Pittsburgh Pirates

 

2006 Finish:  67-95, 5th place in the NL Central, 16.5 games back

Manager:  Jim Tracy, 2nd year with the Pirates

Comings:  1B Adam LaRoche, RHP Dan Kolb, RHP Tony Armas

Goings:  LHP Mike Gonzalez, RF Jeromy Burnitz

Offense:   1B Adam LaRoche was brought in to provide left-handed power in the middle of the lineup.  last year he hit wit 32 HRs and 90 RBIs.  LF Jason Bay is one of the best young players in MLB.  he had a terrific 06, hitting .286 with 35 HRs and 109 RBIs.  2B Freddy Sanchez won the batting title, hitting .344.  All indications are he will start the season on the DL.  CF Chris Duffy leads off and provides pretty good defense.  Duffy is not an ideal choice as a leadoff man as he does not hit for average nor does he have a good OBP.  SS Jack Wilson is an ideal number 2 hitter.  He doesn’t strike out very much and is good about moving the runners over.  Wilson also provides terrific defense.  RF Xavier Nady came over during the season and provides another power hitting bat.  Nady hit 17 HRs and has 25-30 HR potential.  C Ronny Paulino burst onto the scene in ’06.  The backstop hit .310 in his first season in the bigs.  He also provided good defense, throwing out 36% of runners.  Jose Bautista beat out Jose Castillo to be the everyday third baseman but neither had a very good spring.

Rotation:  The rotation is young and talented.  Armas is the elder statesman and he is only 28.  The staff will probably continue to experience the growing pains Pirates’ fans suffered through last year.LHP Zach Duke suffered a setback in his sophomore season.  He went a mediocre 10-15 with a 4.47 ERA.  He has to get better vs. righties as they hit .310 against him last year.  RHP Ian Snell is having a good spring and looking to improve upon his 06.  Last year Snell went 14-11 with an ERA of 4.74.  He needs to improve against lefties as they hit over .300 against him.  LHP Paul Maholm went 8-10.  Righties hit .313 against him.  LHP Tom Gorzelanny went 2-5 but had an ERA of 3.19 in eleven starts.  He held hitters to an average of under .230.  RHP Tony Armas was brought in as the fifth starter.  Last year for the Nationals he was 9-12.  Armas has always had good stuff, he has just never been consistent.

Bullpen: Closer Mike Gonzalez was traded to Atlanta.  RHP Solomon Torres will take over in the ninth.  Torres saved 12 games and a 3.28 ERA in 06.  Something that concerns me is that he appeared in 94 games.  RHP Matt Capps will set Torres up.  He was 9-1 with a 3.76 ERA in 85 games.  RHP Shawn Chacon was moved to the bullpen and has closer’s experience.  He had 35 saves in 04 for the Rockies but that year he did have an ERA of 7.11.  RHP Dan Kolb was brought in to provide depth. He had 39 saves in 04 but has been really bad since, posting an ERA over 5.  LHP Damaso Marte had an ERA of 3.70 in 75 games for the Bucs in 06.  The bullpen could be solid but it will be interesting how the team will react to the loss of Gonzalez 

Prospects:

Andrew McCutchen-CF-First Round Pick in the 2005 First Year Player draft.  Hit .308 for the Pirates this spring.  An exceptional athlete, he is definitely a five tool player.  McCutchen hit .308 with 3 HRs in 78 ABs in a late promotion to Double A as a 19 year old.  He has 20 HR potential along with the potential to steal 40 bases.  Still strikes out too much, but pitch recognition should improve with experience.  An above average defender, should start in centerfield for the Pirates possibly by 2008.  Will most likely return to Double A to start the season.

James Boone-OF-Third Round Pick in the 2005 First Year Player Draft out of the University of Missouri.  Has yet to put together a complete season due to injury.  Hit .192 in 99 at bats at Low A in ’06.  Led Mizzou in hitting and RBIs in ’05, hitting .340 with 72 RBIs.  A switch hitter with good bat control, if healthy could start the year at High A. 

Analysis:  The Pirates should be improved in 2007.  The rotation should continue to improve but I believe it is at least a year away.  LaRoche will be great protection for Bay and Sanchez.  The Pirates bullpen could be pretty good if it stays healthy and pitches to its potential.  I don’t like Duffy at the top of the lineup, as he does not get on base enough.  The Pirates will still probably be battling to stay out of the cellar in the NL Central.

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