30 Clubs in 30 Days: Pittsburgh Pirates

Since I know you’re all clamoring for it, here’s my bracket. Congratulations to Villanova on their second national championship in 3 years, third overall. I did make it safely into Fort Lauderdale, encountered a lot of problems, but everything is good. The wifi in my hotel is AWFUL, so there may be a chance that I have to miss a day on the blog. Fingers crossed I don’t have to. But anyway, let’s get to today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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2017 Results:

Record: 75-87, 17 games behind Chicago Cubs, 12 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: LF Corey Dickerson, OF Daniel Nava, SP Joe Musgrove, 3B Colin Moran, LF Michael Saunders, RP Kyle Crick

Notable Offseason Subtractions: OF Andrew McCutchen, SP Gerrit Cole, 1B John Jaso, RP Daniel Hudson, RP Joaquin Benoit, RP Dan Runzler, C Chris Stewart

Best Offensive Player: CF Starling Marte

Best Pitcher: Ivan Nova

Depth Chart:

C-Francisco Cervelli, Elias Diaz

1B-Josh Bell

2B-Josh Harrison, Sean Rodriguez

3B-David Freese, Colin Moran

SS-Jordy Mercer

LF-Corey Dickerson, Adam Frazier

CF-Starling Marte

RF-Gregory Polanco, Bryce Brentz

SP-Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove, Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, Tyler Glasnow

Bullpen-Felipe Rivero (CP), George Kontos, Kyle Crick, Michael Feliz, AJ Schugel, Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Clint Hurdle (8th season with Pirates)

Hitting Coach-Jeff Branson

Pitching Coach-Ray Searage

1st Base Coach-Kimera Bartee

3rd Base Coach-Joey Cora

Bench Coach-Tom Prince

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The Pirates are all in on their rebuild. They traded their two most prolific players in Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole to try and build for the future. They didn’t take the next step after their breakthrough starting in 2013 and now they’re trending back towards mediocrity. It’s a smart move to get out in front of these rebuilds, especially if they didn’t have any real chance at competing in the first place. Here’s a look at the potential lineup for the Pirates.

1. Corey Dickerson-LF

2. Josh Harrison-2B

3. Starling Marte-CF

4. Josh Bell-1B

5. Gregory Polanco-RF

6. Francisco Cervelli-C

7. David Freese/Colin Moran-3B

8. Jordy Mercer-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There’s a lot of underperforming talent in this lineup. It starts with Starling Marte, who is a freak athlete but got busted for PED’s last season and missed 80 games. In his limited time last season, he hit .275 with 7 home runs and 31 RBI with 21 stolen bags and a 1.2 WAR. He’s one of the fastest players in the game and a talented hitter but he’s one of those guys that I think could be so much better but for whatever reason just hasn’t taken that next step. Josh Harrison is a guy I enjoy watching play. There’s just something about him that gets me excited to watch him go. Last season he hit .272 with 16 home runs and 66 RBI while being able to play pretty much every position imaginable. Josh Bell was a breakout stud for them last season, hitting .255 with 26 home runs and 90 RBI, providing a big power bat in the middle of their lineup. But after those guys there isn’t a whole lot. Gregory Polanco was a guy I heard several people compare to Barry Bonds when he debuted and he has been far from being that dangerous threat. He had a pretty solid 2016 but his 2017 left a lot to be desired. He hit .251 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI while playing a pretty good right field but also being one of the worst baserunners in baseball. There is some talent in their minor league system such as Austin Meadows, who could be seeing some playing time before this season gets out. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Pirates selling some of their talented assets at the Trade Deadline for a team trying to make a late push for the postseason.

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After trading Gerrit Cole, there isn’t much to go off of in this Pirates rotation in 2018. Slated to start opening day for the Bucs is Ivan Nova, who has been just okay since joining Pittsburgh after a disappointing tenure with the Yankees. Last year he went 11-14 with a 4.14 ERA while posting a measly 6 K/9. He isn’t a bad pitcher but being a team’s ace is nowhere near where his talent merits. Jameson Taillon is a talented guy and he showed a lot of ability last season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. He was able to return after successful surgery and was able to make 25 starts, going 8-7 with a 4.44 ERA but a 3.48 FIP, suggesting the Pirates’ defense wasn’t a big help for him. Taillon is a guy who could be the team ace by next season and I think he’s someone they can build this rotation around. Tyler Glasnow is another talented pitcher in the rotation but he’s been a nightmare at the Major League level. He carries a career 6.75 ERA in 22 appearances and 17 starts. I don’t expect this rotation to really do a whole lot, they did finish 13th in the Majors in team ERA last season but they lost their best pitcher in Gerrit Cole and didn’t acquire anybody that will ease that loss.

