There was a time not too long ago when you couldn’t mention the Pittsburgh Pirates and the World Series without either talking about history, or invoking laughter. Things looked so bleak that the only hope seemed to be a winning season where the Pirates would get win number 82 on the final day of the season, finally ending the long losing streak. Or, maybe if they were lucky, they’d find a way to sneak into the playoffs, while having no shot of advancing beyond the first round.
Today, Buster Olney sent out a tweet saying he had picked the Pirates to win the World Series over the Seattle Mariners. The actual prediction isn’t the big deal here. These types of predictions come every year around this time, from all types of writers, and the odds of the predictions coming true are slim. The big deal about this is that you can now predict the Pirates to win it all, and it’s not met with laughter. It’s actually a pick that could happen.
The Pirates are coming off two straight playoff appearances. They’re a team with no real weaknesses, and a ton of depth at a lot of positions. The biggest knock on them is that their pitching staff doesn’t look good on paper. However, they’ve got Francisco Liriano, who is extremely underrated when he’s healthy, and has been putting up the best numbers of his career the last two years with the Pirates. They’ve got Gerrit Cole, who is still young and has number one upside if he puts it all together. They have A.J. Burnett, who probably isn’t going to be the Burnett that was in Pittsburgh two years ago, but could be better than the 2014 version in Philadelphia.
Beyond that, they’ve got Charlie Morton and Vance Worley, who are two under-rated starters, and good guys for the back of the rotation. They have solid depth, with a few interesting early season options, and mid-season options that will start to tap into their prospect depth with guys like Nick Kingham, Adrian Sampson, and possibly Jameson Taillon.
Then there’s the fact that they’ve got a lot of great pitching coaches — highlighted by MLB pitching coach Ray Searage and Special Assistant to the GM Jim Benedict. They focus heavily on pitch framing. They target ground ball heavy pitchers, while utilizing defensive shifts to maximize their defensive production. The combination allows their pitching staff to play up from what you’d expect.
On the offensive side, they’ve got one of the best players in the game in Andrew McCutchen. They have a potential breakout star in Starling Marte. And their offense was one of the best in baseball last year, and should have enough to be at the top again this year, especially with all of the depth off the bench backing up their starters.
The fact that Olney picked the Pirates to win the World Series doesn’t mean they have better chances, and it doesn’t mean that they’re going to win. But it does make you realize that we’ve arrived to a time where it’s not unreasonable to think that the Pirates could win it all.
**We are down to our final case of the 2015 Prospect Guide from the final shipment. I don’t anticipate ordering another shipment this year. That means once the current stock is gone, the paperback version will be sold out. You can order your copy of the book on the products page of the site.
**Tony Sanchez Will Make The Pirates Roster Due To Chris Stewart Injury. This was expected, and Clint Hurdle confirmed it today.
**The Pirates Are Moving Stetson Allie To Right Field. This one wasn’t expected. He will start back in Altoona, probably because it will be difficult for him to find playing time in the outfield in Triple-A. Don’t expect him to be playing first base. I was told today that he’s a right fielder now, and the move makes sense with Josh Bell being the everyday first baseman in Altoona.
**Buster Olney Picks Pirates To Win World Series
**Pirates Option Nick Kingham And Elias Diaz To Indianapolis
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.
If you are in contention for the playoffs you can reach the World Series. I think clearly the Pirates are a tier behind the Dodgers, Nationals, and Cardinals, but a more competitive NL Central, compared to the East and West could drag the Cardinals back into the fray. Should be a very interesting year, a lot better than when Oliver Perez goes form 4th starter to staff ace within one season.
I’m not afraid of the Cards…Dodgers and Nats? Yes. Terrified.
Actually the Pirates might have slightly less talent than Dodgers and Nationals, but this team is more talented than the Cardinals this season. Lance Lynn is not a number two starter, and that just attacks the Cardinals only true strength. Sure they have plenty of solid veteran hitters, but that Cardinals team has an overall lack of power. The Pirates on the other hand are not lacking power, and could once again have 9 or more hitters reach double digits in homeruns, while playing 81 games in a pitcher friendly ballpark.
I think overall the Pirates and Cardinals offenses are similar in their respective run scoring ability even if they go about it in different ways.
The Cardinals have a clear advantage in the rotation. If Lynn isn’t a number two, neither is Cole to this point, that could change but it hasn’t happen. And worrying about the Cardinals rotation health is a bit of throwing stones while living in a glass house.
STL has the potential to stay solid on offense due to younger guys, but that rotation does leave a bit to be desired. Waino is hitting prime “you cant throw this many innings without injury” territory, and the back end would make me a bit uneasy as a Cards fan. STL does know how to get a lot out of its guys though.
Great reading a piece about the world series as I am getting ready to head to Bradenton to watch the Pirates play the Sox. It makes it that more exciting.
I will be in kissimmee this Sunday to watch the pirates followed by disney and the braves and lakeland and the tigers. Unfortunatley I won’t be able to make it to bradenton this year to see all the great improvements both on and off the field so I envy you the opportunity yet I’m happy for you at the same time.
102-60 followed by 12-8.
pb: A very bold prediction, and I hope you are in the ballpark with those numbers. To me, and from a distance, it has been a very different type of camp this year. The pitching has been very good and the key hitters are starting to make excellent contact. Alvarez, Marte, Cervelli, JHAY, Mercer, Walker, and reading the recap of one of the games yesterday, Polanco got a hit to break an O’fer streak, but the writer highlighted two long flyouts in previous AB’s that he just missed taking out.
A few questions – what is happening with Morton? Is Lombardozzi regarded as a possible No. 25? He is hitting for a very high average, but not much power.
My key reason for being so optimistic is that the pirates are very deep this year. There are a few teams in baseball that are just as good or better than the pirates front nine, however I can’t think of any team that has the amount of depth the pirates do at so many positions. Being optimistic is a new thing for us buccos fans and I for one have had a hard time coming to grips with it, so I ask my fellow fans is 102-60 followed by 12-8 really that far fetched or maybe we as fans just need to change our way of thinking? You decide.
I started following the Pirates when I was in LL and they played at Forbes Field. Although living in Pittsburgh and all over the country and a foreign country since then, I have always followed the Black and Gold. Therefore, I endured the 20 post-BB years and I still find it very difficult to get 100% into being optimistic, although I love the work this management team has done putting this program together in 7 years. They are talented and deep, and no end in sight of young quality players/pitchers entering and progressing through the system.
My sentiments also, I don’t go back far enough for forbes field I’m mid 70’s on up. Other than that we are on the same page.
Weren’t there enough questions for a Q&A this week? I look forward to seeing it but I don’t see it this week.