A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE PIRATES
The losing-season streak will continue: Get ready for number 21. There's talent there, but they didn't do anything to improve.... Starling Marte has to have a breakout season. He's kind of a poor man's Andrew McCutchen, a good all-around player who can hit 20 home runs and has some speed.... Pedro Alvarez needs to become more than a home run hitter, but I don't see that happening. He's going to hit 30 for years to come, but he's nothing more than a .250 hitter with tons of strikeouts.... G.M. Neal Huntington should go out and get a rightfielder. Travis Snider is not an everyday major league player.... Russell Martin gives them a veteran presence, and his leadership will be good for the young pitchers.... The loss of Joel Hanrahan is going to hurt. That move really weakened the team. The bullpen could have been a strength, but with him gone, there are a lot of question marks. Jason Grilli is reaching 97 mph, but he's never been a closer, so that could fall apart very quickly.... A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez could both give them 200 innings, but neither is a No. 1 starter. And Francisco Liriano is close to being done; he's a shell of what he was when he first came out of the minors.... The future rests on Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. But they're not ready yet: Both need to go back to the minors to work on their command and learn to pitch off the fastball. As usual, it's all about the future in Pittsburgh.
2013 Projected Statistics
MANAGER CLINT HURDLE
Third season with the Pirates
NEW ACQUISITION (R) ROOKIE
LINEUPS AND STAT PROJECTIONS BY ROTOWIRE.COM
The K Meter
Percentage of 2012 plate appearances that ended with a strikeout, and major league rank
BY HITTERS | 22.5% | 29TH
BY PITCHERS | 19.6% | 17TH
The streak ends! The Pirates finish over .500 after McCutchen's MVP season and breakouts from Marte and Alvarez.
The streak continues. Burnett and Rodriguez get lit up, and McCutchen hints he wants a trade after another long season.
Matt Gagne has more on the Pirates at SI.com/mlb
Second-year leftfielder Starling Marte has been getting most of the Pirates' spring training at bats in the leadoff spot. He fits the image of a leadoff man: Marte has good speed and stole 12 bases in 47 major league games last year after swiping 131 in six minor league seasons. However, Marte has no command of the strike zone and projects as a poor on-base man. With just eight walks in the majors in 182 plate appearances, and a walk rate below 5% in the minors, he will have to bat .300 to be a viable leadoff hitter, something he isn't likely to do this year. Pittsburgh can jump-start its offense by using rightfielder Travis Snider atop the lineup. Snider, acquired last July from the Blue Jays, saw his career stall in Toronto, but he was a high-OBP prospect, with a career .412 OBP at Triple A, and last year he had a 9% walk rate. Snider doesn't run well, but what matters most in the top spot is reaching base. Using Marte at leadoff is setting up a promising young player to fail. Batting him seventh would be preparing him to succeed.
FRED VUICH FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (MCCUTCHEN)
DERICK E. HINGLE/ USA TODAY SPORTS (SNIDER)