Buster Olney has been providing his top ten rankings in various categories over the last week and the Pittsburgh Pirates have received some very favorable ratings, so their overall ranking shouldn’t surprise anyone. On Monday morning, he posted his top ten teams in baseball and had the Pirates fifth overall. The balance of power has swayed to the National League this year, as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals and St Louis Cardinals are all ranked ahead of the Pirates.
Olney thinks the Pirates will make their third straight postseason appearance as long as Gerrit Cole stays healthy. Cole is the only player that he mentioned on the Pirates, so Olney believes he is the key to their success this season.
As for other NL teams in the mix, there aren’t anymore listed in his top ten, so there seems to be a clear difference between the top four teams in the league and the rest of the NL in his mind. The Giants, Marlins and Padres all got an honorable mention.
The rest of the rankings for Olney can be found in this link of the best outfields in baseball. The Pirates were among the best lineups, best defensive teams, best rotations and best bullpens as well.
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.
Pirates and Cardinals may very well be two of the four best teams in the NL, but that doesn’t mean they both will reach playoffs. NL Central is the deepest division in NL this year. No pushovers on the horizon, which means it will be easier for two teams from East and West to make it. Pirates need to have mindset of winning NL Central or bust this year.
Pirates have closed the gap the last couple years on Cardinals, now is the time to surpass them. And the best way to do this is to have a winning record in the season series. I say if they can secure 11 wins in their season series they’ll win the division.
I wouldn’t put the Cards in front of the Pirates. I think the warranty is running out on Wainright’s arm. Their pitching will be down from last year.
If Waino does meet his limit as far as health goes on that arm, STL is in trouble with pitching barring a trade.
I’d be very surprised if they didn’t end up with another top-of-rotation arm by the end of the year. Flush with cash and enough prospects to make just about anything happen.
It’d be smart since Waino really cant keep up his innings pace for too many more years. I honestly thought they were pulling the trigger for Scherzer, but i could see them being a big player mid year for whatever arm is free. I see them as making that move in the offseason, big player for Price or the likes.
I don’t like the Dodgers as much as many others, but, the Angels, Mariners, Royals and Jays are very talented teams. I think it would be safer to say the Pirates are in the top 10 in all of baseball.
I don’t go along with Olney that Cole is the key to the Pirates success, they are so deep at most positions that they could win with a subpar Cole or an injured Cole.
Cole is the only real possibility on the staff of being a true #1 (MadBum), and he has to step up big time to fill those shoes. I see Liriano’s top as a #2 because of walks. A subpar Cole may not prevent the Pirates from making the post season as the have six initial and two more late season additions who will belong on an MLB mound. But a subpar Cole will really hurt them in the post season when they have no one to go against another quality team’s true #1 .
Want a reason to (theoretically) get excited about this year for Cole? MadBum wasnt the ace we think of now until roughly his 3rd or 4th season. His FIP and WHIP were comparable to Cole for his first few years.
I think what places them ahead of angels/blue jays would be a healthy cole.. without that they’d probably fall out of most top 5 ranks wouldn’t they?
Are four of the five best teams really in one league?
Does seem unlikely, but FanGraphs projects the NL to have four of the top six.
I think 5 is a fairly decent jump for the team I see on paper…but if some things go right it is definitely achievable: Harrison playing similar to last year, Polanco breaking out, Pedro being decent, Marte breaking out. Then with the staff if Cole takes it to the next level and Liriano and Morton are healthy it will be a huge boost.
Joe Sheehan ranks Bucs 5th in his newsletter last week….seems to be a trend.
The pirates being ranked fifth overall is great! It was not all that long ago they were just rank.
Not too concerned about Cole, I am more concerned about Liriano and Worley continuing to pitch well and for Morton to get through an entire season intact and effective.
Just finished writing an article on the rotation. Here are my thoughts: http://frankjenkins15.blogspot.com/2015/01/2015-pittsburgh-pirates-starting.html
I do agree, the Pirates have a lot of options and depth as far as the rotation is concerned. Barring injury, you can pencil in Burnett, Cole, and Liriano.
Beyond those three, a lot depends on either health and/or performance – Morton, Locke, Worley, Cumpton, Sadler, Sampson, Kingham, Richard, etc. When he is on, Locke is a very effective LH starter. I’ve never been a Morton fan, but we gave him a big contract so we are kind of stuck with him. Again, barring injury, I think the others will be spot starters and/or relief options.
I do agree, the Pirates have a lot of options and depth as far as the rotation is concerned. Barring injury, you can pencil in Burnett, Cole, and Liriano. Beyond those three, a lot depends on either health and/or performance – Morton, Locke, Worley, Cumpton, Sadler, Sampson, Kingham, Richard, etc. When he is on, Locke is a very effective LH starter. I’ve never been a Morton fan, but we gave him a big contract so we are kind of stuck with him. Again, barring injury, I think the others will be spot starters and/or relief options.
