Projected NL Central Finish: 6th
- A. McCutcheon cf
- Iwamura 2b
- Jones 1b
- Milledge lf
- Doumit c
- LaRoche 3b
- Church rf
- Cedeno ss
- Duke (LH)
- Maholm (LH)
- D. McCutcheon
- Jaramillo c
- Vazquez if
- Crosby if
- Young ut
- Moss of
- Veal (LH)
- Lopez (LH)
- Dotel (closer)
Catcher: Ryan Doumit was mentioned in trade rumors over the last few months of the season but the Pirates ultimately decided to keep their switch-hitting catcher. The Pirates need to keep Doumit on the field for him to realize his potential as he’s never played in more than 116 games. If Doumit struggles, expect Pittsburgh to let him go in favor of prospect Jeff Clement.
Infield: Akinori Iwamura was traded for to inject a good two hitter into a lineup that has disappointed for years. His good bat and ability to get onbase should lead to more runs overall. Andy LaRoche got a full season under his belt in 2009 and didn’t do too bad. The Pirates need more homers from LaRoche who will be looking over his shoulder as Pedro Alvarez gets closer to the Bigs. Garrett Jones got onbase at a .372 clip during his rookie season and hit 21 home runs in only 82 games. Jones could also see time in the outfield. Ronny Cedeno and Bobby Crosby will battle for the job at short in what could be the last chance for either player to get a starting job.
Outfield: The outfield is extremely talented with Andrew McCutcheon and Lastings Milledge. McCutcheon will be a super star in the near future and Milledge hopes to find consistency in Pittsburgh. Ryan Church is the early favorite to play right as he has been able to hit at every stop throughout his career. Brandon Moss will fight for playing time but he failed to improve with the increased playing time in 2009. Brandon Jones, Jose Tabata, and Rule 5 pick John Raynor will get a chance this spring as well.
Rotation: The Bucs have a couple lefties at the top of their rotation in Paul Maholm and Zach Duke. Maholm and Duke both need a breakout season. Ross Ohlendorf was the surprise of the group last year and he had a sub-4.00 ERA. Daniel McCutcheon should get a chance to start for a full season in 2010. Charlie Morton, Kevin Hart, Brad Lincoln and Tim Alderson are all young pitchers who will get a shot at the 5th spot.
Bullpen: D.J. Carrasco was told he will have a shot at the rotation but I believe he will ultimately end up in the bullpen where is very valuable. Brendan Donnelly had a great 1.78 ERA for the Marlins last season. Javier Lopez did terrible last year but had previously pitched well for the Red Sox. Steven Jackson and Joel Hanrahan may be the only hold-overs from last year’s bullpen. Octavio Dotel will win the closer job but will probably get traded to a contender at the deadline.
2010: The Pirates enter the spring with quantity but not much quality. The good news for Pirates fans are the young stars who are emerging or soon will. Andrew McCutcheon has already reached the Show and Pedro Alvarez will join him at some point this season. Pitching will be the most glaring problem. This season will be another of the Pirates’ decade-long rebuilding process.
My predictions of a free agent hitter each team will still sign this off-season:
Nationals: Chad Tracy to pinch hit and get some defense at 1st base for Adam Dunn.
Royals: Vladimir Guerrero to DH; maybe play some right to keep Jose Guillen rested. (I would say Scott Podsednik but it appears he is about to sign with them anyway.)
Pirates: Rick Ankiel to play right field and hit 4th/5th.
Orioles: Hank Blalock to play first base though Baltimore may use Garrett Atkins there.
Indians: Jose Molina to mentor the team’s young catching prospects.
Mets: Bengie Molina who will start at catcher.
Diamondbacks: Randy Winn to play left field and mentor their young outfielders.
Padres: Brad Ausmus to backup Nick Hundley at catcher.
Astros: Jerry Hairston Jr. to start the season at short until Manzella is ready
Blue Jays: Endy Chavez is a great defender in the outfield.
A’s: Khalil Greene to possibly get some innings at short and third.
Reds: Miguel Tejada to start at shortstop and hit 2nd.
White Sox: Ryan Church to be insurance for oft-injured outfielders Andruw Jones and Carlos Quentin.
Brewers: Fernando Tatis to provide some pop off the bench from the right side.
Cubs: Orlando Hudson to play second base and hit 2nd.
Rays: Marcus Thames who can hit for power and start if Joyce/Perez need time at AAA.
Mariners: Xavier Nady has power and can split innings at first with Casey Kotchman.
Tigers: Alfredo Amezaga to spend time in center and at second while prospects learn.
Braves: Jeremy Reed who won’t cost to much and can play all three OF spots.
Twins: Orlando Cabrera fit right in last year and he’ll be back to play second base this time.
Marlins: Gabe Gross to provide a lefty bat off the bench.
Rangers: Russell Branyan who will have to sign another cheap, one year deal.
Giants: Yorvit Torrealba to share catching duties with Buster Posey like Torrealba did with Iannetta in Colorado.
Cardinals: Matt Stairs to pinch hit.
Rockies: Jason Giambi will re-sign after a fun run in Colorado last year.
Red Sox: Rocco Baldelli to backup the outfield because I believe they will trade Jeremy Hermida.
Dodgers: Felipe Lopez to play second base and thrive in that lineup.
Angels: Melvin Mora who will get time at third and left.
Phillies: Paul Bako to play catcher at AAA and wait for an opportunity like he got last year with the Phillies.
Yankees: Reed Johnson to split time with Brett Gardner in left.