2010 MLB Preview Countdown - 30 - Pittsburgh Pirates

30 - Pittsburgh Pirates

2009 record: 62-99
Last five year win totals: 57, 67, 68, 67, 62
Last playoff appearance: 1992, lost NLCS
17 consecutive losing seasons.

Additions: SS Bobby Crosby, 2B Akinori Iwamura, LHP Javier Lopez, RHP Octavio Dotel, OF Ryan Church, OF Jon Van Every, OF Brandon Jones, RHP Brendan Donnelly, RHP Chris Jakubauskas
Losses: RHP Matt Capps, RHP Jesse Chavez, SS Luis Cruz, LHP Phil Dumatrait, OF Craig Monroe

Projected lineup

CF Andrew McCutchen
2B Akinori Iwamura
RF Garrett Jones
C Ryan Doumit
3B Andy LaRoche
1B Steve Pearce
LF Lastings Milledge
SS Ronny Cedeno

Projected bench

2B/CF Delwyn Young
1B/2B/SS/3B Bobby Crosby
C Jason Jaramillo
OF Ryan Church

Projected rotation

LHP Paul Maholm
LHP Zach Duke
RHP Ross Ohlendorf
RHP Charlie Morton
RHP Kevin Hart

Projected bullpen

RHP Octavio Dotel
RHP Joel Hanrahan
RHP Brendan Donnelly
RHP Evan Meek
LHP Javier Lopez
RHP Jeff Karstens

The sad sack Pittsburgh Pirates. The last time they tasted success most of us in our late 20's, early 30's were little kids staying up past our bed time to watch the ancient, lumbering former Buc and current Brave Sid Bream somehow beat Barry Bonds throw home to knock the Pirates out of the playoffs. 

Now, 17 years later and the Pirates are still looking not only to return to the playoffs, but actually have a winning season. They got somewhat close a couple times during Lloyd McClendon's tenure, winning over 70 games three straight years. But this past season, they did what they always do, they traded players. And more players. And even more players. Look at the starting lineup for Pittsburgh's first game in 2009.

1. LF Nyjer Morgan
2. 2B Freddy Sanchez
3. CF Nate McLouth
4. C Ryan Doumit
5. 1B Adam LaRoche
6. 3B Andy LaRoche
7. RF Brandon Moss
8. SS Jack Wilson

Only 1/3 of that lineup remains with the team today. That doesn't even count numerous pitchers that were dealt by the club. Now, it is something that probably had to be done. Did they get enough in return? Lets see what each player got them in return.

Nyjer Morgan. Traded to Nationals for RP Joel Hanrahan and OF Lastings Milledge. Morgan went on to have his best year as a pro, but it was a trade that was worth it for the haul they got back. Hanrahan went on to allow only 6 earned runs in 31 innings as a Pirate. Of course, he has been in the running for closer with the Nationals his few years there and couldn't hold on to the job. They also got the talented but troubled Milledge back. He is now in his third organization in four years. He was decent in his time with the Bucs and is only 24 years old. I think this trade was a win for Pittsburgh.

Freddy Sanchez. Traded to Giants for minor league P Tim Alderson. Alderson is ranked 12th by Baseball Prospectus for the Pittsburgh Pirates minor leaguers. I was never really a Freddy Sanchez fan. He had a couple good years where he had a solid batting average, even winning a batting crown one year. But he doesn't steal bases, score many runs or walk. He's just a space filler. Alderson is a former first round pick only a few years ago and had solid numbers after coming over to the Pirates. Again, I think this is a win for Pittsburgh.

Nate McLouth. Traded to Braves for RHP Charlie Morton, minor league OF Gorkys Hernandez and P Jeff Locke. McLouth had been Pittsburgh's best player the last few years. He is good at getting on base, and is a 20/20 guy. He will be missed. The Pirates got a nice return for him though. Start with Hernandez, a former top prospect in Atlanta's organization. He is ranked 7th by Baseball Prospectus. Like Milledge and Andrew McCutchen, he is an athlete. But he has no power and could struggle to hit as he climbs up the ranks. He is now in his third organization. Morton made 20 starts for Pittsburgh and held his own. He'll battle with a number of players for a spot in the rotation. Locke is just an arm. Trading McLouth really was a sour note for a fan base used to it.

