I can’t say that I’m too worried about the Pittsburgh Pirates’ offense. I don’t think they’re going to be a top offense in the league. I’m not saying that the string of home runs hit in that Little League park in Cincinnati is legit. I’m just saying that if you look at the offense, the positions you expected to perform aren’t performing.
First you’ve got Andrew McCutchen, the MVP of the league, with a .707 OPS coming into the game tonight. McCutchen got off to a slow start last April, then turned on the guns in May and went on to win the MVP award. Is McCutchen the next Adam LaRoche, only being able to hit when the calendar turns to May? I don’t know. What I do know is that there’s no way McCutchen continues at this level. He will improve, and the offense will improve with him.
Starling Marte is in a similar situation, with a .704 OPS. The crazy thing is that Marte has done a good job of getting on base, with a .357 OBP. His average is down, and the power is way down. That power won’t continue to stay down, and when he returns to his normal levels, he will give the Pirates a big boost.
Then there’s Jordy Mercer. You can’t really point to a track record here, since Mercer only has half a season in the majors. He had a .393 OPS coming into the game. But this isn’t the first time Mercer has had a few bad weeks. Last year he had a .407 OPS over 45 at-bats during the first few weeks of July. The difference? The July numbers were hidden by his hot start in June. The numbers this year are isolated because they are coming in the first two weeks of the season. Mercer will improve his hitting, and I’d expect him to return to last season’s pace.
On the flip side, there are guys who are hitting well, and it would be unfair to expect them to continue playing above their heads, while expecting everyone else to break out of their slumps. Travis Snider has a .789 OPS, compared to a career .703 OPS. Pedro Alvarez has an .835 OPS, compared to a .770 and .784 the last two years, respectively. Russell Martin has an .851 OPS, after being around .700 the last two years. Of the three, I think Alvarez is the most likely to be legit.
But then there’s Neil Walker, who has a .657 OPS so far, despite a career .760 OPS. He’s another guy who I think will improve, because I’m putting more stock in his career numbers than a two week sample size.
Overall the Pirates have more players who are expected to improve, compared to players who are at risk to decline. I could see Snider and Martin coming back to Earth, but I could also see big jumps from McCutchen, Marte, Walker, and Mercer.
The two expected problem spots were first base and right field. Currently the Pirates have players hitting the ball well at each position in the minors. Gregory Polanco probably won’t come up until June for Super Two purposes, especially if Snider keeps hitting. Andrew Lambo is hitting well, and could come up earlier, especially if Travis Ishikawa continues hitting for an OPS around his current .684 mark.
The offense isn’t going to be one of the best in the league, but they are going to be much better than this.
Links and Notes
**I’ll be taking a break over the next few days, although I’ve got some articles lined up, so you probably wouldn’t have known I was gone had I not said anything. I’m mentioning this to point out that there will be a few guest authors for First Pitch this week. Ryan Palencer, our new Indianapolis writer, will be writing tomorrow’s article with his thoughts on the Indianapolis team. He also has a great article on Gregory Polanco tomorrow morning. John Dreker will be writing Thursday’s article, giving his thoughts on where the 2014 draft picks stand with less than two months to go until the draft. And of course, you can follow John’s regular draft updates on our 2014 Draft page.
**Every Monday we will have our “Top Performers” series, highlighting the top ten hitters and starting pitchers in the minor league system from the previous week. Here are this week’s articles:
- Top Performers: Gregory Polanco Wasn’t the Only Hitter With a Huge Week
- Top Performers: Is Orlando Castro a Lefty Starter to Watch?
**Brewers Jump Past the Pirates in the Latest Playoff Odds. Still a little early to take playoff odds seriously, but with that disclaimer, we’ll be following them all season.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.