this sequel should be an improvement on an atrocious 2010.