Sunday, February 16, 2014

To Be Determined...

The players are trickling into camp. All the pitchers and catchers are accounted for, and of this morning, 51 of 58 invited position players have reported; they're all due in tomorrow. And the Bucco season will be determined by the way camp plays out...

  • Can the starting rotation overcome the loss of AJ Burnett and his 200 IP? Edison Volquez, Charlie Morton and Wandy Rodriguez/Jeff Locke will have to pick up the slack, and how the bottom three pitchers perform will have a big impact on whether the Pirates regress or not in 2014. Jameson Taillon is on the horizon, but his ETA is still up for debate.
  • Will the staff get deeper into games? The Buc bullpen was ridden hard last year, and more seven-inning games would help keep the arms fresh.
  • Can the bullpen perform up to 2013 standards? There's every indication that they can, but Jason Grilli is 37 and Mark Melancon saw more RH batters in September to take away his cutter's run. Tony Watson and Justin Wilson should remain solid as the bridge, and the long guys are strong, too.
  • What will the Pirates do with Jeanmar Gomez, Stolmy Pimentel, Bryan Morris and Vin Mazzaro? All are out of options, and either one has to move to the rotation, which seems unlikely at this point, or be exposed to waivers.
  • Will the Bucs make a late dive into the first base market or move Andrew Lambo to first? Garrett Jones didn't set a very high bar last year, and Lambo right now is Gaby Sanchez's platoon partner. But the market - both FA and trade - still have several weeks to shake out, so we'll see what the FO has up its sleeve.
  • RF looks like Jose Tabata's to lose, tho the Pirates are taking a chance that a healthy Travis Snider can play up to his hype. Pittsburgh has plenty of outfielders in the pipeline, and the spot should be a seat-warmer until Gregory Polanco is ready. He looks like all that, but has virtually no AAA experience, which may temper the expectations of an early arrival.
The Pirates have sat pat during the off season, both because their prime targets signed elsewhere and they believe that as a young club that there's natural improvement due throughout the lineup. Other than the Cards, the rest of the division was pretty quiet, too, which helps. But the projection services aren't sold on the team as constructed, so young guys like Starling Marte, Pedro and Jordy Mercer, along with a thinner rotation, will determine if the 2014 season is a smash repeat of last season or a step back.

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