In “The Rotunda Wrapup” this week, Jordan breaks down the young players that have energized this team and what to expect moving forward…
As we push to the second month of the season the makeup of this team is much different than what I expected in the offseason. Say hello to your new look Baby Buccaneers.
Seemingly overnight, the Pirates have gone from a team who many thought had a window that was closing fast to a group of youngsters with untapped potential. Injuries and performance have both played into the roster, and I am excited by what I see.
With two games left in the first month of the season the Bucs sit at an underwhelming 10-12, but I would make an argument that with the injuries and April schedule they may be poised for a big push over the next few months.
We have seen a little bit of everything in the young season. From my standpoint there have been some encouraging surprises and also some all too familiar issues.
Raise your hand if you were predicting two months ago that the strength of the team would be pitching. I know I didn’t see that coming. While we have all heard of the potential of many prospects, it’s hard not to expect some struggles. Luckily for the Pirates, it looks like Taillon and Nova were anything but flukes last year. In Nova’s case, he was so unbelievably controlled last year with only allowing three walks in 64.2 innings you had to believe he would come back to earth. Fortunately, he has shown that it’s no mistake and he starts this year with only one walk in 27 innings. With Nova pitching the way he is, Taillon showing no signs of a sophomore slump, and Cole being Cole, it allows the Pirates to take a chance on a guy like Glasnow. Big league experience as a 23-year-old is invaluable and Tyler sure is getting some. Even with his horrendous start, the Bucs rotation has been one of the league’s best.
Taillon and Nova are in the top 10 of nearly every pitching stat list there is. Pick a stat. You can look at WAR (pitchers only), ERA, ERA+, Adjusted Pitching runs and wins and WPA/LI. Cole also ranks in the top 10 in many categories also even with his couple of rough innings. When you have three of your five starters giving you these kinds of performances it’s easy to see why I am still very optimistic with what we are seeing.
As for the offense, the Pirates bats have left much to be desired. If I was writing this last week it would probably sound much worse but it seems that a few young guys have brought some energy to the dugout and this team is looking more like the Indianapolis Indians of 2015 every day.
Something I have noticed this week is Josh Bell squaring some balls up and hopefully turning a corner. The Pirates need Bell to provide power. For them to be successful, he needs to be a big part in replacing the production lost with Kang and Marte out. Just when you start to get down he hits one of the most impressive home runs you’ll ever see. Against the Cubs (of all teams) his 107 MPH exit velo and 24 degree launch angle produced a beauty over the notch in left center. If he can produce more power and more consistency, I see him being moved up in the order which could change the look of the lineup significantly. With Frazier going down it has given guys like Jose Osuna and Gift Ngoepe a chance to show that maybe they do, in fact, belong at the Major League level.
If nothing else it is tons of fun watching this team that carries 19 players under 30 on their 25-man roster. Many of whom came through the system together and have the opportunity to make plays for guys they seem to care about. Imagine what the lineup could look like if Polanco could hit and outside pitch to the opposite field instead of rolling it to second base every game.
Basically, if the Bucs could get decent production from Polanco and Cutch and then somehow figure out how to not be the worst defensive team in history then I think you are looking at an 85-win team. However, if the defense continues and over the next few months the young guys aren’t able to keep it going then it’s not hard to imagine a 100-loss team. While sometimes this team will make you pull your hair out, the fact that they can beat ANYONE makes them an exciting team to watch. I look forward to the next five months and you should too. Stay tuned…