Buster Olney Ranks Pirates’ Outfield as the Second Best in Majors

Buster Olney continued his Major League rankings, going with the best outfields in baseball(subscription required) on Sunday. He ranked the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield as the second best in the Majors, trailing only the Florida Marlins. Olney said that the Pirates could have the best outfield in baseball next year if Gregory Polanco takes a step forward. That shouldn’t be difficult for Polanco, who had a great AAA season before coming up last year and starting off great with the Pirates, which was then followed by him going through a prolonged slump. The 22-year-old(turned 23 in Sept) right fielder finished with a .650 OPS in 89 games with the Pirates.

Olney praised Starling Marte for his second half surge after a rough start to his season and he said that Andrew McCutchen seemed to be a better overall player in 2014 than he was in 2013 when he won the National League MVP award. Besides offense, these three players provide the Pirates with one of the fastest(possibly the fastest) and best defensive outfields in baseball.

His earlier rankings had the Pirates among the best bullpens, lineups and rotations, plus near the top for their defense. Surprisingly, the infield group(which just got stronger with the addition of Jung Ho Kang) didn’t even get a mention among the 17 teams he listed.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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don moore

I used only Polanco (not Snider) and pro-rated his stats out to 585 ab’s. I couldn’t see adding Snider into the equation as Polanco has been appointed the starter from here out.


So even with Polanco’s weaker stats your comparison still came out in favor of the Buccos. Throw Snider in the mix and the Pirates’ advantage would have increased. As a biased fan I like that. But even when trying to be objective I still like your approach of compiling one composite outfielder to represent the whole outfield. Clever insight!


I’m sorry Mr. Olney but Stanton, Yelich, and Ozuna are not >= McCutchen, Polanco, and Marte.

don moore

I did the comparison the old fashioned way. I took the totals of the 3 and pro-rated them to 585 AB. Pirates 3 – 585 AB – 169 hits – .289 – 20 HR – 76 RBI – 94 Runs – 27 SB – 6 errors, Marlins 585 AB – 157 hits – .280 – 24 HR – 85 RBI – 88 runs – 13 SB – 5 errors


Seems like the logical approach. .


Which Bucco’s 2014 stats did you use for RF, Polanco or Snyder or a mixture of both?


“Surprisingly, the infield group(which just got stronger with the addition of Jung Ho Kang) didn’t even get a mention among the 17 teams he listed.”

Hope Buster isn’t trying to use Steamer for his projections.


Pedro Alvarez projects at 499 ABs as third baseman and negative 8.5 defensive wins.
Josh Harrison projects at 570 ABs as third baseman and positive 2.3 defensive wins.

Thats a lot of cumulative ABs for the 3B position.

I would project the Pirates cumulative infield WAR for it’s infield starters at
Alvarez = 2.5
Walker = 3.5
Harrison = 5.0
Mercer = 3.0

Total = 14.0

I think Harrison’s defense at 3B will make up for any drop off / revision to mean on his offense. I was conservative with Pedro’s numbers only because he may have a short leash and not be given time to break out of slumps (put up a 3.4 in 2013 and a 0.8 in 2014). Walker seems solid at a 3.5 WAR (3.9 in 2013, 3.6 in 2014) and may be higher if he avoids the injury bug. Mercer I stretched a bit (he put up a 2.8 in 2014), but he won’t be overly focused on defensive improvement this year and should equal or exceed last years numbers.


Damn, this is a tough group. Three years ago, we would have been happy to be in the top 10 in any one of the groups he has ranked so far Now we’re outraged that our outfield does not rank #1 . Actually, the Angels’ outfield is far and away the best by any rational measure. Mike Trout is a player for the ages, and Cutch is “just” a perennial MVP candidate. Kole Calhoun is a solid RF, and Josh Hamilton, with all his flaws, is still a solid (though overpaid) player.

And I think he’s right that the Marlins’ outfield should be a hair better than we have any reason to expect Marte, Cutch, and Polanco to be. Don’t forget, Yelich and Ozuna are young studs too. Yelich is 23 and has won a gold glove, Ozuna is 24, and Stanton, for all his established record, is only 25. By comparison, Polanco is 23, Marte 26, and Cutch is the grandpa of the group at 28. (All ages as of midsummer 2015.) So thir outfield is at least as likely to get better as ours is.

