The Pittsburgh Pirates have just under two weeks left of spring training. Up to this point, there has been some upside to what the players have been able to accomplish. Obviously, Andrew McCutchen is doing what everyone expects him to do, including himself. ‘Cutch has already belted 4 home runs this spring training, along with 7 RBI, and a .280 batting average. Starling Marte is seeing the ball better than anyone with a whopping .440 batting average. If these two can translate this into the regular season, the outfield will be solid. The soon to be rookie Alan Hanson looks pretty good as well, hitting .333 with a .417 on base percentage. Along with Hanson, Josh Bell might make his MLB debut this year, but unfortunately, he is hitting .158 which is not necessarily a good sign. Overall, the offense looks decent, but you have to take the spring training results with a grain of salt, because there is no consistency for any of the players. One day you start, the next day you sit, and then the following day you could be a pinch hitter. What I am really interested in seeing is how David Freese works out.
The signing of Freese was a solid pick up, because he will be utilized as the starting third baseman until Jung Ho Kang makes his full come back. The other day against the Blue Jays, Freese had a diving catch at the hot corner on a Russell Martin ground ball, and he proceeded to throw Martin out. Clearly, Freese is willing to get down and dirty like he used to for the Cardinals. When Kang does make his come back, Freese will be asked to platoon the first base position with fellow Pirates newcomer John Jaso. Although Freese doesn’t have much experience at first base, he is going to start getting some game time speed at the position within these last few weeks of spring training, according to Clint Hurdle. I do not see any problem with moving Freese over there, especially if he is willing to do it.
When looking at the starting pitchers, there are several question marks. Like I said earlier, take the stats with a grain of salt, but you still might want to shield your eyes. Francisco Liriano is leading the rotation with a 3.36 ERA, and Ryan Vogelsong follows with a 4.00 ERA. Those are both very respectable numbers for spring training, but this is where it gets ugly. Jeff Locke is third with a 7.07 ERA. Yes, he has a lower ERA than Gerrit Cole, who has an ERA of 9.00. Granted, Cole has only pitched in one game, but he still gave up 2 earned runs in 1.2 innings pitched. Cole will not be an issue for the Pirates though, as he will certainly carry his weight for the starting rotation. Jon Niese has a 14.40 ERA in 2 games started. Let’s just hope he is getting it out of his system.
The bullpen has looked better than the starters, with Mark Melancon leading the way with zero earned runs given up in 5 innings pitched. Jared Hughes is the only bullpen guy who has struggled. In 4 games, Hughes has an ERA of 19.64. I don’t see Hughes being the downfall of our bullpen though, and I look for him to get it rolling once the season starts.
Overall, spring training is looking pretty decent, even though some of the numbers look a little scary. There is still about 2 weeks left for everyone to get into their groove, and I see that happening for guys like Cole, and Hughes.
Later on this week I will be giving my bold predictions for the season, including record, final NL Central standings, and playoff predictions!
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