Chicago Cubs: A Spring Training preview for the NL Central
Chicago Cubs: Pittsburgh Pirates
For the other four teams that we’ve mentioned, though they all have flaws, there is at least some hope that each team can compete for the NL Central title. For first year manager Derek Shelton and the Pittsburgh Pirates, however, there’s not much reason to be optimistic.
Looking at the offense, there are some good players that are coming back from 2019. At age 26, Josh Bell had a breakthrough year at first base and has become a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter. Though the rest of the lineup lacks firepower, there are some good hitters. Bryan Reynolds and Kevin Newman both impressed last year, batting over .300. Adam Frazier also showed the ability to be a productive player at second base, while Colin Moran quietly drove in 80 at the hot corner. The team will badly miss Starling Marte, who was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Gregory Polanco has battled injuries and has yet to put it all together; could it finally happen in 2020?
So, the Pirates could potentially score some runs, but the starting rotation doesn’t look too promising. Right now, Joe Musgrove looks to be far and away their ace; last year, he gave the Pirates 31 starts and posted a 4.44 ERA. Trevor Williams, Steven Brault, and Chris Archer all return, though they all posted an ERA over 5.00 in 2019. With Felipe Vazquez‘s legal troubles, the team will need a new closer; right now, it looks like Keone Kela will be the guy.
The Pirates have shied away from the term “rebuild” this offseason, though given that they are likely facing a last-place finish in the division, it will be interesting to see whether they try to trade any of their young players to build up the minor league system. Bell would be far and away their biggest chip if that happens, though there’s been little indication that the team plans on shopping him this year.