As Ryan has broken down the Starting Pitching, I will be breaking down the lineup with the projections ZiPS has provided. Of course, I also am not a huge fan of these projections. Ryan explained it as well as you probably could with these projections, as they typically just take the average of the past few seasons. Let’s see what they had to say about the Pirates for 2016.
Andrew McCutchen: 550 AB, .293 AVG, .392 OBP, 23 HR, 89 R, 89 RBI, 14 SB, 5.6 WAR
There really isn’t much you could disagree with here. Andrew McCutchen has been the definition of consistency over the past 4 years. He has an OBP of .400 or higher in each of those seasons. This had lead to the push of getting Cutch to bat second for 2016. I feel the numbers could vary a bit though since he is entering the season with a full bill of health unlike last. Also, if him batting second does hold true, that could certainly have an effect. His run total should come closer to the 100 mark, and he may hang around 80 RBI’s, but both aren’t much of a difference. I am a true believer that Cutch will top 30 homers this year. With all that being said, we should hopefully see Cutch hit the 7 WAR zone once again.
Starling Marte: 565 AB, .278 AVG, .334 OBP, 17 HR, 85 R, 69 RBI, 33 SB, 3.8 WAR
I have been such a huge believer in Starling Marte’s talent and expected a breakout last year. Though it was a very good season, I feel there is much more to his game. Also, last year Marte didn’t have a spot in the lineup secured. He hit multiple games in 6 different spots in the batting order. It appears this season he has a clearer spot paved for him, with Marte batting either 3rd or 4th. I see his RBI total rising close to 90, though I have a feeling his stolen bases will be down. He’s never going to draw many walks, but I could definitely see him breaking out hitting for around a .290 clip. A 30/30 season would be pushing it, but I think we will be seeing a 25/25 season out of Starling Marte for 2016!
Jung-Ho Kang: 447 AB, .253 AVG, .324 OBP, 15 HR, 61 R, 62 RBI, 5 SB, 2.3 WAR
Kang is a harder player to project for this year. He is coming of a horrific leg injury, and he is still fairly new to the American game. The numbers ZiPS has projected seem as if they are about right. His average is projected to be down about 35 points. If you take out an amazing July where he hit .379, we was a .263 hitter the rest of season. Now, of course, you can’t just remove the time a players does well, but I think this shows that the projection is still pretty fair. Because of his injury, he once again will probably be brought on slowly this year and may take him some time to hit his groove with the lack of spring training games. I do not really see much to these projections being different. I could assume the average will be higher, but probably not by much. Look for Kang to be hitting his stride once again this summer and making the dog days of August much more exciting. Hopefully, Kang will get some time at short as well to relieve Mercer some time.
Francisco Cervelli: 288 AB, .274 AVG, .352 OBP, 4 HR, 35 R, 28 RBI, 1 SB, 2.2 WAR
I have some issues with Cervelli’s numbers. This is exactly where ZiPS takes in the previous years for their numbers. Cervelli is projected for just 288 at bats, which is in part due because of his numbers with the Yankees. In 2015, he totaled 451 at bats and I certainly do not see any reason this cannot happen again. If he does reach this total, then you can essentially almost double his totals. I can see some regression with the averages as well. Francisco has always been a good hitter, but never really a .300 hitter. If he hits around .275 this season, I would not be shocked. However, a catcher who frames as well as himself and can hit for a .275 average is absolutely an asset. When you factor the adjusted at bats, expect to see Cervelli at around a 3 WAR player. Plus, you have to have nothing but love for a guy who picked his national team because they served wine after the game.
Josh Harrison: 447 AB, .282 AVG, .321 OBP, 8 HR, 63 R, 42 RBI, 14 SB, 2.2 WAR
Saying Harrison had a miserable April would be giving too much credit. In 80 at bats, he batted .213. However, he hit over .300 for the rest of the season. I don’t think we will see a Josh Harrison who was in MVP talks 2 seasons ago, but I do think we have an all-star second baseman on our hands who will outperform Neil Walker in 2016. J Hay isn’t a high on base player much like Marte, but he will hit for average a manage to do some damage on the base paths. With his horrible April, and the injury he sustained that kept him out of the lineup for almost 2 months, he almost reached the projections that are being handed to him this season. If I were to hand out his projections this year, I would say he will bat .295, have a .325 OBP, and be around a 4 WAR player.
Gregory Polanco: 568 AB, .254 AVG, .317 OBP, 12 HR, 82 R, 63 RBI, 25 SB, 2.2 WAR
El Coffee was another ultra hyped prospect in the Pirates organization, but unlike the other outfielders, he really hasn’t lived up to the hype yet. I am not quite sure if Polanco is going to be that player we thought he was going to be, but I do think there is quite a bit of talent that he will be good enough for an every day player for years to come. Looking over the predictions, I think the numbers are spot on. The numbers incorporate some progression, and I believe in the pace they’re predicting. Gregory has put on some muscle once again and should grow into more power numbers as he ages. His defense plays well above average, which helps his overall WAR number, and I think we can expect right around 2 1/2 for this upcoming season once again.
David Freese: 438 AB, .249 AVG, .318 OBP, 11 HR, 50 R, 54 RBI, 1 SB, 1.3 WAR
The acquisition of Freese was a very savvy move for Pittsburgh, but I truly hope that he doesn’t reach 438 at bats this season. Kang seems to be closing in on his return, and Jaso should get the majority of at bats over on first. I could see Freese getting more around 300 at bats this season, and slightly drop this overall numbers. The averages once again seem on par from ZiPS, and even with the limited at bats we should see Freese to be around a 1 WAR player. As I will speak on in the next projection, I would love to see Freese play around 20-25 games at third this season once Kang comes back as well to supplement Mercer’s bat in the lineup.
