Friday, February 3, 2017

Pittsburgh Pirates Season 37 Preview

Pittsburgh Pirates
Season 36:  112-50, won Division, lost in 2nd round to the Mets
GM:  blanch13

The Buccos won it all in Season 33 with a group of near-teenagers, but have only won 1 playoff series since, falling in the Division Round each year (once to the Nats and the last 2 years to the Mets).  What gets them to the top of the mountain again?

They traded for OF Leonardo Grimm last year, anticipating the departure of Eddie Hamels, and they'll be perfectly happy with a return to the .800-OPS ways of his first 3 seasons.  The decidedly-lefty lineup features slugging infielders Roberto Esposito (.303/36/112) and R.A.Hollins (.267/44/131); they added Ricardo Profar via trade and are still scouting around for a RH bat to play 1B.  No reason to expect them to drop off any from last year's 770 runs.

Pitching and Defense
The Big 3 of Watson, Baerga and Roque each won 20 last year, and carry the bulk of the pitching load.  Jaron Dunham has also established himself as an excellent starter, throwing 220+ innings in each of his first 2 seasons and notching a 3.35 ERA.  They're backed by a stable of rubber-armed relievers led by Ernesto Johnson - the versatile righty has 38 wins, 65 saves and a 2.39 ERA over 5 seasons.

The excellent defense is anchored by SS Julio Veras, who's shooting for a record-tying 5th shortstop Gold Glove this year.  It's also solidified by Esposito's ability to handle 2B, where his suspect glove has been OK (.976 fielding %) and more than offset by his range (19 + plays each of the last 2 seasons).

Picking the NL East is all-but-impossible as the Pirates, Mets and Nats juggle the division title annually.  But this team really has no weaknesses and should be able to nab a wild card even if things go wrong (see Season 35).

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