For the last year, Pittsburgh Pirates fans have been looking forward to the “Dream Outfield” of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco. McCutchen was already an MVP, Marte was quietly becoming an annual 4-5 WAR player, and I think Polanco has the upside to eventually be the best of the group. That combination looked like it could be the best outfield in baseball in the not too distant future.
One year later, it seems the rest of baseball is starting to take notice. That’s something that happens when the outfielders post the second best combined WAR in baseball, and the best in the NL (and that was without much production from Polanco). The debate this off-season has been whether the Pirates or the Marlins have the best outfield in the game. I may be a bit biased here in saying I’d pick the Pirates’ trio. A lot of the reasons to pick the Marlins right now are due to concerns over Marte’s plate patience, and due to Polanco being all about upside. I’ve never really been concerned with Marte’s lack of walks and strikeout totals, since his speed and other tools more than make up for that. And I love Polanco’s upside, as noted above.
If you want an unbiased opinion that picks the Pirates, check out this article from Jayson Stark. He picks the Pirates, then raves about the upside, while pointing out some very impressive stats. For example, take a look at the following summary of the three, while Stark was discussing the power/speed combo of the group.
So we’re looking at an outfield in which all three starters are coming off a string of seasons with 18 steals or more and double figures in homers. Did you know there have been only eight outfield trios that have done that, in the same season, in the entire live-ball era? And no team has ever had three outfielders do it two years in succession.
But these guys could. They’re all in their 20s. They’re all under team control at least through 2018. So they could conceivably do this for years.
That’s exciting for the Pirates. They’re getting a massive amount of production from their outfielders, without even considering any other position.
And that got me thinking about the next potential breakthrough for the Pirates — “The Dream Rotation.”
The Pirates have spent a lot of money on pitching in the draft. That is starting to spill over to the majors. Gerrit Cole is already here, and has shown flashes of his top of the rotation upside. Jameson Taillon would have arrived last year, had it not been for his Tommy John surgery. He should make the jump to Pittsburgh in the second half this year, and looks like a solid number two starter. Then there’s Tyler Glasnow, who has the upside to be better than any pitcher in the system. He’ll need some time in the upper levels to continue working on his changeup, and improving his command. He should arrive in the middle of the 2016 season.
Those are three guys with the potential to be top of the rotation starters. Then you’ve got Nick Kingham, who should arrive this year, and who has the upside to be a solid number three starter who eats 200 innings per year. Adrian Sampson has a chance to be a middle of the rotation guy, but looks more like a really strong number four if he figures everything out. And the lower levels features a lot of interesting arms, like Clay Holmes, Cody Dickson, Luis Heredia, and more who have the chance to be 3-5 starters in the majors.
A lot of “The Dream Rotation” will depend on how Cole, Taillon, Glasnow, and Kingham develop. The odds aren’t in their favor for all of them to reach their upsides in the majors. But with where they all are right now, the odds are pretty good that the Pirates will get at least two good starters from the group, with all four making the majors. Add in the magic powers of Ray Searage and Jim Benedict to turn around reclamation projects, and the Pirates could soon have not only the best outfield in baseball, but a shot at the best rotation in baseball. The Pirates are already contenders, but that combination could make them the model team in baseball.
**We have less than 100 paperback books of the 2015 Prospect Guide remaining from the final shipment. I don’t anticipate ordering another shipment this year. That means once the current batch is gone, the paperback version will be sold out. You can order your copy of the book on the products page of the site.