Third Place: Pittsburgh Pirates
After three years of playoff appearances, the Pittsburgh Pirates fell short of October baseball in 2016. A drop of 20 wins from one season to the next will do that. However, in the first half of the season, the Pirates played above .500 baseball. And, they were at .500 against the rest of the division.
Well, except the Chicago Cubs.
Andrew McCutchen is an enigma. Once the MVP center fielder of the team, he is now forced to right field. He is not happy about it. After a poor showing in 2016, can he rebound to his normal production? If he does (and that is a hopeful if from me), the offense can be solid. Josh Harrison is more than capable leading off, and Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco are growing into All-Stars.
But, is there enough pitching? Gerrit Cole cannot do it alone. There is not a lot behind him, but Jameson Taillon is a young star-in-the-making. The bullpen is lacking. Tony Watson, named closer after Mark Melancon was traded, filled in well on the back end of the staff. Between the starter and the closer, though, there are question marks.
What the experts say:
Bleacher Report: 82-80, third place
ESPN: 83-79, third place
Fangraphs: 82-80, third place
SB Nation: second place
Sports Illustrated: third place
Sporting News: third place
USA Today: 81-81, third place