Opening Day for the Pirates is tomorrow, so I can't put it off any longer - It's 2017 Prediction Time!
I have already missed on one prediction. I said that Trevor Williams would nail down the all-important Fifth Starter role, and not Tyler Glasnow. I believe that I DIDN'T have that, but it is of some comfort to me that my pal Joe Risacher didn't have that one either, so I'm in good company.
As you can tell from the title of this little monograph, my biggest concern with the Bucs this coming season is not with the Starting Pitching, although that is a concern, but, rather, with the state of the infield. It all began with the ill-fated decision of Jung Ho Kang to get plastered, get behind the wheel of a car, and get arrested and subsequently convicted of this crime for either the third or fourth time of his life (details are fuzzy, much like Jung Ho's judgement). So, it is now unknown when or even if, Kang and his home run bat and third base defense will be available to the team in 2017 or ever again, and that causes a lot of dominos to fall.
So, who's on third? It appears that some combination of David Freese, John Jaso, and Josh Harrison will man the hot corner. But, wait, you say, isn't Harrison at second base? Apparently not, because the team itself seems a bit tepid about Harrison as a second baseman. Not sure when that discontent began, but it appears to be real, and Adam Frazier now seems to be the next Pirates second baseman. Frazier came up from Indy last year and performed admirably as a utility guy and pinch hitter, and he has been tearing the cover off the ball throughout the Grapefruit League, so, who knows, he may be the second coming of Dave Cash. However, the ever cautious Pirates front office had never touted Frazier as anything more than a utility/super-bench guy, so it is hard to see him as the guy you rely on for 140 or so games at a critical position.
First base will be manned by former super prospect Josh Bell. Bell made a stunning debut when brought from Indy last year so one can be optimistic. However, there was knee surgery in January, and a Grapefruit League batting average below .110 this spring. And we are continually being cautioned that he is "still learning" to play first base.
The makes Jordy Mercer the beacon of infield stability at short stop. Mercer is a nice ball player, but if he's your best and strongest infielder, that could be a sign that you might have troubles contending for post-season glory.
Two other infielders round out the roster, filling out the coveted, controversial, and always much talked about 24th and 25th spots on the roster. Phil Gosselin, obtained in a minor deal with Arizona in the off-season, and one time hot shot prospect Alen Hanson. Let the kvetching begin.
So, I will leave you with a couple of predictions for 2017:
- Gerritt Cole will have a bounce back season, and look more like the nineteen game winner/under 3.00 ERA guy he was in 2015. He will be a true ace and will make the All-Star team.
- Sadly, the will be the last year for Andrew McCutchen in a Pirates uniform. This has been much discussed since the end of last season - at times it seemed to be the ONLY thing that was discussed about team - and the only question is will he finish the season with the team, or be dealt at the July 31 deadline? This is a topic sure to be written about as the season progresses.
- We will see Austin Meadows at some point in the season.
- And the big prediction..Wins and Losses. I am going to be optimistic and say that the team will win more than it loses. Let's call it 83 wins, which, alas and alack, will not be good enough to make the post-season.
- The Los Angles Dodgers will defeat the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.
As always, watch but don't bet, enjoy the season, and Let's Go Bucs!!!