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There isn’t much talent in the Pirates bullpen with the exception of their closer Felipe Rivero. Rivero really burst onto the scene in 2017. He posted a 1.67 ERA while striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings and recorded 21 saves. His fastball can touch 100 miles per hour and he’s got the breaking ball to throw off hitters’ timing like you wouldn’t believe. After him, though, there’s a pretty steep drop. George Kontos is a decent reliever with a pretty solid cutter but the rest of that ‘pen is filled with guys I’ve never heard of. Though looking at their numbers, AJ Schugel is a guy I should start paying attention to, as he posted an ERA of 1.97 in 32 appearances. But otherwise there isn’t a whole lot to really be paying attention to at the moment.

Overall, I don’t expect much out of the Pirates. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this whole team gets blown up at the trade deadline. After a few good players there’s a pretty steep drop in productivity that will really limit this team’s ceiling. Clint Hurdle, who is an excellent manager, will likely be on the way out as they get into a full rebuild process once they start to drop in the standings.

Projected Record: 76-86, 4th in NL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the San Diego Padres, whom I got to briefly work for at the Home Run Derby in 2016 and really got me invested in their culture (pretty much just worshiping Tony Gwynn). Let me know what you think of the Pirates’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Houston Astros

The NFL Combine began yesterday and there are a couple of things I want to bring to light. Penn State runningback Saquon Barkley was a freaking monster, as he ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash among runningbacks at an unofficial 4.41 and tied for the most bench press reps at 29. You can’t really say Barkley helped himself at the Combine because his draft stock couldn’t have been much higher already. On the other end, Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown was abysmal. He ran a 5.86 40-yard dash (nobody who has ever run worse than 5.7 has ever made the NFL) then only did 14 bench press reps. Brown is 6’8 340 pounds and he did 14 reps at 225 pounds. I’ve got a buddy I work out with who I’m confident can do that and he’s a college freshman. Brown also got chewed out by a coach for dogging his drills. Bad day for Brown. I had him as my #3 tackle and a late first round prospect at that but those numbers are alarming. I’ll do a Combine recap after the event is done so we can get my full thoughts on who helped their stock and who hurt it. But for now, it’s day 12 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days and today we have the defending champion Houston Astros.

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2017 Results:

Record: 101-61, won AL West by 21 games over Anaheim Angels. Defeated Boston Red Sox in ALDS. Defeated New York Yankees in ALCS. Defeated Los Angeles Dodgers in World Series.

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Gerrit Cole, RP Joe Smith, RP Hector Rondon

Notable Offseason Subtractions: DH Carlos Beltran (retired), SP Francisco Liriano, SP Joe Musgrove, 3B Colin Moran, RP Luke Gregerson, OF Cameron Maybin

Best Offensive Player: 2B Jose Altuve

Best Pitcher: Justin Verlander

Depth Chart:

C-Brian McCann, Evan Gattis (DH), Juan Centeno, Max Stassi

1B-Yuli Gurriel, Tyler White

2B-Jose Altuve, Tony Kemp

3B-Alex Bregman

SS-Carlos Correa

LF-Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher

CF-George Springer, Jake Marisnick

RF-Josh Reddick

SP-Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers, Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock

Bullpen-Ken Giles (CP), Will Harris, Chris Devenski, Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, Hector Rondon, Buddy Boshers

Coaching Staff:

Manager-AJ Hinch (4th season with Astros)

Hitting Coach-Dave Hudgens

Pitching Coach-Brent Strom

1st Base Coach-Alex Cintron

3rd Base Coach-Gary Pettis

Bench Coach-Joe Espada

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The Houston Astros won their first World Series in franchise history just months after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area. This victory meant a lot for the city of Houston as it was a moment of happiness for everyone in a time of grief. This is VERY similar to the 2013 Red Sox, who won the World Series just months after the Boston Marathon bombings. But the Astros are also about as loaded a team as you’re going to find in Major League Baseball. Here’s how they’re projected to line up in 2018.

