Life after Littlefield: Pirates 2013 Season Preview

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Life after Littlefield: Pirates 2013 Season Preview

Jarrod Blumer, Contributor

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With the Pittsburgh Pirates beginning their 2013 campaign tomorrow afternoon against the Chicago Cubs, I feel like this is a great time to start writing for this blog again.  After a long offseason, I’ll do my best to bring you up to speed on where the Pirates stand coming into the 2013 season.

As an organization the Pirates have improved drastically over the past 2 years compared to where they were as a team in the years before that.  While the team still has not finished over .500 in 20 years and had one of the worst endings to a season in recent memory in 2013, Pittsburgh could be in for a special season in 2013.

Behind the plate in 2013, Russell Martin will handle the majority of the catching duties with Michael McKenry serving as the backup.  Martin was brought in during the offseason to bring some stability to the catcher’s position for the 2013 season, as it was just embarrassing in 2012.  Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez will platoon at first base throughout the season, as manager Clint Hurdle will look to get the most out of both of the power-hitting first basemen.  Neil Walker with man second base and it shouldn’t come as a surprise.  When he is healthy he is one of the best hitters on the team, however the injury bug bit him last year and it really hurt the team down the stretch.  Clint Barmes will start the majority of the games at shortstop unless he struggles with the bat.  If that happens, look for recently acquired John McDonald or Josh Harrison to fill the void.  The player that could have the biggest impact in 2013 is third baseman Pedro Alvarez.  After finishing 2012 with 30 homeruns and 85 RBI, it is vital that Pedro takes that next step in his career and becomes a more consistent power hitter.  Hopefully he can flirt with 35+ homeruns and 100 RBI.

As for the outfield, Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Travis Snider will be looked at as the everyday starters in 2013.  Marte will spend the majority of the season in the leadoff spot and will look to continue to grow in all aspects of the game.  Andrew McCutchen will be looked to continue to be Andrew McCutchen.  After a breakout year in 2012, McCutchen is now widely considered one of the best outfielders in the game today.  If he does what he did in 2012, minus the second half slump, look for his name to be in the MVP conversation again.  Snider is another player who could really make a difference for Pittsburgh this year. As a former 1st round pick in 2006, Snider has yet to live up to people’s expectations.  But if he can tap into that potential, then he could be a special player in Pittsburgh.  Also look for Jose Tabata and Garrett Jones to fill in for Marte and Snider occasionally.

If Pittsburgh wants to be a playoff team, then their pitching has to be as good as it was in the first half of last year the whole year.  A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, Jonathan Sanchez, and Jeff Locke make up the rotation for now.  But look for newly acquired Francisco Liriano, Kyle McPherson, and phenom Gerrit Cole to make an appearance at some point this season.  The bullpen will hand the closer role over to Jason Grilli after trading Joel Hanrahan in the offseason. But before the ball gets to Grilli, look for Hurdle to turn to Jared Hughes, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon.

It all starts tomorrow.  Burnett will toe the rubber against the Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija with hopes of starting 2013 on a good note.  This will be an interesting season to say the least.