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2020 MLB Team Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

Steve Buchanan provides his thoughts on what the 60-game MLB season could look like for the Pirates.

July Update: Even before the MLB season was delayed, Pirates fans weren’t exactly longing for the season to begin. Now, with the season mere days away, news came out that Gregory Polanco had tested positive for COVID-19. With the trade of Starling Marte earlier this year, the Pirates outfield will be even thinner, as Guillermo Heredia and Jose Osuna will likely step in for Polanco. The team will also be without the services of Chris Archer, as he underwent neck surgery and will miss the entire season. Jameson Taillon will also be out as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery. Needless to say, a rotation that’ll be anchored by Trevor Williams and Joe Musgrove, 2021 can’t come soon enough.

If you’re a Pirates fan, maybe you aren’t all that upset that the 2020 season is delayed. The team hardly made any moves nor did they lose anyone. That really doesn’t seem like a great thing, as they finished 2019 with a 69-93 record, good for last in the NL Central. From a baseball perspective, we do have some aspects to look forward to on this team, as some of the young and up and coming stars will continue to show off their talent. Other than that, well, the future will be bright!

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DraftKings Sportsbook odds

— Division Winner: +3500

— League Winner: +10000

— World Series: +10000

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Key Departures:

Starling Marte OF, Josh Lindblom, SP

Key Acquisitions:

Jarrod Dyson, OF; Guillermo Heredia, OF

2020 Fantasy MVP

Josh Bell, 1B

It’s not easy to find a potential MVP on this team both on offense and pitching. Sure, some players could do well like Kevin Newman or Bryan Reynolds but I don’t think either has enough to post those MVP type numbers, even on a Pirates team. Bell is coming off a good 2019 in which he slashed .277/.367/.569 with 37 home runs, 116 RBI and 94 runs scored through 143 games. After a very poor showing in 2018, Bell improved dramatically in almost every category and remains a very good on-base threat. Bell has posted at least a 12 BB% in three of his four seasons in the majors, ending with 12.1% last season. He also exhibited his highest hard contact rate last year, jumping from 33.8% in 2018 to 45.4% last season. His HR/FB rate was a very impressive 24%, which is quite the jump from the meager 9% in 2018. While he could struggle to knock in runs this season with the unimpressive lineup surrounding him, the power should be here to stay.

2020 Fantasy LVP

Chris Archer, SP

I just don’t think we have much to like here. In 2018, Archer was dealt to the Pirates where even I myself, thought he would be able to flourish. Thankfully, I kept that sentiment to myself (I just went back and checked my Twitter and I did indeed keep it to myself, so nice try). It hasn’t been a great tenure as a Pirate and last season really was the tip of the iceberg. Sure, he still puts up respectable strikeout numbers with a 27.2 K% but his BB% also jumped all the way up to 10.5%, which is the highest of his career if you don’t count the six games he pitched in back in 2012. Archer has been someone who has exhibited good command, so that number is concerning. The home run numbers also took a jump, going from 1.1 in 2018 to 1.8 in 2019. Tossing half of your games at PNC Park should HELP bring those numbers down, not have them go up. He’s still only 31 years old so he still has time to turn things around but, man, he did not show much promise last season through 23 starts.

2020 Breakout Player

Kevin Newman, SS

Newman is one of the players we can be excited about for 2020. He posted some impressive power numbers for someone who never really flashed much at any point during his minor league career. In fact, his ISO never exceeded .128 at any point in the minors. While the power wasn’t huge through 130 games, he did have 12 home runs, which was by far more than anything he hit in the minors. While those were nice, he totaled just 26 total extra-base hits aside from the home runs, which isn’t great when you figure he had 152 hits in total. Nonetheless, his speed on the basepaths (16 stolen bases in ’19) and hitting for a high average should make him one of the better breakout candidates for this team.

Final Thoughts:

It’s not going to be an exciting time for the Pirates this season, which is unfortunate as I think the NL Central is going to be a division that is wide open for the taking. Quite frankly, the Pirates are the only team I’m not giving a chance to take down the crown once the season begins. As they continue to retool, they’ll look toward the future and depending on how the calendar for this season looks, could sell off some of their veterans if we end up with a trade deadline at some point. We could see one of their better prospects come up in Ke’Bryan Hayes and more from Mitch Keller but this team still has work to do in the minors as well. This will continue to be a long rebuild for Pittsburgh but they’re getting there.

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