A Free-Flowing (Truncated) Conversation About the 2015 Pirates
04.06.15 Posted by Tim
For the second straight season, Chris and Tim previewed the 2015 Pirates’ season. Key positions were discussed, as well as our season predictions. Here is the truncated transcript of said discussion.
Tim: Kind of a boring spring training, right? No real position battles to discuss since NH said the job belongs to Polanco, outright.
Chris: It’s weird, right? One of the unappreciated things about following a crappy team is that there’s usually a lot of positional drama each year. One position or another will be a veritable black hole, and next thing you know Kevin Freakin’ Polcovich is starting half your games.
Speaking of Polanco, what are your expectations for him this year? It’s fair to say he was underwhelming last year.
Tim: Given his reputation, his defense was really discouraging last year. If he can be a plus defender and run the bases well, then he’ll get a longer leash at the plate. I’m guessing plus defender, plus on the bases, league average hitter; turns the corner at the plate in 2016.
Jung Ho Kang – What do you think the plan will be with him?
As in, how will he be used, where will he start the year (if he keeps up his bad spring), how do you think he’ll play in the bigs?
Chris: I don’t think he starts opening day; I think Mercer does. I think at first he’ll be one of those pinch-hitters that pinch hits pretty much every game, though, and he’s obviously first in line to spell any non-1B infielder who needs a day off. Who he ends up replacing (if anyone) depends mainly, I think, on whether or not Neil Walker can actually hit lefties now.
As for how he’ll play, I think the power will translate pretty well. A dozen homers in a little more than half a season’s worth of at-bats seems likely. I expect the average to be pretty low, but the paucity of power in the league means that you can be useful hitting .230 with a lot of pop. Especially when you play middle infield.
Tim: Long-term, I think this season is a try-out for him to make either Neil Walker or Pedro Alvarez expendable.
Chris: What do you think about Cole this year? Does he finally take The Leap?
Tim: I don’t think it’s very homer-y of me to say that he’s right at the tipping point and, if healthy, will be the starter that we’re hoping for, but it’s also, maybe equally easy to imagine, that he’ll be off and on the DL all year and be a headache.
The Cubs were one of the darlings of the off-season, the Reds are healthy (for now), the Brewers are returning a respectable team, and the 2014 NL Central champion Cardinals added Jason Heyward to their team. Where do the Pirates fit in there?
Chris: This is one of those situations where there’s only one really smart prediction: Cardinals first, Bucs second. It’s totally possible Chicago is better sooner than everyone thinks, and it’s totally possible the Pirates finally catch St. Louis. But I don’t think anyone can say any other prediction is genuinely the most likely–the thing you would bet your life on, if you had to.
That said, what would a season where the Bucs finally top the Cards look like?
Tim: For the Pirates to overtake the Cardinals, I think we’d need 2-3 of the following to happen this year (in order of most to least likely): (1) good, healthy Liriano, Cole, (2) Wainwright to be hurt/middling, (3) Marte to make the leap from 4 WAR to 6 WAR, (4) Heyward to NOT become a great hitter (again), (5) Polanco to post +3 WAR, (6) above-average offense from first base for the Pirates
Chris: The thing about Marte isn’t so much the ceiling, though, but the floor. He’s got the same thing going on as Polanco, where he’s got a diverse enough set of skills that it’d be REALLY hard for him not to be worth a few wins each year. One begins to wonder if this is a deliberate personnel strategy: players that “fail” gracefully. That have upside but very little outright bust potential. Which is exactly what a smaller-market team needs.
Tim: Locke won the 5th spot in the rotation over Worley. Thoughts?
How do you feel about the potential tri-headed beast we’re going to be replacing Russell Martin with?
Tim: The value of Russell Martin is that he’s good at all aspects of catching: framing, handling runners, blocking, calling games, and hitting. All of the other guys look to be good at some of those things, but not all at once. Cervelli looks like a good hitter, framer; Stewart is probably the best defender, worst hitter; and Sanchez can maybe only hit.
What’s your Opening Day lineup for the Pirates? Projected season record?
Chris: My idea lineup is probably:
J. Mercer, SS
F. Cervelli, C
I actually thought a lot about putting Pedro 4th, simply because if you bat Walker 2nd there’s not really anyone else that seems to fit there. That and I like the idea of giving him a fresh start. Whatever the order, though, it’s a pretty imposing lineup.
Projected record: I’ll say 86 wins. Which I think is enough for yet another Wild Card game appearance.
Tim: I’m going to say that the Cardinals age, implode and the Pirates win the Central with an 89-73 record. Hope springs eternal.
Filed under: Chris and Tim Talk About Stuff