Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates will once again battle in 2019
There is a chance the Pirates could be the bottom-dwellers in the division and still win 81 games. After all, this is essentially the same team that won 82 last year – yet no one remembers them or their accomplishments due to the top-heavy nature of the Central last season.
Pittsburgh’s big push came at the deadline last year when they gambled on Tampa Bay ace right-hander Chris Archer. They lost that gamble in the short-term, but it could pay dividends this year.
Jameson Taillon has the makings of an ace, and Trevor Williams is certainly no slouch either. If Archer can return to the form that made him one of the elite pitchers from 2013-15, that is a legitimate top three. Joe Musgrove had good peripherals last season as well.
From a positional standpoint, the Pirates have a number of guys that just seem like they are on the cusp of breaking out with another full season under their belts.
Corey Dickerson hit .300 in a follow-up to his 2017 All-Star campaign. Colin Moran hit .277 with a respectable 103 wRC+ in his first full big-league season. Josh Bell should continue to evolve as a young bopper with plenty of power.
And–if healthy–Gregory Polanco could hit over 30 homers.
The Pirates hardly did anything flashy this winter, but they should benefit merely from continued growth from their young group of key contributors. So even the ‘worst’ team in the pack could very well be a .500 club – meaning from Opening Day to Game 162, the Chicago Cubs will face what could be called the stiffest competition in all of Major League Baseball.