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.