The 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates will appear much different on the field than in years past. They have traded away both CF Andrew McCutchen and ace Gerrit Cole this offseason. Without those two guys, the lineup will have to be slightly altered.

2018 Projected Lineup:                                                    2018 Projected Starting Rotation:

1. Josh Harrison 2B                                                         1. Jamison Tallion RHP

2. Starling Marte CF                                                        2. Ivan Nova RHP

3. Gregory Polanco RF                                                    3. Chad Kuhl RHP

4. Josh Bell 1B                                                                 4. Joe Musgrove RHP

5. Colin Moran 3B                                                            5. Trevor Williams RHP

6. Adam Frazier LF                                                          Closer: Felipe Rivero LHP

7. Jordy Mercer SS                                                          Next Up: Daniel Hudson RHP

8. Starting Pitcher SP

9. Francisco Cervelli C

 

Notable Reserves:                                                               Notable Reserves:

Jose Osuna OF/1B                                                            Tyler Glasnow SP

David Freese 3B                                                               Mitch Keller SP

Sean Rodriguez U                                                             George Kontos RP

Austin Meadows OF                                                          Kyle Crick RP

 

It is not clear yet how manager Clint Hurdle will use his bench and bullpen, but he definitely will have to be creative with his lineup combinations in the 2018 season. The loss of McCutchen leaves a void in the outfield that the Pirates experienced last year during Starling Marte‘s 80-game PED suspension. Hurdle used a platoon in left field during that span which is likely to be the case again this year as Marte moves to center.

If they can get there, the Pirates have one of the best closers in the game in Felipe Rivero. The problem will be getting the ball in his hands with a lead. After being moved the closer role last year, Rivero capitalized on 21 of 23 save opportunities.

The Pirates offense sputtered all of 2017 and ended the year as the third worst offense in all of Major League Baseball. The categories below show just how bad their offense was.

Hits: 1,331 (26th)

Runs: 668 (28th)

HR: 151 (29th)

RBI: 635 (28th)

AVG: .244 (27th)

OBP: .318 (21st)

SLG: .386 (29th)

OPS: .704 (28th)

Without any major additions offensively, the 2018 Pirates are likely to be one of the MLB’s lowest-ranked offenses again. When you think about losing arguably their best hitter in McCutchen, the future does not seem all that bright. Pittsburgh is known for playing small ball i.e. bunting, moving runners over, and stealing bases but the Bucs only had a 65% success rate in the stolen base department last year, good for the second worst in baseball.

The rotation is anything but locked in. Jamison Taillon is listed as their ace has only started 43 games in his career with a respectable 3.98 ERA. Those are not numbers of your typical “ace”. Ivan Nova is next in line as he enters his ninth season at the age of 31. Nova’s numbers have been steady in Pittsburgh but a decline may be in the cards as he ages.

Chad Kuhl, Joe Musgrove, and Trevor Williams all have a possibility of not finishing the year in the starting rotation. None of them are spectacular by any metric and likely will be bumped out by incoming prospects such as Tyler Glasnow and Mitch Keller who will likely either start the year in AAA Indianapolis or the bullpen.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, however you look at it, 2018 will be a rebuilding year for Pittsburgh and management will likely want to spread opportunities out to a number of young prospects. The picture is still not clear in Pittsburgh as Spring Training rapidly approaches.

Pitchers and catchers will report to Pirate camp on February 14th with the rest of team reporting the following Monday to kick off Spring Training.

2018 Record: 70-92

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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