By Kayla Troutman
2019 was a season full of strange events for the Pittsburgh Pirates, from coaches and players fighting, freak injuries, to one of their star players getting arrested. Though there were some bright spots for the 2019 Pirates, last season was frustrating to say the least.
However, there’s always next season.
During this past offseason, the Pirates brought in a slew of managerial and coaching changes. They replaced their president, general manager, manager, bench coach, pitching coach, assistant pitching coach, first base coach, and their bullpen coach. With this new regime, Bob Nutting, Pirates’ owner, hopes to bring a new vibe into the clubhouse and press the “reset” button. “This leadership transition gives us the opportunity to refresh our entire operations,” Nutting says. Hopefully, this proves to be true.
Since the Pirates brought in all these changes, fans thought a rebuild was going to happen… but that was not the case–entirely. One of Cherington’s first moves as new general manager was trading away one of their only star players in Starling Marte, which to many fans signified a rebuild. But, since then, Cherington has not made any significant moves. The Pirates signed a few players (Jarrod Dyson, Luke Maile, Derek Holland, Robbie Erlin) to fill some empty slots but these moves seemed more like they were stopgap moves to many fans.
Regardless of the offseason moves, or lack thereof, the 2020 Pirates team has an opportunity to prove some people wrong and outperform their expectations. Coming into this year offensively, the Pirates have promising rookies, bounce back candidates, and players that are looking to essentially repeat their 2019 year at the plate. Bryan Reynolds, Kevin Newman, and Josh Bell are all players to be paying attention to in 2020, as they all had outstanding seasons last year: Reynolds with a .314 batting average, Newman with a .308 batting average, and Bell with 37 home runs.
On the mound, however, is where the Pirates are in need of help. Their starters consist of a combination of Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams, Mitch Keller, Derek Holland, Steven Brault, and Chad Kuhl (the last three players are “competing” for the last spot in the rotation). The Pirates’ starters last season had a rough go of things, high ERAs and not a lot of help defensively especially near the beginning of the season; however, there are a few bright spots within the rotation. Most of the starters have shown a glimpse of what they can be in the past. Archer is a 2x All-Star, Williams had a stretch in 2018 where he had one of the lowest ERAs in the game, Brault had a stretch where he pitched extraordinarily well in 2019, so not all hope is lost with this staff.
The Pirates bullpen seems like it was thrown together, and honestly, a lot of their guys are not well-known in baseball–yet. Nick Burdi, coming off of Tommy John surgery, was pitching extremely well before his injury last season. Keone Kela, the Pirates’ closer, has 10 SO/9 rate along with a very low ERA. He has the ability to be one of the best closers in the game next season. With Richard Rodriguez, Kyle Crick, and Edgar Santana coming back to the team, the Pirates have a decent core of players in their bullpen.
Overall, on paper, the Pirates do not seem like they have the ability to win, but, when you look closer at their roster, they have some serious bright spots. Their pitching staff is hoping to bounce back from last season and their offense is hoping to be even better than they were last season. Hopefully, with the new management and coaching staff the Pirates will get some things figured out and have a successful 2020 season, if and when it begins!