1. George Springer-CF

2. Alex Bregman-3B

3. Jose Altuve-2B

4. Carlos Correa-SS

5. Yuli Gurriel-1B

6. Josh Reddick-RF

7. Marwin Gonzalez-LF

8. Evan Gattis-DH

9. Brian McCann-C

There are superstars all over this lineup, most notably of course being reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve. Last season Altuve won MVP over the likes of Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez by hitting .346 with 24 home runs, 81 RBI, 32 stolen bases, 112 runs scored, and was worth 7.5 WAR. Not bad for a guy who’s the same height as my mom. Protecting him in the lineup is Carlos Correa, arguably the best shortstop in the game and a guy that has drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez. Correa hit .315 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, slugged .550, and was worth 5.2 WAR in an injury-plagued season. And we cannot forget World Series MVP George Springer at the top of the lineup. Last season Springer hit .283 with 34 home runs, 85 RBI, 112 runs scored, and was worth 4.5 WAR. In the World Series, Springer was a monster after a poor Game 1 where he struck out in all 4 at bats (he was the first World Series MVP ever to have such a game in the same Series). He hit .379 with 5 home runs and 7 RBI in the Fall Classic, and this is including that Game 1 performance. If you don’t include that, Springer hit .440. There are so many other guys in this lineup that can kill you too. Alex Bregman was clutch in the postseason. Josh Reddick hit .314 and was worth 3.5 WAR. Marwin Gonzalez, their usual super utility guy, hit .303 and was worth 4.1 WAR. This lineup is absolutely loaded with young talent and the Astros expect to be bullies in the American League for quite some time.

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The Astros’ starting rotation is arguably just as loaded as their lineup. They have two Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel at the top of their rotation with another Cy Young candidate in Gerrit Cole, whom they acquired from the Pirates in the offseason, right behind them. After being acquired by the Astros from the Tigers at the last minute, Verlander went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 34 innings, striking out 43 batters in the process. Keuchel returned to his 2015 Cy Young-winning form after a down 2016 season by going 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA in 23 starts. Gerrit Cole comes from the Pirates after a down season, however he is capable of fantastic numbers, such as his 2015 season where he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA. The big question mark is going to be who the #5 starter is. The candidates for that job are Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, and Brad Peacock. The losers will likely wind up in the bullpen because they’re all too talented to keep in AAA, which is a good problem for the Astros to have. Plus if anybody in the rotation gets injured, they’ll have each of these guys on retainer. My pick to win the 5 spot is Charlie Morton, who is suddenly getting his fastball up in the high-90’s and earned manager AJ Hinch’s trust to close out Game 7 of the World Series.

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The Astros’ bullpen struggled in the postseason, particularly in the World Series, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a talented bunch. Closer Ken Giles pitched to a 2.30 ERA and struck out almost 12 batters per 9 innings while saving 34 games. It looks pretty apparent that the Astros won that trade with the Phillies after they traded former #1 overall pick Mark Appel to get Giles as Appel is stepping away from the game without having reached the Major Leagues. Will Harris was an All Star in 2016 and in 2017 he had an ERA of 2.98 and struck out 10 batters per 9. Chris Devenski pitched to a 2.68 ERA and struck out 11.16 batters per 9. They also added submarine pitcher Joe Smith to the bullpen as well as former Cubs closer Hector Rondon. I expect this group to return to their regular season form and make people forget about how brutal they were in the World Series.

Overall, I expect the Astros to be favorites to repeat as World Series champions. AJ Hinch’s club didn’t lose anybody of major significance and only got better, as they added the likes of Gerrit Cole to an already deep pitching rotation. Their core is also very young, as each of Springer, Altuve, Correa, and Bregman are all under the age of 28. Not only is this team going to score a ton of runs, but they’re going to prevent a ton of runs as well with their stacked pitching staff. Unlike last season, they will face a bit stiffer competition in their division as the Angels have added a lot of pieces to their roster that could make them challengers to the Astros’ throne while the Mariners could be a sneaky team in that division.

Projected Record: 101-61, Win AL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Kansas City Royals, who will be in the first stages of life after their core that led them to their 2015 World Series title. Let me know what you think of the Astros’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.