2015 Pittsburgh Pirates: Season Preview
by Jimmy Kail for RiversEdgePGH
(Image Credit: Anson Whaley)
Madison Bumgarner Dominates the Pirates in the 2014 N.L. Wild Card Game 8-0, silencing a packed PNC.
After a free agent frenzy offseason, Neal Huntington and his club had dealt to move forward and compete with the best division in baseball – the N.L. Central. Going in to this year, we are looking at a team with tons of depth, a much better bench, and it’s safe to say that this will be the year fans see what this club is made of. There’s no denying that last October left a sour taste, but by no means should that be a disappointment – submitting to the World Champs that is. It’s time – the future is very bright! Here are 4 reasons why the Pittsburgh Pirates will continue their success and be able to make a run in the playoffs again.
The Bucs are set despite losing Edinson Volquez via free agency. With 2 reliable starters in the front end, bringing back A.J. Burnett fills that void. Vance Worley has pitched well under Ray Searage’s wing, and I expect him to fill the number 4 slot. Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton, Brandon Cumpton figure to be candidates for the last spot, but expect Nick Kingham to get the call come summer time. Kingham posted a 3.58 ERA with Triple-A Indianapolis in 2014 and is #74 among the list of MLB’s top 100 prospects.
With the addition of specialist Antonio Bastardo, the Pirates bullpen only gets better. Mark Melancon returns as closer, complimented nicely by All-Star Tony Watson and Jared Hughes, all whom own sub 2.00 ERAs. The Tank ranks 5th best in the MLB, according to Anthony Castrovince of Sports on Earth and 6th on ESPN’s list.
“Re-Sign Russ” we screamed! Sadly, there was never a change, even though the Pirates made a competitive 4-year offer. Money does the talking. However, Cervelli brings value. I look at it as a win. The Yankees get a struggling Justin Wilson, who absolutely stunk last season and we get an excellent pitch framer, who can bring some pop to the lineup. Despite playing just under fifty games in 2014, Cervelli hit .301. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to a starting role.
Hey, the Pirates spent some money!
2014: $ 71,929,333
2013: $ 66,805,000
Take a look at the last two opening day payrolls. The Pirates were among the smallest markets in the entire league. We had turned our franchise around, making the playoffs back to back years. This year figures to have an opening payroll of around 95 million. Last year’s Kansas City Royals had a payroll just over 92 to give you some perspective.
Notable Additions – Corey Hart, Steve Lombardozzi, Sean Rodriguez, Jung-Ho Kang
Where should the Pirates finish?
Ideally, I see them anywhere from 87-92 wins. But I don’t expect them to win the pennant. The club will finish in 2nd once again, but will make it hard on St. Louis. Chicago will make a strong push as well, but figure to be a strong 3rd place team in the Central. One thing is certain; the Mad-Bum won’t be driving the Pirates crazy this year. Jon Lester will have the honors.