Pittsburgh Pirates Batting Lineup Summary: Pittsburgh has 7 quality bats. Jordy Mercer finally regressed, but the Pirates drafted Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman in the first round to be his eventual replacement.
The loss of Neil Walker hurts as well. Josh Harrison will move to second baseman. Jung Ho Kang took the MLB by storm last season. He won't return to the MLB right away though which has to concern you.
Andrew McCutchen did not bat .300 last season. He needs to have a .300 year if the Pirates want to make the 2016 MLB Playoffs because Pittsburgh's starting rotation is weaker than usual.
Polanco and Marte seem like they are going to be the future of the team with McCutchen approaching 30. Polanco and Marte are also going to have to show they can handle bigger roles moving forward in 2016 and beyond.
Pittsburgh Pirates Starting Rotation
Pittsburgh Pirates Starting Rotation Summary: Cole and Liriano are the backbone of the rotation. Jonathon Niese was a horrible player to get in exchange for Neil Walker. Jeff Locke and Ryan Vogelsong declined a lot in 2015 and may only get worse in 2016.
Locke did worse as a #5 starter in 2015. The fact that he's getting promoted to a #4 starter is alarming. The real scare has to be that Ryan Vogelsong lost out to inexperienced long reliever Juan Nicasio for the final spot in the Pirates starting rotation.
If Tyler Glasgnow and James Taillon get called up before the end of the season, this could be a very dangerous team heading into October if those two live up to expectations. Right now I feel really skeptical about this rotation outside of Cole and Liriano.
Pittsburgh Pirates Bullpen
Pittsburgh Pirates Bullpen Summary: The Pirates bullpen was very effective the last three years. The only players from that bullpen that are still left are Mark Melancon and Tony Watson at closer and set up pitcher. Every other relief pitcher in this rotation will struggle and unless Watson and Melancon can pitch over 100 innings while maintaining their ERA's the Pirates will be in trouble.
In years past, we would see the Pirates bullpen bail this team out when the teams starting pitchers got into a jam. Maybe that will continue in 2016.
Right now I have a lot of doubts about that because the Pirates have a much weaker bullpen. That could hinder them especially with the departure of Neil Walker.
Prediction: Pittsburgh will be back in a year from now once Glasnow and Taillon reach the MLB. Right now there appears to be more uncertainty than certainty for the first time since Hurdle became the Pirates new manager. I expect Pittsburgh to be competitive.
My concern with the Pirates is they may not be able to bounce back. If the Pirates lose the first two home games to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pirates may start 0-4 or 0-5 with a road series against Cincinnati before Cole returns for his second start against the Reds.
Pittsburgh has enough talent to bounce back from a rough start. My issue with this team is that there is too much inconsistency with the overall pitching outside of Cole, Liriano, Watson, and Melancon and that may cause the Pirates to struggle in 2016.