My goal was to have a certified autograph of every Pirates opening day starter by... opening day. Unfortunately I have failed in my quest, but not by much!
Here's my predicted Pirates opening day roster with some of my favorite cards, as well as my statistical predictions. I'm going to do my best to remain objective and realistic!
Without further ado...
Starting at Catcher, for the YOUR Pittsburgh Pirates:
2007 Bowman's Best Auto
2013: 438 AB, .226 BA, 51 R, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 9 SB
2014 Projected stats: 444 AB, .261 BA, 62 R, 19 HR, 68 RBI, 7 SB
Comments: I absolutely loving having this guy as a backstop. His defense is his most valuable asset, not his bat. He's coming off a fantastic defensive year, capturing a runner-up position in the Gold Glove award, and saving the Pirates a handful of runs. In his contract year, I see him taking a step forward offensively.
At first base: Gaby Sanchez
2012 Topps Gypsy Queen Auto
2013: 264 AB, .254 BA, 29 R, 7 HR, 36 RBI, 1 SB
2014 Projected stats: 367 AB, .260 BA, 42 R, 22 HR, 55 RBI, 2 SB
Comments: Gaby goes into the 2014 as the Pirates starting first baseman. Historically, he mashes lefties and is blind against righties. Reportedly, he came into spring training much more trim than last year, dropping some fat and gaining muscle. He's very solid defensively, and he's going to need to step up his offense. He'll have the opportunity to
prove himself as a regular first baseman in 2014.
At second base: Neil Walker
2012 Topps Gypsy Queen Auto
2013: 478 AB, .251 BA, 62 R, 16 HR, 53 RBI, 1 SB
2014 Projected stats: 493 AB, .269 BA, 64 R, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 1 SB
Comments: Neil took a pretty big step back last year, setting career lows in many categories. He was battling injuries during much of the year, and was still able to approach 500 ABs. I have a hard time seeing him getting back to his 80+ RBI days. A repeat
of last year is likely, with a hopeful spike in batting average.
At Shortstop: Jordy Mercer
2013 Topps RC
2013: 365 AB, .285 BA, 33 R, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 3 SB
Projected stats: 412 AB, .270 BA, 40 R, 12 HR, 33 RBI, 2 SB
Comments: Jordy's coming off his first full season in the majors, and in my opinion, a pretty decent one. He wasn't on the Pirates opening day roster last year, although he joined the club in May and stayed for the remainder of the year. The Bucs still operate with a platoon at shortstop, with Jordy and Clint Barmes. Barmes is much more solid defensively, and steals some ABs as a late game defensive replacement. I see Jordy taking a small step forward offensively, although I haven't seen enough from him to predict anything extraordinary.
At third base: Pedro Alvarez
2011 Topps Chrome Atomic Refractor /225
2013: 614 AB, .233 BA, 70 R, 36 HR, 100 RBI, 2 SB
Projected stats: 608 AB, .245 BA, 72 R, 38 HR,102 RBI, 5 SB
Comments: What year for Pedro in 2013. He finally came around and began to look like the star he was projected to be out of college, leading the NL in HR's and being named to the All-Star team. Pedro took a huge step forward in terms of production, cranking out exceptional HR and RBI numbers. The big concern with El Toro is his low average and terribly high strikeout rate. I see much of the same this year as we saw in 2013.
In left field: Starling Marte:
2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Auto
2013: 510 AB, .280 BA, 83 R, 12 HR, 35 RBI, 41 SB
Projected stats: 522 AB, .270 BA, 79 R, 15 HR, 33 RBI, 45 SB
Comments: Marte had a breakout season in 2013, and was rewarded nicely just a few days ago with a 6-year, 31 million dollar contract. Marte is an exciting outfielder with great speed, excellent range, and a strong arm. The big concern with Marte is his strikeout numbers, which are unusually high for a leadoff hitter. I see the free-swinging Marte having a very similar year with a slight drop in average, and an increase in pop.
In center field: Andrew McCutchen
2005 Topps Chrome RC Auto /499
2013: 583 AB, .317 BA, 97 R, 21 HR, 84 RBI, 27 SB
Projected stats: 580 AB, .322 BA, 104 R, 27 HR, 90 RBI, 25 SB
Comments: You know him. And in Pittsburgh, there's no one more popular aside from maybe Sid Crosby. The reigning 2013 MVP actually has worse statistical year in 2013 than 2012 in every major category but steals. In 2014, I see him getting back to those numbers of two years ago, and making another run for MVP. This guy's a bonafide star; even if he drops off a bit, it won't be by much.
And lastly, in right field: Travis Snider
2007 Bowman Sterling Travis Snider RC Auto
2013: 261 AB, .215 BA, 28 R, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 2 SB
Projected stats: 310 AB, .232 BA, 36 R, 9 HR, 33 RBI, 1 SB
Comments: Snider comes off a terrible, injury riddled 2013 season. When he was healthy, he was striking out, and grounding into double plays as a pinch hitter. I've heard lots of great anecdotes about Snider's personality, and he seems like a great clubhouse guy. However, I've never been impressed with Snider's performance, especially at the plate. The only real favorable memory I have of Travis is this amazing catch back in 2012, which was an unbelievable robbery. Offensively, I don't see a ton of improvement on the horizon. I think his numbers will increase quantitatively, simply because he'll be healthy. He may be DFA'd at some point this season.
Final team predictions:
2013 Season: 94-68, 2nd NL Central, Wild Card, Lost NLDS 3-2 to St. Louis
2014 Prediction: 89-73
In all honesty, I have a hard time seeing the Pirates achieving the same success that the team enjoyed last year; but that's not say that I think they'll return to their nightmarish losing ways of the past. I think the team will still have a very good year and contend for a playoff spot. As long as the Cardinals are in the NL Central, I don't see Pirates being able to win the division. Optimistically, they'll play well enough to squeeze into a Wild Card spot and create some noise in the playoffs. Pessimistically, they'll sink closer to .500 and miss the playoffs.
Here's to hoping some of the magic fairy dust from 2013 is still lingering in the Steel City.