The “Predict” series continues this week with the Pirates’ opening day starters. Let’s get started:
Catcher: Francisco Cervelli
2016: .264/.377/.322 1 HR 33 RBIs 326 AB
When healthy, Cervelli is an above average hitter and great pitch framer. He gets the job done and that’s exactly what the Pirates need. Stewart will back him up with Jacob Stallings coming in for spot starts.
First Base: Josh Bell
.273/.368/.406 3 HR 19 RBIs 128 AB
Bell is one of the Pirates’ top prospects and for good reason. In 45 games in the majors, he had three homers, nineteen RBIs, and a .273 average, all while not being a full-time starter. If he can hone the raw power he has had since high school, Bell will become a top-tier first baseman in the near future.
Second Base: Josh Harrison
.283/.311/.388 4 HR 59 RBIs 487 AB
Josh Harrison hasn’t been able to replicate his 2014 campaign. However, he is still a serviceable player with a 1.7 and 1.8 WAR in the 2015 and 2016 seasons respectively. Without Alen Hanson breaking out, second base should belong to Harrison.
Shortstop: Jordy Mercer
.256/.328/.374 11 HR 59 RBIs 519 AB
Mercer has been known for his defense for most of his career, but the script has flipped recently. Last season, he hit eleven homers and 59 RBIs in stark contrast to his -8.4 UZR. Mercer is still serviceable on defense and can turn a mean double play, but his offense is what is going to carry him this season.
Third Base: David Freese
.270/.352/.412 13 HR 55 RBIs 437 AB
With Kang being put on the restricted list until he gets his visa reinstated, third base seems to belong to David Freese. The St. Louis standout had an above average season with the Pirates, platooning at both third and first base. The three year contract he just signed seems to show how much the club trusts him. He’ll hold down third until Kang gets back.
Right Field: Andrew McCutchen
.256/.336/.430 24 HR 79 RBIs 598 AB
Cutch had a down year last year both offensively and defensively. His defensive woes will hopefully be solved with a move to right field. His offensive problems are a different issue. Look for Cutch to get his average back up and have a great year after the front office lit a fire under him this offseason.
Center Field: Starling Marte
.311/.362/.456 9 HR 46 RBIs 489 AB
Marte is now in his natural position. With two gold gloves under his belt, it was a matter of time until he usurped center from McCutchen. Although his offensive stats took a dip last season (except for steals and average), Marte’s defense just keeps getting better and better. He’s going to hold down the Pirates’ outfield for a long time.
Left Field: Gregory Polanco
.258/.323/.463 22 HR 86 RBIs 527 AB
Polanco had a breakout season last year by doubling his homers and significantly increasing his RBIs. The one problem with Polanco is his defense, but he’s only twenty-five and a move to left field may help him develop his glove. Polanco looks ready to take the league by storm. Look for a strong season from him.