NL Central: Burning Questions for Each Team

Pittsburgh Pirates – Are the young guns ready to bust out?

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Credit: Scott Cunningham / Getty Images North America

 

The Pirates are coming off a second consecutive playoff appearance, quite a turnaround for a franchise that went 20 years between trips to the playoffs. Like any small market team, the Pirates saw their roster raided this offseason, losing Edinson Volquez and Russell Martin. The losses will definitely hurt the Pirates, but can easily be masked by the continued ascension of three of their best young players, Gerrit Cole, Gregory Polanco, and Starling Marte.

Cole has been brought along slowly by the Pirates since being taken as the number one overall pick out of UCLA in 2011. His innings totals have gradually risen, and Cole may now be ready for his first 200 inning season. 30 starts from Cole will go a long way towards replacing the departed Edinson Volquez.

The Pirates outfield will feature two of the best young players in Marte and Polanco, who are essentially clones of each other. Marte will be entering his third full season, and has gradually improved as a player each season. With a slight uptick in his power numbers, Marte will be able to claim a spot among the National League’s best left fielders. Opposite Marte in right field, will be Gregory Polanco. Polanco got a taste of the Majors last season, and acquitted himself well. He showed good plate discipline for a 22 year old rookie, walking 30 times in 89 games. His .343 slugging percentage leaves a bit to be desired, but as Polanco gains big league experience, that number should take a healthy rise. In Marte and Polanco, the Pirates have two potential 30-30 candidates.

The losses of Volquez and Martin will no doubt be felt by the Pirates this season. Cole may prove himself ready to assume the role of staff ace. Increased production from Marte and Polanco will mask the loss of Martin’s offensive production.  The Pirates did the right thing in letting Volquez and Martin walk, and they have the pieces in place to pick up the slack immediately.

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