Recently I’ve discussed the potential starting rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates and will now look in depth at the potential starting nine for the Buccos. This years Pirates team will look a little different than last years in a few places while looking to take a step forward from last years failure of a season. We’ll still see the familiar faces of Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, and Francisco Cervelli but there will be some changes throughout the lineup as to not only where people will be hitting but also playing this season. So without any further adieu let’s jump into it.
- Josh Harrison 2B: It comes as no surprise the Buc’s continue to lead off with the ever exciting Josh Harrison. Harrison put together a solid 2016 season hitting for a 283 average, four home runs, and 59 RBI’s typical lead off hitter type stats. However, Harrison will have to be effective all season if he wishes to remain not only as the lead off hitter but in the lineup in general. He’ll be challenged out of camp by youngsters Adam Frazier, and Alen Hanson who both made their major league debuts in 2016.
- Gregory Polanco LF: This is where we see one of the major changes to the lineup this season. The outfield will be consist of the same players however they’ll have new homes. Polanco took a major step forward for the Pirates last season in the RBI and home run department not so much in the batting average. He set a career high with 22 home runs and 86 RBI’s and is slowly becoming the player the Pirates have hoped he would become. His lanky frame makes him one of the harder players to pitch to solely because he can reach any pitch in the zone, and do damage with it. Last offseason he put on about 15 pounds of muscle which helped him greatly, and if he could replicate that this offseason and continue to grow as an offensive power the Pirates outfield could be deadly again.
- Starling Marte CF: Another place in which we see a change in the Bucco’s lineup, but it’s something that’s needed. Andrew McCutchen has lost a step in the fielding department but the energetic Starling Marte is there waiting for his turn to be the star. Marte is coming off a phenomenal year for the Bucs, he posted a 311 batting average but only hit nine home runs, and only drove in 46 runs however with inconsistent play in front of him in the order it’s no surprise the RBI total is low. Another bright spot in Marte’s 2016 stats aside from the high average is the fact that he also stole 47 bases and was among the lead leaders for steals. He’ll look to build off of his strong 2016 and grow and be even better in 2017, and as long as the players in front of him are getting on base he should have an even better year this season.
- Jung Ho Kang 3B: The Korean slugger enters his third season in American baseball and looks to continue to improve and become an even more dominant player for the Pirates. In a year in which Kang played a limited amount of games due to injury, he had a career year hitting 21 home runs and driving in 62 RBI’s and is exactly what the Pirates will need out of him in the cleanup spot this season. Kang has had some off the field issues in Korea with a DUI amd hopefully that will all be sorted out come Opening Day.
- Josh Bell 1B: Bell is another promising young player the Pirates will be relying on not only this season but for many to come. Bell could be the all-around talent the Pirates need to take a step forward and be contenders again. The sweet-swinging first baseman who was drafted as an outfielder looks to take another step forward and become an everyday first baseman. Improving upon Bell’s defense is priority number one at the moment, aside from that he’s got what it takes to be an everyday player. In limited time in 2016 Bell hit for a 273 average, three home runs, and 19 RBI’s. His biggest hit to this point in his career was a grand slam against the World Champion Cubs on July 9th, 2016 in what was an absolute monster shot. As Pirates announcer Greg Brown proclaimed “stand up and ring your Bell!” it got me excited for the Buc’s future and that call still gives me goosebumps today.
- Andrew McCutchen RF: This would be the first time in what seems like forever the Pirates would have someone starting in centerfield not named Andrew McCutchen but it’s something that needs to be done. McCutchen has not only lost a step defensively but he doesn’t have the arm of Marte of Polanco to play centerfield anymore. Aside from his defensive woes, he struggled at the plate for most of the 2016 season. With a batting average of .256 McCutchen appeared to be tapped out from carrying this team if you will for the previous four or five years. Aside from his average being down he doesn’t have the speed he once possessed only stealing six bases in the entire season. His home runs and RBI’s were about career average, but Captain Cutch as Pirates fans have known him seems to have sailed away.
- Francisco Cervelli C: In a year ravaged by injuries Cervelli only played in 101 games however he signed a new three-year deal with the team and will be a Bucco for a few years to come. In his limited games, he hit a decent 264 average, along with one home run and 33 RBI’s. Pretty good stats from a guy who has never really hit for power and never really drives in a ton of runs, however, he’ll need to step up a bit if he wants to remain the everyday backstop with young gun Elias Diaz making a rise to the majors.
- Jordy Mercer SS: Mercer became the everyday guy once the defensively minded Clint Barmes left in free agency a few years ago and had his struggles for the most part, however in 2016 Mercer put together a career year all of his stats reflected that too he hit for a 256 average, eleven home runs, and drove in 59 RBI’s. I fully anticipate his RBI numbers to go down if he is consistently hitting in the eighth spot in the lineup. Clint Hurdle and a lot of other Pirates fans such as myself have voiced how pleased we are with Mercer and hope to see him in a Buc’s uniform for a few more seasons.
Like I had mentioned before this Pirates lineup is going to look a little different compared to what we’ve seen in recent years however there is potential in this lineup to do a lot of big things offensively.