Adam LaRoche. Traded to Red Sox for minor league SS Argenis Diaz and P Hunter Strickland. Pretty much a salary dump by the Pirates, as LaRoche was scheduled to be a free agent after the season. Neither one of these players show up on any prospect lists. Diaz could wind up as a utility guy, but with no power and a weak bat, he has a small chance of sticking.

Jack Wilson. Traded to Mariners with RHP Ian Snell for C Jeff Clement, SS Ronny Cedeno, minor league P Aaron Pribanic, P Brett Lorin, P Nathan Adcock. The Pirates definitely added depth to their organization with this deal. Adding three arms and two players who will be on the major league roster. Problems with this trade though. Ian Snell has talent still and Jack Wilson was a fan favorite and long time Buc. Now, I don't really care about fan favorites and all that sentimental stuff, but he could still play, and trading him and McLouth must sting for those 7 remaining Pirates fans. But the worst problem is none of the guys they got back are any good. Those arms could never reach the major leagues, Clement is a huge bust so far and Cedeno is a backup caliber infielder.

So judge for yourself whether or not the Pirates got enough back. The problem is they didn't land that guy to plug in the middle of their lineup and try to produce for them. Sure, they can't even win 70 games, so the guys they did have weren't good enough to get a haul like that back, but they only received a couple of guys who can contribute this year.

On the plus side, they have a possible star in the making in Andrew McCutchen. He is one of those athletic tools guys every team wants. In other words, he is an exciting African American player in a sport where they are in short demand. But he is not hype. He rose through the Pirates system and did not stop hitting when he arrived in the big leagues. He is the best player in the organization and a future All Star.

The problem is what the Pirates have around him. Or should I say, following him in the order. The lineup is full of outcasts from other teams (Iwamura, Crosby, Cedeno, Milledge) and career minor leaguers (Jones, Pearce). One guy they do have is Ryan Doumit, a professional hitter and someone who produces whenever he is in there. He should bat cleanup. The problem is he is a catcher, and catchers can rarely stay healthy. He is no exception. They also have Andy LaRoche, a former top prospect for the Dodgers. He was really up and down in 2009, but finished well, hitting .321 with 5 home runs in September. As one of the few talented young guys in this lineup, he will get every chance he deserves to make some noise.

An interesting player is Garrett Jones. Except for a cup of coffee with the Twins in 2007, he spent a full decade in the minor leagues. He came out of nowhere to hit 21 home runs in half a season. Will he do it again? Of course not. But if he can, he will give the Pirates exactly what they need.

The rotation is much like the lineup. It is full of former top prospects who fizzled out with other teams and young guys still trying to make it. Their ace, and I use that term loosely,  is Paul Maholm. After a good 2008, he regressed last year. Zack Duke is the only other certainty. He won't be the top pitcher people once thought he would be, but he's improved three straight years. Bringing up the rear are several prospects and castoffs acquired in trades. The bullpen, more of the same. With Matt Capps gone, Octavio Dotel, Hanrahan, and Jose Ascanio will all vie for closing duties.

Overall, it will be an 18th straight losing season for the Pirates. They do have some youngsters that could arrive soon, including top prospect Pedro Alvarez. But for now, they'll lose close to 100 games. The good thing for Pirates fans is, there is nobody on the team left to trade away.

Projected All Stars: C Ryan Doumit. Someone on this team has to make the All Star squad. I picked Doumit because it's easier for a catcher to get in and i think McCutchen won't have an All Star caliber season quite yet. If Doumit can stay healthy he will put up good numbers for the catcher position.

Top prospect: 3B Pedro Alvarez. He was drafted second overall in 2008 out of Vanderbilt University. He is ready to play in the majors right now and would provide the Pirates with much needed power. However, he will most likely go the Evan Longoria route, spending a few years in the minors so the Pirates can control him for one more year.

Jonathan Carrano

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