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: Philadelphia Phillies

There’s a video circulating of ODell Beckham Jr in a hotel room with a woman smoking what looks like a blunt and what appears to be cocaine present in the room. The blunt I don’t really care about, it’s pretty well known that a large majority of NFL players smoke weed and even the NFL is like “you can’t smoke weed, wink wink,” but the blow is a different issue. Beckham doesn’t snort the substance in the video so maybe they just emptied the sugar out of a bag of sour patch kids. Can’t really know for sure unless you stick a little bit on your tongue or snort it so let’s give Beckham the benefit of the doubt before condemning him. Also I know Selection Sunday was yesterday, but I’m writing this in the airport before my flight at 11 AM just in case things get out of control tonight, so I won’t be sharing my March Madness bracket until tomorrow. We’ve got a couple days between Selection Sunday and the play-in games so I’m not too worried. With that, let’s get to day 21 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Philadelphia Phillies.

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2017 Results:

Record: 66-96, 31 games behind Washington Nationals, 21 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Jake Arrieta, 1B Carlos Santana, RP Pat Neshek, RP Fernando Abad, RP Tommy Hunter, IF Adam Rosales

Notable Offseason Subtractions: OF Daniel Nava, OF Hyun Soo Kim, SP Clay Buchholz

Best Offensive Player: 1B Carlos Santana

Best Pitcher: Jake Arrieta

Depth Chart:

C-Jorge Alfaro, Cameron Rupp

1B-Carlos Santana, Tommy Joseph

2B-Cesar Hernandez

3B-Maikel Franco

SS-JP Crawford, Adam Rosales

LF-Rhys Hoskins

CF-Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn

RF-Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr

SP-Jake Arrieta, Aaron Nola, Jared Eickhoff, Vincent Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin

Bullpen-Hector Neris (CP), Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Edubray Ramos, Fernando Abad

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Gabe Kapler (1st season with Phillies)

Hitting Coach-John Mallee

Pitching Coach-Rick Kranitz

1st Base Coach-Jose Flores

3rd Base Coach-Dusty Wathan

Bench Coach-Rob Thomson

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I was pretty disappointed in the Phillies last season. I thought last year was the year their young guys would start to put it together and show some progress in this rebuild. But they didn’t, really. The team continued to suck and finished with a record of 66-96, second worst in the NL. They continue to pay for not drafting me in the 2014 MLB Draft. They sent a scout to my high school and he witnessed with his own two eyes me line a single down the left field line to start a 9th inning rally. Who cares if I had a weak throwing arm, no speed, little power, and started 2 games all season (and yes, I did check to make sure they didn’t actually draft me)? That one hit should’ve been all the proof they needed. Instead they drafted Aaron Nola, but I’ll get to him later. They hired Gabe Kapler to be their new manager, as I recommended they should, so hopefully the young guys develop the way they should. Here’s a look at what he’s got to work with heading into this season.

1. Odubel Herrera-CF

2. Cesar Hernandez-2B

3. Carlos Santana-1B

4. Rhys Hoskins-LF

5. Maikel Franco-3B

6. Nick Williams/Aaron Altherr-RF

7. JP Crawford-SS

8. Jorge Alfaro-C

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There’s some young talent here. JP Crawford is one of the top prospects in all of baseball and he got a brief taste of the Majors last season. He only hit .214 in 23 games but he walked a TON, as he reached ball 4 on 18.4% of his plate appearances (which would’ve ranked 4th in the Majors behind Joey Votto, Aaron Judge, and Mike Trout), resulting in a .356 OBP despite the low average. Maikel Franco is a guy I’ve been frustrated with because he’s one of the most talented third basemen in the game but he has done nothing so far in the Majors. Reportedly the newly-signed Carlos Santana is taking him under his wing, though, so if he can learn from Santana’s approach, then we could see a significant uptick in production. Santana is notorious for his plate discipline, as he’s traditionally one of the best at drawing walks year-in and year-out while also displaying 30-home run power. But of course, the biggest story for the Phillies offensively last season was Rhys Hoskins. Despite only playing 50 games last season, Hoskins launched 18 home runs, slugged .618, and was worth 2.2 WAR. That’s outstanding for such a short period of time. He’s going to do a lot of damage for the Phillies this season and he’ll likely be doing it with runners frequently on base ahead of him, as Santana draws a lot of walks and Odubel Herrera has never hit below .280 in his 3-year career. So provided this talented group of youngsters grows under Kapler the way I thought they would last season under Pete Mackanin, this could be a sneaky good offense.

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Pitching was pretty inconsistent for the Phillies last season, as they posted a 4.60 team ERA. There’s a lot of untapped potential in this staff. Aaron Nola looks like a budding star at the top of their rotation. Last year he went 12-11 with a 3.54 ERA and struck out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings. He’s already been named the Opening Day starter against the Atlanta Braves, a huge honor for the 24 year-old. After him there’s some talented guys but with mixed results. Jared Eickhoff showed flashes of brilliance at times for the Phillies but his final numbers were pretty underwhelming, posting a 4.71 ERA and striking out a little over 8 batters per 9. Vince Velasquez is another guy who has flashed a ton of ability, particularly in a 2016 start against the Padres when he threw a shutout while striking out 16 batters on just 3 hits. However he also hasn’t built on that amazing outing, as he finished with an ERA over 5 in 2017. Kapler has a reputation for developing players in the Dodgers’ organization so hopefully for these guys’ sakes he’s able to work his magic with them, too. This is also a late edit, but I had already had this blog set up so forgive me if it reads weird, but Jake Arrieta just agreed to a 3-year $75M deal with the Phillies. It likely doesn’t change Nola’s status as team ace, but it is certainly a MAJOR upgrade on the mound. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner didn’t have his best year in 2017, but he’s still a stud on the mound. It’ll be interesting to see how soon he’s able to suit up for the Phillies.

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There’s a lot to be desired in the Phillies bullpen. Hector Neris is set to be their closer and he was pretty good last season, saving 26 games with a 3.01 ERA and 10.37 K/9. He’s got some electric stuff and I think he could be a potential breakout candidate. The star for the Phillies’ pen was 36 year-old Pat Neshek. Before being traded at the Deadline to the Rockies, Neshek was the Phillies’ lone All Star last season, posting a 1.12 ERA while striking out over 10 batters per 9, a very high number for a submarine pitcher at his age. Neshek returned to the Phillies in free agency in the offseason and he will likely be the 8th inning guy and possibly the closer when Neris can’t go. After those guys there’s a lot of uncertainty. New additions Fernando Abad and Tommy Hunter have had success in the past but have also had plenty of rough patches and might not be the most reliable guys for the Phillies. This bullpen may struggle in 2018.

Overall, I think there’s talent on the Phillies and like the A’s in yesterday’s blog, it’s all going to come down to how their young guys develop. If Kapler can awaken the talent in these guys like he did for guys like Chris Taylor and Justin Turner with the Dodgers, then the Phillies’ rebuild could be ending very soon. I think the Phillies are going to be my pick for most-improved team in 2018.

Projected Record: 75-85, 3rd in NL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are on the brink of a rebuild after trading stars Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Let me know what you think of the Phillies’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.