The Pittsburgh Pirates started out 2019 looking like the breakout team of the season. Josh Bell emerged into an All-Star while Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds both excelled in their first full seasons in the majors. The Pirates were a trainwreck in the second half going 28-48 while dealing with more turmoil in the clubhouse than a reality TV show about rich guys wives. Suspensions of Kyle Crick, Keone Kela and of course Felipe Vasquez made an already bad bullpen even worse. The Pirates management made the right decision and moved on from Clint Hurdle. A change of culture was needed, in comes Derek Shelton, a man that knows how to win.
Derek Shelton has a lot to fix in Pittsburgh, the offense may be the one thing he doesn’t. A projected lineup that will include Josh Bell, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Bryan Reynolds should be a solid starting point for the organization. Marte, 31, is the oldest of the aforementioned players has been the mainstay of the organization for years. It’s time for the organization to move onto the Josh Bell ERA. Bell is the evolution of the modern day player, supplying both power and on-base ability.
While the offense has the pieces to build around the pitching staff is lackluster to say the least. The rotation has two young starters to begin their rebuild in Chad Kuhl and Jameson Taillon. Joe Musgrove was a surprise llast year bringing in a 3.3 WAR and solidifying himself as a potential mainstay for years to come. Pittsburgh still has Mitch Keller at the top of their prospect ranks. His first time in the majors was not great but the talent is still there and can help build a strong core for the future.
The Pirate bullpen has more problems than I can fit onto one blog post. Keone Kela will be projected in the closer role followed behind by Kyle Crick, Richard Rodriguez, Michael Feliz and the emergence of Edgar Santana. Last season’s Pirate bullpen was horrible on most accounts, finishing bottom ten or bottom five in most categories. Pittsburgh had serious issues with putting people on base for free, walking 304 players and allowing a .255 BA. They not only put people on but they regularly allowed them to score. With no major additions to the bullpen they Pirates are hoping that new Pitching Coach Oscar Marin can find a way to change up the fortunes of the staff. Marin spent last season as the bullpen coach for the Texas Rangers. Marin was a bargain basement cost but a new face and new appeal could be exactly what the organization is looking for.
Moving Chris Archer, Trevor Williams and Starling Marte should be enough to bring back the prospects to take them from bottom ten ranking (#22 according to Bleacher Report). The Pirates have the assets to help a team that will be in contention. Pittsburgh has to commit to their rebuild by moving their pieces while they still have the value. By moving on from Clint Hurdle they are showing the first step towards a new direction.
The future for Pittsburgh is on the shoulders of Ke’Bryan Hayes, the 34th ranked prospect according to Baseball America. Hayes will likely find his way to the majors in 2020 joining their young rotation pieces. A new direction in the steel city has the chance to work if they are willing to follow the same game plan as fellow NL Central foes Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs. Tough times are ahead for Pittsburgh.