Pirates baseball is back!

PNC Park is ready for Pirates baseball.

Pixabay, cc

PNC Park is ready for Pirates baseball.

Matthew Szymanowski, Deputy Sports Editor

On September 30, 2018, Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez struck out Reds outfielder Scott Schebler to end the game. This also ended the Pirates’ 2018 campaign as they failed to make the playoffs for a 3rd consecutive season. Last year had more positives than negatives though, as the Pirates finished above .500 for the first time since 2015 with a record of 83-79.

Now it is March and baseball in Pittsburgh is right around the corner.

In fact, the Buccos’ first game of the season is in Cincinnati on Thursday, March 28 at 4 p.m.

The Pirates had a very slow off-season to the surprise of no one. They did acquire infielder Erik Gonzalez from the Cleveland Indians, re-sign third baseman Jung Ho Kang, and sign outfielders Lonnie Chisenhall and Melky Cabrera. Moves they were, but nothing major. They traded away starting pitcher Ivan Nova to the Chicago White Sox and lost middle infield duo Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison to free agency.

To fill the holes of losing the middle infield, the Pirates are turning to newly acquired Erik Gonzalez and top prospect Kevin Newman. Both players have upside, but neither have had much time in the spotlight yet.

Though the Pirates had a decent record last season, every team in the division got better. The reigning division champion Milwaukee Brewers signed Yasmani Grandal, one of the best catchers in the league. The Cardinals acquired star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and signed dominating lefty Andrew Miller. The Cubs had a quiet off-season, but resigned ace starting pitcher Cole Hamels. The Reds made a huge splash when they made a blockbuster trade with the Dodgers, acquiring outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp.

Even with every team getting stronger, the Pirates’ front office still has high hopes for the season.

“It’s a great division,” said general manager Neal Huntington. “It was a great division last year and we finished above .500. If we continue to take care of business in the division and get back to a winning record against the East and West, then we can expect to be in a position to compete to win the division and fight for a playoff spot.” (Nubyas Wilborn, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

The Pirates finished their spring training season in Bradenton, FL, with a solid 15-15 record.

Only 25 players make the Opening Day roster. The Pirates have a very strong rotation with Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Joe Musgrove, and Chris Archer. The bullpen looks solid, with Keone Kela, Kyle Crick, Richard Rodriguez, and star closer Felipe Vazquez.

The biggest question facing the Buccos is if their offense can produce. After a disappointing 2018 season, the Pirates are hoping Josh Bell can bounce back in 2019. They are also looking for more production out of highly talented outfielders Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte. With a full season of Jung Ho Kang, the Pirates have potential in their lineup for this season.

According to FanGraphs, the Pirates are projected to finish 79-83 and last in the division. Even with a poor projection, the Pirates are a team many people are sleeping on. They have a lot of potential, and if they can put it together, they will be a dangerous team in the 2019 season.

The home opener is on Monday, April 1 against the Cardinals.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email