Opinion: The Pirates will not be as bad as everyone thinks

Ke'Bryan Hayes warms up before the Pirates game vs. the MIami Marlins on Feb. 24, 2019. The Pirates won the game 10-6.

DMC511, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Ke’Bryan Hayes warms up before the Pirates game vs. the MIami Marlins on Feb. 24, 2019. The Pirates won the game 10-6.

Matthew Szymanowski, Staff Writer

While 2020 was bad enough with a pandemic, it was even worse if you were a Pirates fan. In a shortened 60-game season, the Pirates were only able to muster up 19 wins, the worst in the MLB.

Now you might be thinking that they cannot be worse, right? Well, the experts sure do.

From the looks of it, the Pirates roster is actually worse this year than it was last year. They traded away all-star Josh Bell and their top two pitchers in Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon, and they lost pitchers Chris Archer and Keone Kela to free agency.

Obviously, they lost a lot of talent this off-season. However, this team is not going to be as bad as everyone says it will be.

Let’s start with the offense.

Jacob Stallings is one of the most underrated catchers in baseball. You do not see him hit the long ball much, but he consistently finds ways to get on base and knock in runs. His defense behind the plate is outstanding too, and he finished near the top in the NL Gold Glove voting.

Without Josh Bell at first, Colin Moran will have to step up his game. He had an impressive 2020 campaign, slugging 10 home runs in 52 games. However, if he struggles, the Pirates have a viable option in newly acquired Todd Frazier to take his spot.

Adam Frazier should see most of the playing time at second base. After a disappointing 2020 offensively, Frazier has burst onto the scene in spring training this year. Add what he has been doing offensively to his stellar defense, and Frazier could be an all-star.

The future at the hot corner has arrived in Ke’Bryan Hayes. This kid is an absolute stud, and if he performs half as well as he did in September, he will be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year.

The shortstop position is a tossup. Erik Gonzalez had a solid season in 2020, while Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker are both great defenders. Based on their past successes and 2021 spring training, the job is most likely Newman’s.

The outfield is the key to this team’s offensive success. Bryan Reynolds finished near the top of the 2019 rookie of the year voting, but he had an extremely disappointing 2020. Gregory Polanco strikes out way too often, but he has had a great spring training. If Reynolds can return to form and Polanco keeps hitting, they will be dangerous on the corners. Anthony Alford will most likely be the starting center fielder after a solid 2020 season, but Brian Goodwin may also see some time out there.

The pitching will be… interesting. Steven Brault was in the bullpen not too long ago. Now, he will probably start on Opening Day. They have lots of young talented arms, but none of them are ready for this type of competition yet. Brault, Kuhl, and Keller will probably be their top three arms after they both had excellent 2020 seasons. The last two spots are not entirely set yet, but they will probably go to Tyler Anderson and JT Brubaker. Anderson had a good 2020 campaign pitching for San Francisco, and Brubaker pitched solid last year as well. Newly acquired Wil Crowe, Miguel Yajure, and Trevor Cahill will also be in the mix for those last spots.

Their bullpen struggled mightily last season, but some new arms should help them out. Richard Rodriguez was a great closer for the Pirates last year and should get that role again. Kyle Crick pitched well in 2020 after he returned from injury and should continue in the right direction. Chris Stratton, Geoff Hartileb, and Cody Ponce should also be solid arms throughout the season. Newly acquired Chasen Shreve and David Bednar have absolutely dominated this spring training and will look to keep that going into the season.

As previously stated, this team still will not be that good. However, there is a lot of potential with this group, especially in a weak NL Central division. It should be fun to see this team play and develop throughout the season, hopefully proving their critics wrong.

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