Still, top 3 is fine with me. And his ranking our infield as below average is incredibly dumb. MLB channel ranked Mercer as the 5th best SS, it’s hard to imagine NW being worse than 7th r 8th when they get around to 2B, Harrison, even off of only one year, also has to be a top 10 guy, and even though they will probably not give Alvarez much consideration for the 1B top 10, he is a good enough bat that our infield group as a whole should be right up there. Maybe he’s including catching as part of the “infield.” Even so, I think the catching will be better than the 2012 group although it would be a miracle if they came anywhere close to what RM gave us last year.

My estimated WAR for the group this year:

C – 2.5
1B – 1.5
2B – 2.8
3B – 4.1
SS – 2.2
LF – 4.5
CF – 6.5
RF – 2.2
Bench – 2.0

That’s a .500 team with a replacement level pitching staff, and a serious contender with a 10 WAR staff. Basically, I took the steamer projected WAR, adjusted the PA’s for the given players, added a WAR for Kang, and adjusted Harrison and Polanco up a bit since I think Steamer is unduly pessimistic about both.


No way on LA. Cutch vs. Trout is a push. Marte beats Calhoun. Even Snider was better than Hamilton last year. Hamilton hasn’t been the same since moving to LA. Injury has been a factor but could be age related decline as well. And LA doesn’t have a good 4th outfielder option. Assuming Polanco starts (and I think he’ll outperform Hamilton) Snider is a better 4th outfielder than any of LA’s options.


I would look at where Steamer has Pedro playing (3B) and then reconsider Steamer’s value for it’s Pirates first basemen and third basemen.


I believe streamer has pirates shortstop position ranked in the bottom 10


That’s strange. Jordy Mercer’s 2.0 WAR (Steamer) was good for 13th in the majors last year among qualifying short stops last year.


Steamer projects Mercer at a 1.5 WAR, .691 OPS, .255 AVE, 11 HR, and 55 RBI (good for 25th of 30 potential qualifying shortstops). Mercer’s numbers last year were .692 OPS, .255 AVE, 12 HR, and 55 RBI with a 2.0 WAR (13th of 22 among qualifying short stops).

So Steamer is projecting that the rest of the shortstops the league will see a vast improvement while Jordy will hit the same as last year.

Of note – Steamer projects:
Troy Tulowitzki will get 523 ABs and lead all shortstops with a 5.8 WAR. He had 181 ABs in 2012, 446 in 2013, and 315 in 2014.

Ian Desmond will post a positive 4.4 defensive WAR and a total WAR of 2.9. He led all shortstops last year with 24 errors, and was 2nd to last with a .963 fielding percentage.


I think outside of the top 3-5 shortstops they’re all bundled up.. therefore it isn’t hard to go from top 10 to bottom 10 or visa versa.. shortstop appears to just be a weak position in general. .

Scott Kliesen

Rather than split hairs w Marlins/Pirates ranking, let’s just appreciate this season of outstanding players littering the beautiful green grass at PNC. It’s a great time to be a fan of the Bucco’s!


How boring the winter months would be if we did so


In terms of Wins Above Replacement, the Angels have the best Outfield. Mike Trout averages more than 9 WAR/year on his own, so even if you surround him with scrubs the Halos have the best OF in baseball. But otherwise, I tend to agree the Marlins and Pirates are close to the top.


Based on metrics only, cutch is a better centerfielder than trout….point being, much more to metrics than just war.


Anyone know buster’s top 10? Top 5?


The Pirates will be the number 1 outfield on everyone’s list by the end of the season!


Think it boils down to cutch and Stanton being a push and yelich and marte as being equal. Ozuna right now is a better player than Polanco, which is fair. Right now, I would agree with fla having a better outfield. I don’t think it’s based off depth, just the 3 starters….if Greg can prove he can walk on water like the masses claimed last June, then PGH will be the best outfield. Just my opinion, but marte needs to be in cf, cutch’s arm is just too much of a liability in cf. Gives up way too many bases. Marte is a much better all around defender.


Marte has the tools to be a better defender. But he is also more susceptible to mental lapses.

