Kyle Cardoza
MLB
26-12-2016
11475

The 2017 Pittsburgh Pirates' Projected Lineup

By December 26, 2016
Pittsburgh's lineup won't look different, but could be more productive in 2017. 

For much of last season, the Pittsburgh Pirates relied on unfamiliar players to provide on offense. Guys like John Jaso, Josh Harrison and Sean Rodriguez quietly had productive seasons, even though a few of the team’s star players, including Andrew McCutchen, had considerably subpar campaigns at the plate. Overall, the Bucs ranked just outside the top 10 in runs scored and batting average this past year – where they’ve also ranked since 2014. 

Several experienced players were slated as starters in the beginning of the season. While third baseman Jung Ho Kang nursed an injury, David Freese settled into the position. Rodriguez platooned at second base with Harrison, and Jaso played first base and was the team’s unconventional leadoff batter. The team’s trio of outfielders – McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco – was the core of the order. But they didn’t live up to their typical standards. McCutchen, a former MVP, hit just .256, although he smashed 24 home runs. Polanco sported similar numbers, hitting .258 with 24 homers. Marte was the most consistent of the three, boasting a .311 average with 47 stolen bases on the year. 

Pittsburgh’s offensive numbers showed weaknesses in two major categories. Against left-handed pitching, the Bucs were dreadful. They scored the least amount of runs in the league despite hitting a combined .263 against southpaws. While the offense ranked higher than most MLB teams, it ranked close to the bottom in home runs. Many of the players that filled in for much of the year were veteran contact hitters, but they rarely left the yard. Other than Kang, who rocketed 21 bombs, no other infielders eclipsed 20 – Jaso, Harrison and Freese combined for less than 20. 

The Pirates have been one of the quietest teams in terms of bolstering their offense this offseason. They did lose Rodriguez and mediocre outfielder Matt Joyce to free agency, but still boast a deep lineup of solid players, especially in the infield. The biggest addition for next season will be Josh Bell, who is slated to start at first base and could remain on the club the entire season. The young prospect hit .263 in 45 games last year, but was a career .303 hitter in the minor leagues. He falls right in line with Pittsburgh’s outfielders as a contact hitter with a little pop and some speed on the bases as well. Other than Bell, no relatively new faces should be seen in next season’s batting order. 

2016 Pittsburgh Pirates Lineup

John Jaso 1B

Gregory Polanco RF

Andrew McCutchen CF

Starling Marte LF

Jung Ho Kang 3B

Francisco Cervelli C

Josh Harrison/Sean Rodriguez 2B

Jordy Mercer SS

Pitcher

2017 Pittsburgh Pirates Lineup

Josh Harrison 2B

Gregory Polanco RF

Andrew McCutchen CF

Starling Marte LF

Jung Ho Kang 3B

Josh Bell 1B

Francisco Cervelli C

Jordy Mercer SS

Pitcher

Remaining Questions

The big question that remains is whether the team’s outfielders can produce in the middle of the lineup. Marte is one of the least powerful cleanup hitters in the entire league, but he did hit .332 when in the four spot. Polanco and McCutchen must provide RBIs or else they could be replaced by Kang, who is probably the Pirates’ best power hitter. 

With Bell at first, Pittsburgh will no longer have to rely on Jaso – the dread-head didn’t steal a single base in 2016 – to hit first in the order. Harrison will likely replace him, as he offers speed in the leadoff position and hit .327 last year when hitting first. Cervelli and Mercer are the team’s weakest hitters, even though they each have more discipline at the plate than most guys that hit in the bottom of the lineup. Mercer can hit for power at times – he did smack 11 dingers last season, but is inconsistent in terms of contact. 

Two of the main issues remain with this lineup. There probably won’t be an uptick in home runs unless Bell and Marte contribute in those categories and the dreadful numbers against left-handers probably won’t change either. Jose Bautista could be reunited with his old club or the Pirates could chase after Mark Trumbo, but neither are likely to join the team. If Kang does not get suspended for his accusations this past season, he and McCutchen could each exceed 30 home runs. The offense could rely more on McCutchen, hoping he recreates his first few seasons with Pittsburgh compared to last year. But much like the past three years, the offense will probably be ranked just below 10th overall come 2017.

What do you think the Pirates need to improve their lineup? Let us know in the comments!

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