March 20, 2008

2008 Pirates Season Preview

Still a draft, I will finish it sometime in the next day or so...

The Manager:
John Russell - He is a first year manager.  He had done time in Pittsburgh from 2003-2005 as a catching instructor and third base coach.

Additions and Subtractions:
While no major additions were made during the offseason, some interesting moves were made.  Doug Mientkiewicz was brought is on a minor league contract to potentially add some depth to the Pirates bench.  A host of starters and former starters were brought in to compete initially for a bullpen spot, but more recently there looks to be a competition for a spot in the rotation.

The key to the additions, the starting lineup from 2007 did not get changed.  Possibly some chemistry will help the team in 2008?

Arrivals:  
RHP Elmer Dessens
LHP Phil Dumatrait
INF Chris Gomez
RHP Byung-Hyun Kim
RHP Evan Meek
1B Doug Mientkiewicz
RHP Ty Taubenheim
OF Kevin Thompson
INF Josh Wilson
RHP Jaret Wright

The departures had some interesting names in it.  Castillo, Chacon and Torres were key Bucco's sent packing.  Castillo never reached his potential, new management decided to cut ties.  Add in the loss of Phelps, and the Pirates bench took a hit this past offseason.

The bullpen took on multiple shots with the departures of Chacon, Torres and to a lesser extent Armas.

Departures:  
RHP Tony Armas
INF Jose Castillo
RHP Shawn Chacon
INF Cesar Izturis
INF Matt Kata
1B Josh Phelps
RHP Salomon Torres
LHP Shane Youman

 
Pitching: 
The rotation, while likely already set, may have some tweaks still performed.  Morris could end up being the odd man out  in the end.  The season will start with these five pitchers, but I expect any struggles will lend to quick hooks for the three thru five starters with so many arms waiting for a shot in the minors.  The starting rotation will be the key to this teams success or failure.  If they all perform well, then the onus will be on the bats.

1. RHP Ian Snell
2. LHP Tom Gorzelanny
3. LHP Paul Maholm
4. RHP Matt Morris
5. LHP Zach Duke


In the Wings for the Rotation:
Jaret Wright, Elmer Dessens, Phil Dumatrait, Yoslan Herrera, Kuwata, Brad Lincoln, Bullington, Van Benschoten


Lineup:
The Lineup should be fairly consistent this season. Bay and LaRoche will swap slots occasionally and the catching position will be a platoon.  Center could be interesting as well, Morgan will get some time out there and a speed lineup (Morgan and McLouth in the same lineup) may be used from time to time to jumpstart a sagging offense. 

McLouth CF
Wilson SS
Sanchez 2B
LaRoche 1B
Bay LF
Nady RF
Paulino/Doumit C
Bautista 3B

Bullpen:
The Pirates will take 12 pitchers north, there is plenty of bullpen help throughout the minors thanks to Littlefields addiction to middle relievers.

Bullpen: 
RHP Matt Capps (closer)
LHP Damaso Marte
LHP John Grabow
LHP Sean Burnett
RHP Byung-Hyun Kim
RHP Franquelis Osoria
RHP Evan Meek

Others in Bullpen Future:
Jonah Bayliss, Hector Carrasco, Casey Fossum, Kuwata, Jaret Wright, Elmer Dessens, Phil Dumatrait, Ty Taubenheim

Bench: 

This could be a very week spot on the team, or a surprising strength. 

C/OF Ryan Doumit
1B/OF Doug Mientkiewicz
INF Chris Gomez
INF Luis Rivas
OF Nyger Morgan

Other Bench Possibles:
OF Kevin Thompson
INF Josh Wilson


Prospects to Watch:
OF Steve Pearce
INF Neil Walker
OF Andrew McCutchen
INF Brian Bixler


 

Five Wild Cards:

  1. Can the offense provide enough runs?
  2. Will the bullpen gel, or struggle with constant shuffling?
  3. Can Andrews, the new pitching coach, get Duke and Maholm back to a couple years ago?  Andrews was the pitching coach who worked with them in their minor league careers.
  4. How soon until trades start happening opening the doors for Pearce, McCutchen, Walker and Bixler to step in?
  5. Who wins the majority of time behind the plate?  This could seriously affect the offense and the pitching.

Five Keys To The Season:
  1. The rotation must be strong and go deep into games.  The bullpen is a collection of duct tape and nailing wire.
  2. Bay needs to get back to All-Star caliber.
  3. LaRoche needs to play the season start to finish.  No .200 average over the first 3 months is allowed.
  4. Capps needs to establish himself as a top notch dominant closer.
  5. A setup man needs to step up and take the role.

 

Fantasy Watch: 
Guys worth a shot: 

Jason Bay, OF:
Adam LaRoche, 1B:
Freddy Sanchez, 2B/3B: 
Nate McLouth, OF:

Jack Wilson, SS:

Matt Capps, CL:
Tom Gorzelanny, SP:
Ian Snell, SP:
Evan Meek, RP:

Prediction:

In a shocker, I think this team may flirt with .500 this season.  I have no idea why, but I just have a feeling. 

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