Joe Nastasi

Do you mean mental lapses like standing flat footed when catching a fly ball with a runner on when your arm isn’t good enough to make up for it. Like Cutch does every time.

Joe Nastasi

I’ve been saying this since Marte came up. He would turn 30 doubles into singles & outs


Comparing the individual players by quality rather than position, you can see how one might conclude the Marlins have a better outfield. Stanton/McCutchen: push. Yelich/Marte push. Comparing that group exclusively, the Pirates came out a little ahead 10.9 to 10.4 WAR last season, but still it is really very close; WAR is a blunt instrument so I wouldn’t put a ton of stock in decimal places. Give the Bucs the advantage if you wish, but the fact is that Marcel Ozuna was a really good player last year – for the sake of comparison, Ozuna put up the exact same amount of fWAR as Neil Walker 3.7 – and Polanco is more promise than production at this point, so you can see how one might give the edge to Florida with the caveat that if Polanco takes a step forward this coming year, then the Pirates could have the best outfield in baseball. Seems like an utterly fair analysis if you ask me. They are very close and Polanco is the wild card.


I like your approach, though I would definitely prefer Marte over Yelich instead of calling it a push. But the Snider / Polanco combo didn’t come close to achieving what Ozuna did alone so that tilts the overall evaluation very slightly to FLA if we are only considering last year’s stats. But I like PIT’s upside for this year more, and I agree with csnumber23 below that by the end of 2015 PIT will have the consensus best outfield, primarily from continued improvement by Marte and an okay showing by Polanco.


Yelich is a sneaky talent I think? I think there’s a much higher floor with yelich then marte.. yelich’s ceiling is still perennial all star as well.. marte has clemente all time greatness upside, but he does seem to lack discipline in his game and there’s a few scouts who feel he won’t ever come close to his potential


Yelich shows great consistency, especially for a young player. Maybe that’s what you think of as a higher floor? But Marte shows both better power and speed on the bases right now than Yelich. Marte’s 2H2014 really started to show his upside based on his vastly improved plate patience, as Leo notes below. It was like a lightbulb went on in him. If he can retain and build on that his upside is on the same level as Cutch. It’s all in his mind. Yelich will improve too, but will he add enough extra base power to match Marte? Or match him in SB? Unknown, but I think not. But hey, Yelich is on the path to being a great player too.


I’ve already agreed that marte has a higher ceiling then yelich..


Those few scouts must have never seen how far he has progressed even since his AA season. His discipline, which was very worrisome even while winning the EL batting title, has come a long, long way. The main bias regarding Marte is the fact that he was not one of those high priced DR signings. After another season of improvement, the difference between he and Yelich will be more obvious


Assuming yelich doesn’t improve at the same rate.. marte was benched last year due to his lack of discipline.. or was he benched cause of the bias regarding his income? I do agree that this is a huge year for marte.. if he continues to show the improvements made in the second half it will erase those doubts.. I just think it’s justifiable to account for those doubts at the present time


Well, if you want to be snarky about it, why do you think scouts and organizational people talk about floors and ceilings ? By the way, who mentioned income ? And if you don’t think that a lot of these ratings and awards aren’t based on a player’s draft or signing status, you have a lot to learn.


Jeff Sullivan’s recent work on 2014 expected BABIP vs. actual BABIP has me a bit apprehensive about Marte heading into next year.

Not sure how much to trust it, but I’ve always worried about a drop from top 1% in the league to merely well above average will kill his OBP.


Very, very well said.


as i stated before i do not put much stock in olneys work.

Chris Hale

If Polanco emerges as one of the best young OF’ers in baseball,he Pirates will be on top. Yelich won the gold glove over Marte last year which was highway robbery. Marte will break out with the bat this year. We saw him turn a corner at the end of the 2014 season with his ability to lay off the strike 3 breaking ball out of the zone. He could win gold glove and silver slugger honors this year. Ozuna in Center isn’t Andrew McCutchen and he never will be. Polanco will never have Stanton Power but he could hit for a better average and play better defense. if all 3 of these Pirate outfielders ever hit their upside in the same season it could be historical.This is what I think they are capable of in 2015
Polanco RF .285 BA 350 OB% 18 Hrs 30 SB
Cutch CF .325 BA .410 OB% 27 Hrs 100 RBI 25 SB
Marte LF .290 BA .350 OB% 23 Hrs 85 RBI 35 SB
Snider OF 265 BA 15 Hrs


Chris your projections are very similar to mine.


