Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Central Will Be Exciting To Watch In '07

There is no doubt that the Pirates are going to have to rape and pillage the wins from their divisional opponents if they do not want to finish in the basement again.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates

RHP Franquelis Osoria
RHP Yoslan Herrera

3b Joe Randa

There are a few bright spots with the rotation. Well the whole team has a few bright spots. The Pirates rotation is undoubtedly young and has all the makings to be a solid five for years to come. The average age for the five projected starters is only 25. Zach Duke looks to lead the rotation past their 2006 67-95 record and continue their second half surge through 2007. Duke has a 10-15 year with 4.47ERA; he is not a bit strike out pitcher, sitting down 1 batter in every 6 outs. But he does have good experience and a good bond with the rest of the home-grown rotation. Ian Snell will be the number 2 man and lead the team with 14-11 record with a 4.74ERA. He is the first Pirates starter to win 14 games since the 1999 season. Snell ha more success at the plate as he sat down 169 batters in 186 Innings of work in 2006. Paul Maholm went a 8-10 last season but the bright side is that in the second half he got over his control issues and was 5-2 in the second half of 2006. The 4 and 5 spots will be a toss up but will most likely be Tom Gorzelanny and Shawn Chacon respectively. Gorzelanny solidified his spot in the rotation in the 11 appearances he made last season. Gorzelanny went 2-5 with a 3.79ERA and knows how to strike out batters, sitting down 64 in 61.2INN of work. The thought is that Chacon will have to fight to keep his spot in the rotation. Chacon had a combined record of 7-6 but had a 2-3 season while playing with the Pirates. His ERA was well over 6 and unless he has a strong spring rookie Lefty Shane Youman will get a chance to show what he can do in Pirate Black.

The Bullpen will be closed by Salomon Torres as they sent lefty Mike Gonzalez who went 24-24 in SV opportunities to Atlanta for Adam LaRoche. Torres did save 12 in the final month of the season since Gonzalez was sitting out due to injury. Matt Capps has remarkable control for 23 year old. John Grabow has turned into a good situational lefthander and Josh Sharpless had great promise in 2006. The bullpen is a good mix of young and old and will only improve as the young learn from the rest of the bullpen.

The line-up has some good pop and the ability to get runs without hitting long balls. CF Chris Duffy owns the CF and you will find him roaming all over the place. Duffy has limited power as he only hit 2 HR in 2006 but he is a threat on the base path stealing 26 bases. Jack Wilson had a horrible defensive season posting a career high 18 errors. His .273BA matched the type of season he was having only hitting 8HR and having 35RBI in 2006. 3B Freddy Sanchez won the job from Joe Randa last season and then he went on to win the NL Batting title. Castillo took the NL by storm last season driving in 85RBI with only 6HR, oh yeah, batting .344 in the third hole last season. Adam LaRoche was required to give the team more pop from the left side of the plate. LaRoche hit for a .285 average but slugged out 32HR for 90 RBI. The Pirates new ‘Barry Bonds’ is batting in the fifth spot. The kid from Trail, British Columbia will take the field in left. Jason Bay will look to put up more power numbers in 2007 after hitting 35 with 109RBI last season. Bay looks to improve on all batting categories especially lowering his Strikeout total that has grown since his 2004 rookie season. His Walk total has also increased which has shown his growing patience at the plate. Improving his BA will look good on a trading card but if he can walk more and still continue to hit 30-100 and make stellar plays in LF I am certain the Pirates will not mind him striking out occasionally. Xavier Nady who played 1B will likely be moved to RF, his move from the Mets to the Pirates stunned his power numbers for 2006 but the Pirates hope he will regain his swing and hit at least 20 out of PNC. Ronny Paulino got his chance to start behind the plate and showed that he is ready to become the everyday catcher that the Pirates are looking for. Paulino has to improve defensively as he recorded 9 past balls and 11 errors in 2006, but those are just growing pains for a rookie catcher. Paulino showed that his arm has no problems throwing out 32% of would be base stealers. Bottoming out the order will be 2B Jose Castillo, after a great year in ’05 with his middle partner Jack Wilson, Castillo also lost his numbers and his defensive ability. His errors rose to 18 from his 12 in 2005, and so did his waistline. Castillo carried more weight in 2006, which is what cost him a step. Hopefully he can return to his 2005 defensive form and continue to improve his batting numbers with experience.

The Pirates have the stuff to be great down the road, it is a shame the road is a few years away. The young team will mature over time and nothing but experience will help the squad. The Pirates will bottom out one more time this season but will be on the rise and show great promise.

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