Buster Olney Ranks the Pirates With One of the Top Lineups, Bullpens, and Rotations

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been getting some favorable ratings in Buster Olney’s rankings of all the MLB teams this week. So far, Olney has rated the top rotations, top bullpens and today he released the top lineups around the game. It hasn’t been covered yet, but the Pirates would also have to rank high among the top benches in the game once Jung-Ho Kang is officially signed.

The articles are for ESPN Insiders, so there is a subscription required. I’ll go over the three groups briefly. For the top rotation, the Pirates were just outside the top ten, getting the first nod in the honorable mentions. The only thing that kept them out according to Olney is that Gerrit Cole missed time last year. He believes they could be a top ten rotation with a full season from him.

Pittsburgh ranked eighth among the top bullpens in the game. Olney gives even more praise to the group of Mark Melancon, Jared Hughes and Tony Watson, calling them a trio that is “as good as there is in the NL”. If Antonio Bastardo can replace Justin Wilson and John Holdzkom can pitch well over a full season, they may even be better than the eighth best in baseball according to Olney. Only the Padres and Giants ranked higher among NL teams.

The lineup also ranked eighth in the game. Olney mentions how well the lineup did without Pedro Alvarez contributing much and he also notes the expected growth Gregory Polanco will have in his first full season. An interesting note is that only the Rockies and Nationals made the top ten among National League teams, putting the Pirates among the top three NL teams in two different categories. When you throw in the bench strength, they will be one of the best all-around teams in baseball and near the top of the National League.

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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John Marshall

I say trade Pedro to the AL as a DH and try to get something decent for him if you can!!


Also, who is your first baseman in this scenario?

Scott Kliesen

Walker is the logical choice.


Lambo also has potential, but he may not get the chance to realize it in Pittsburgh. Bell is only two years away as well.


His value is at nothing right now. Have to hope he builds his value back up before trying to move him.


you are six months early…!

Pedro will do everyone a favor by posting good numbers and flashing a decent glove at 1B, then GMNH deals him to an AL team at the deadline for something/anything.

GMNH has already prepped for this move (or a Walker trade) by getting Kang.

Losing Russell Martin is such a huge blow, but I must admit that GMNH has done a fantastic job this off-season. The Pgh FO has earned my confidence and admiration. The Pirates’ organization, roster and payroll are in great shape, IMO. There was a time not so long ago that I never could have believed I would type that last sentence in my lifetime.

Lukas Sutton

Imma go out on a tiny limb and say the FO may have thought of that already and the AL teams gave them some pretty ugly offers, since it was pretty well known PIT wasnt opposed to hearing offers on Pedro over the winter.


The 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates project to have four bench players making at least $2m, five bullpen arms making at least $1m, and three post-arbitration starting pitchers.

THIS is the kind of team Neal Huntington can put together with a little bit of financial backing.


Assuming Alvarez contributes with the bat, Pgh does indeed have a strong lineup – speed & power throughout. Does any other ML lineup have the blend of speed & power that Pgh has?

The bullpen is looking very good, IMO. Holdzkom was impressive and should improve with solid coaching & team support – just imagine if he can find a set-up pitch w/ just a bit of movement… he’d be incredibly tough. I think Holdzkom will end up in the closer role with Melancon moving back to the set-up role.

The starting rotation is the question mark in my book. Burnett/Morton/Worley/Locke have to bring some fire & grit in their starts, because if these guys can’t out-pitch the other 3/4/5 SP’s in the Central, then it’s an uphill battle for 85 wins/playoffs. The one thing Pgh does have is SP depth, which could make a big difference if the top 5 run into injuries in ’15.

I don’t think StL have their typical depth this year. One or two hiccups and the Cards may have more trouble than usual. Having said that, I think the Cubs will much tougher this year. NL Central doesn’t have a basement…!


I agree on the lineup and think they could score a ton of runs. I also agree Holdzkom may have the ceiling of a future closer but it is not going to happen while Melancon is here. Watson would probably be next in line if injury. Unless he gets hurt, Melancon will be the closer as long as he is here. The guy is just too good! I’m not sure why so many on this site can’t see what a dominant pitcher this guy is?


Also on board with keeping Melancon as closer, and I’ll even argue for keeping him through his 3rd arb year. Yes, he’ll be expensive. But the Pirates now have the sort of payroll that can support an expensive reliever, and a good chunk of that money will be offset by NOT having Tony Watson or Holdzkom notching saves, which arbitration LOVES to pay.


Quite honestly I don’t think there’s a team in the major leagues that has better 3-6 starting options than the pirates. In terms of ceiling and floor.


Are you including Taillon as #6 ? If not, he will add even more depth. He could be a huge late season type addition.


“Does any other ML lineup have the blend of speed & power that Pgh has?”

Cubs, but only if the Cubs turn out to be the Cubs that folks are so excited about.


Cubs were 12th out of 15 NL teams in stolen bases last year. If they have speed, they have been hiding it well.

The teams that come to mind are the Dodgers and Brewers.
Dodgers (last year) – 6th in NL in home runs, 1st in stolen bases
Brewers (last year) – 5th in home runs, 5th in stolen bases

With Dee Gordon going to Miami, the Dodgers have lost a lot of speed.
Milwaukee is the more interesting case – Gomez is a McCutchen clone, they get good power from Reynolds, Lucroy, and Davis, and they have good team speed – 3 players with 10 or more SB last year, 5 players with 5 or SB last year.


The Cubs will also have a much different, much more athletic lineup in 2015 and I’m interested in seeing how Joe Maddon adapts his style to the NL.

Good call on the Brewers, though. Any team that plays in a bandbox should probably be on this list, Reds included.


Something else about the Pirates that makes them very good is their versatility, All the infielders can play all the positions except for Alvarez, all the starting outfielders can play all the positions, two of the bench players will be able to play anywhere in the infield and at least one of them infield and outfield.


The only thing left out was their total depth, Olney did mention their bench, but depth goes far deeper than bench and IMO, that depth (AAA) is what will carry them to 86-90 wins this year, 90 should win the division. I don’t see many teams as deep as the Pirates, a lot of them match up with the Pirates 25 man roster, but the AAA talent gets you to the playoffs, St.Louis might even be better with their 25 man, when they go for more help they won’t get the help the Pirates can get.


I agree, but the cards have a way of making lemonade out of their middling AAA guys. They also seem to be heavily rumored to be getting Scherzer, Shields, Price, or Hamels before ST.


Yea, the Cards make lemonade out of a lot of position players and pitchers, the Pirates seem to do it with pitchers. The Cards do not seem to be very patient with their players like the Pirates are, if they don’t produce quickly they don’t play. IMO, they would never have stuck with Alvarez like the Pirates did. They never liked Jay and all he did was get big hits for them, they brought in 2 or 3 guys to replace him last year and he was the last man standing.


o ya Im sure heyward will bounce back and finally turn into the hitter many believed he would be. Not that he is bad, but that allstar caliber batter not just fielder


In St.Louis I expect him to be a star.


Yo ho, yo ho a pirates life for me. It’s good to be a pirate, until the frigate shows up! Let’s just hope the frigate don’t show up or if it does the pirates are fast enough to outrun it.


I think our rotation is roughly average, but has decent upside. Our bullpen has a ceiling of best in the game, though, and our lineup has both a high floor and a high ceiling. Only Oakland has a better, more versatile bench, as well.

In summary, the Pirates should be a very good baseball team.

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