The Gold Glove award isn’t given to the most highly skilled player, it is given to the player who had the best year. Unless you watched an awwwwful lot of the Miami Marlins, there’s simply no way to make a statement like Yelich winning the Gold Glove over Starling Marte was “highway robbery”.


Why do you have to argue with everybody’s posts on these boards? I constantly see you dispute everyone and everything.


Well.. if you agree with the post you generally just rec it.. if you don’t agree you present your case.. therefore a large part of reply’s are opposing viewpoints. . Which are enjoyable to read, if they’re not redundant


Well this guy disagrees with everybody’s posts all the time. Sure I debate with people over things but not everybody over every post. The guy clearly likes disagreeing and debating people. Clearly you guys all like that and that is fine but I get tired of seeing it and I usually don’t respond.
I am not some biased fan that thinks everything is perfect. I played pro ball and I know the game. I don’t agree with every move they make but since Neal took over it isn’t too often I don’t agree with a move they make. The organization is in great shape for the present and future!


I’ve agreed with more people in this thread than you have, Johnny Ballgame.


You’re a punk!

Lukas Sutton

Isnt the entire point of it to discuss opinions of the Pirates and the moves they make? That he disagree with a person isnt surprising since each thread sees about 10 different opinions of varying degree.


I visit this site because of the quality work Tim & Co. put in on a daily basis. I comment on this site because of the knowledgeable fans that share their thoughts and ideas. Disagreement isn’t a bad thing. I doubt a day goes by here where I don’t learn something because of disagreement.

Tony Cunningham

Why is it arguing? Because he has insight into the game and isn’t just being a bias fan?


He is constantly on here starting debates intentionally!


So… I take it this is your first time on the internet, then?





You just think you know everything when you don’t know jack!


I think most people think their beliefs are correct and take the approach of attempting to educate others.. It’s usually not until the following day that I realize I was perhaps wrong.. i still won’t admit it though 🙂 I figure this is the norm?


Thanks for your contribution!


I would not put the Marlin outfield ahead of the Pirate outfield, they don’t even have a 4th outfielder, the Pirates go 5-6 deep and of their starting 3, 2 out of that 3 Pirate outfielders are better than 2 out of 3 of the Marlin outfielders. Olney would have to be saying that Yelich is better than Marte at this point. I like Yelich a lot, but not over Marte and no one is going to take Ozuna over McCutchen, also Polanco can hit .400 with 30 HRs and no one is going to take him over Stanton, except me. I don’t know about anyone else’s math, but 2 out of 3 makes the Pirates a better outfield, mix in the other intangibles, like depth, and it is not even close.


I don’t think that is how you compare outfields.


Let’s be fair leadoff the fish are first because of one very important stat… 300 plus million dollars. (Can you see the sacasm just dripping down your screen?)

Lee Foo Young

I agree. Now if we could just get the metrics to agree with him.


How so? The metrics as far as I can tell do agree with him. I mean the projections might be a little bearish on Poloanco, but that is to be expected of after 300 PA at 87 wRC+. There is reason to believe that he will develop, but the projections will obviously be dragged down by that initial showing.


Polanco is not the key to which outfield is the best, Marte and McCutchen are. It is really quite simple. Polanco is not better than Stanton, one for the Marlins, Ozuna is not better than McCutchen, one for the Pirates, Yelich is not better than Marte, one for the Pirates, do the math.


I said it elswhere, but it makes more sense to ignore positions and compare values. By WAR, Stanton/McCutchen are roughly equivalent, Marte/Yelich are roughly equivalent, which leaves Ozuna and Polanco. Ozuna was a ~4 win player last year (exact same WAR as Walker for reference). In order to keep pace Polanco would have to compare to that kind of production, which he may be capable of, but that is why he is the key.


You’re taking the Electoral College approach, which makes no sense at all.

Lukas Sutton

For so many reasons, this was a perfect response.

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