The 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates

2013 Results: 94-68, 2nd in NL Central (3 games behind)
Key Arrivals: SP Edinson Volquez
Key Departures: SP A.J. Burnett, 1B Justin Morneau, OF Marlon Byrd, 1B Garret Jones, C John Buck, SP Jeff Karstens

The Pirates will be once again depending on the emergence of its young talent to continue its run to the top of the NL Central. They finally broke through, getting into the playoffs as a Wild Card, and then beating Cincinnati in the Wild Card Game. On the arms of their super rookie Gerrit Cole, the Pirates took the Cardinals to five games before Adam Wainwright did them in with the series on the line.

Their pitching staff was their hallmark last season once again, this time reinforced from the minor leagues. Much like the Cardinals did, the Pirates had several pitchers make starts. Their performance is definitely a credit to Russell Martin, the Pirates’ catcher who is known for his ability to handle pitching staffs. But this year they will be lacking AJ Burnett, who has headed that rotation the last two years. They will be hoping that Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole create the Pirates’ new 1-2 punch and that Wandy Rodriguez will be able to stay off the DL.

With the wealth of pitching the Pirates have, they will no doubt be in contention. Their question once again is going to be the offense. Centered around center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the offense has lacked much bite outside of him. In each of the last two seasons the Pirates have added bats at the trade deadline. This last year they added Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd. Each left in the offseason for contracts elsewhere, leaving holes behind.

The Pirates have the ability to be a Giants-type competitor. When you look at the Giants teams that won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, they had excellent pitching and timely hitting. The Pirates aren’t going to blow you out often, but they will get the hits they need when they need them.

2014 Verdict: Pittsburgh should roll back a bit this year, but still be in the mix. 85-90 wins this season and once again contending for a wild card spot.