Jordy Mercer: 433 AB, .254 AVG, .303 OBP, 7 HR, 43 R, 43 RBI, 3 SB, 1.1 WAR
Once touted as a hitting short stop who struggled with the glove, Mercer has turned into an above average defender who has seen his numbers drop each season at the plate. Many people, including myself, have wanted the Pirates to seek another option at short since his arrival. Mercer is a below average player at short, especially with the explosion of talent at the position right now, but he can absolutely pummel left handed pitching. For his career, Jordy carries an .864 OPS vs southpaws. I feel the numbers are about right for Jordy. I would love for the Pirates to get creative though in getting Jordy more off days vs RHP and slide Kang into the position. This would leave Freese to man third, and then possibly Morse or Rogers at first. At any rate, its no secret that Mercer is the low spot when it comes to the lineup, but there are still worse options in MLB.
Jason Rogers: 351 AB, .259 AVG, .332 OBP, 11 HR, 47 R, 43 RBI, 2 SB, .9 WAR
This player really intrigues me. He entered the league at a very late age, much like Garret Jones. Also like Jones, he appears to be able to pack some punch. Rogers will be entering his Pirates career as a 28 year old with just 161 at bats. Luckily, we should not have to rely much on him with the depth there is currently at the corners. Through the minors, he’s bee roughly a .280 hitter who has 20 home run power. Though it was just 161 at bats, Rogers put up more than respectable numbers. From everything we have seen from this player, I cannot argue the projections here. It’s safe to say that Rogers will hit around .260 with some pop. Also, due to the amount of players at the corner, I cannot predict a huge breakout and Rogers gets 400+ at bats in doing so. I think the patters we will start to see here though, is that there is a lot of talent on the Pirates bench.
John Jaso: 233 AB, .270 AVG, .361 OBP, 6 HR, 31 R, 29 RBI, 3 SB, .8 WAR
I love me some John Jaso! Mike Napoli was a name I was hoping the Pirates would land, but then once I saw they landed Jaso at a 2 yr $8M I was ecstatic. Jason present a high on base presence which the Pirates have been lacking for many years outside of McCutchen. He doesn’t have a ton of it, but he does have double digit power as well. Though Ryan and I would rather see him in the 2 hole than leadoff, its clear the Pirates feel this bat deserves to be in the top of the lineup to finally give this team some people on base for the middle of the lineup. Jaso should easily top 350 at bats this season, therefore eclipsing these predictions. It may be me, but I want to go on record saying that John Jaso will have 400 at bats with about the same averages, but will have closer to 75 runs and 60 RBI’s. Jaso will be close to a 3.5 WAR player this season.
Chris Stewart: 182 AB, .247 AVG, .298 OBP, 1 HR, 14 R, 15 RBI, 1 SB, .5 WAR
There is nothing sexy about Chris Stewart. The 1 home run they are giving him is clearly a sympathy projection. If Stewart gets over 10 extra base hits, I will run around naked at the point. Stewart is a very good backup catcher, though. I do not see these extremely low numbers coming from Stewart this season. For the past 2 years, all Stewart has done is bat .292 and get on base 34% of the time. He is also very solid with the glove. He will get very limited at bats, but those at bats should not hurt the Pirates so much. His extreme lack of power isn’t ideal, but there are teams looking for a starter that can play as well as Stewart.
Michael Morse: 325 AB, .243 AVG, .301 OBP, 12 HR, 33 R, 37 RBI, 0 SB, .1 WAR
Michael Morse has been connected to the Pirates by many fans for a few years now. The lack of production at first has made Pirate fans salivating at the possibility of bringing in Morse. The problem is, that fantastic season where he hit over 30 bombs is now five years in the wind. The projections ZiPS provides seems on par due to where his career has gone, but I am one who believes Morse is done. As a fan, I truly hope I am wrong, but there is just this hunch in me that feels like we could see a Wandy Rodriguez type plummet here. at 34 years of age and plenty of injuries, there is reason to think this. Also, he has only had one productive season in the past 3 years. The other two, he’s produced a negative WAR totaling an astronomical -2.1. Because of the depth with Jaso, Freese, Rogers, Rodriguez, and Bell awaiting in the minors, I think the Pirates should try to showcase the spring Morse is having and try to pawn him in some sort of trade. Will it happen? Doubtful. He still has the possibility of being a useful bench bat and depth on the team, but there is just something not sitting right with me about Morse this season.
Sean Rodriguez: 229 AB, .236 AB, .280 OBP, 5 HR, 28 R, 28 RBI, 2 SB, .1 WAR
Rodriguez is essentially what he appears to be. He is a replacement type player who isn’t going to tear it up (unless you are a gatorade cooler) but he adds value with his versatility and clubhouse presence. There aren’t too many players on too many teams that command respect he does from the bench. He is truly a guy who goes all in every day for every play and grinds. No, his numbers are not good. The projections seem to be about right here as well. S-Rod will be used much less this year now that Pedro is playing for a team who is going nowhere this year, and that bodes well for the Bucs. As long as he can go in and provide a breather every now and again, that is all we should assume to expect out of Rodriguez.