Subject: Re: Comment on Pirates Ranked Fifth Overall By Buster Olney
I’m not worried about Liriano. I’m sure he’ll have a few 5 or 6 walk games which will drive me up a wall. But I’m willing to buy into the health issues at the start of last season . I’ve resigned myself to a half a season of good pitching from Charlie Morton. I have no idea what to expect from Worley or Locke. But I think the starting pitching has less question marks than last year. I think it’s going to be a strength for them especially with the depth.
I think one big key will be no Black Hole’s in the starting rotation. Last year was Wandy, the year before was Jonathan Sanchez. This year? No Black Hole in sight. Even if a starter struggles, they can sub someone else in and hopefully they do it faster than they did for Wandy.
To be fair to the team, they didnt have a black hole during the Sanchez year until multiple members of the rotation were hurt. Bring a guy into ST as an NRI and you dont really expect to need him as a 5th starter. Using him was dumb, but so was the situation.
That’s a good point…the only issue is when a starter isn’t right even really good ones can be horrendous, and sometimes it takes 5-6 starts to find it out…but I agree, the Pirates definitely have the depth to minimize the damage if a starter falls apart.
Speaking of rankings, I believe we’re still waiting for #15 … 😉
NMR…you haven’t bought the book yet? 🙂 🙂
Ah, love that they list the scout who found each prospect. Very cool.
Just got the eBook. Surprise at #14 !
Tim is having interweb issues today. I believe the mouse in his wheel died from overwork.
Ha! Thanks, John. Ton of great stuff lately.
Or it got caught by the spider.
I specifically haven’t cracked open the book because I enjoy the countdown style. I like the surprises. Plus I can’t stand the Patriots or Seahawks. I need a distraction.
I’m not too worried about Cole.
And, while lots of people may be looking at the replacement of Russell Martin as a big part of 2015, I’m not too worried there.
Even bad production from Alvarez can be taken in stride.
I think the key to 2015 rests on the shoulders of Polanco. If Polanco hits his stride for most of the year, I think this Pirates team will be nearly unstoppable, and may be the best in the National League. Perhaps that’s overstating it a bit, but I think a struggling Polanco puts the Pirates down into the middle of the Wild Card pack, whereas a great Polanco year pushes them to the top.
Also, I’d like to see Marte have a full season with no trips to the DL. He’s on the verge of a breakout, pushing his batting average above .300 and his OPS up towards .900, like McCutchen did in 2012.
Andy: Marte only played in 135 games last year, and I would like to see him somewhere >145 games. His extra base hits were about the same as in 2013 and his walks increased from 25 to 33 in less AB’s. In 2013 he posted a slash of .280/.343/.441/.784 and in 2014 it was .291/.356/.453/.808, an increase in every category. Pretty consistent and very good. I could live with the same numbers in 2015 as in 2014. Where we need to see a major improvement is in Gregory Polanco who posted a slash of .235/.307/.343/.650 in 277 AB’s last year. Surprising though was the fact that he had 30 Walks to only 59 K’s, and he scored 50 runs, both good numbers for a Rookie. He has the talent to post numbers equal to Starling Marte, and we need that LH bat to start generating some extra base hits and RBI’s.
I do agree a great Polanco would mean a lot, but I don’t agree that the 2015 season rests on his season, the Pirates dealt with a lot of weaknesses last year and still managed to get to the wild card, including Polanco not producing at a level that he is capable of doing. Like most teams the Pirates have a some “IF’S”, but their depth should overcome those “IF’S”. IMO, the Pirates don’t have any one player that will push them down the ladder, a large item like the pitching overall not performing well will move them down for sure.
It’s funny, leadoff, that you and I are agreeing and disagreeing at the exact same time!! What you said is pretty much my point/thoughts, everything else that other people are worried about will probably even out because of their depth. Martin and Harrison played out of their minds last year. I have a feeling that any drop-off from that will be made up for by, say, improvement from Pedro. If Liriano takes a step back, Cole will take a step forward. A couple of guys will struggle which will be offset by a couple of guys playing better than last year. The Worleys, Holdzkoms, and Sniders that saved last year will come from some other guys we aren’t counting on at the moment.
All that being said, I still think Polanco is the key to taking the Pirates from a Wild Card finish this year to the division title. I’m certainly not saying that if Polanco struggles, the Pirates are doomed to finish in last place (I couldn’t believe some of the comments I read from people who stated, strongly, that if the Pirates let Martin get away, they were guaranteeing a losing record this year.)
So I guess my point is the difference between a bad team and a good team is never one guy. But the difference between a very, very good team (Pirates the last 2 years) and a great team CAN be the emergence of one guy. And I think that guy is Gregory Polanco.
I have a feeling your going to be right about this, heck of a burden to put on such young shoulders but hey,such is life.