Where will the power come from?
Pedro Alvarez was non-tendered following a 27-homer season, and Neil Walker and his 20-homer potential were traded. On the current roster, only Andrew McCutchen has the potential to hit 30 home runs. Starling Marte and Jung Ho Kang fall into the category of guys who could hit 15-20 over the course of a full season. The power has just not developed for Gregory Polanco. In 870 big-league at-bats, the 6’5″, 230-pounder has slugged just .369. Polanco was a .432 slugger in the minor leagues.
Pittsburgh does not necessarily need power to score runs. Their offensive model is not dissimilar to that of the Cardinals — score just enough runs to back up a solid pitching staff. Starling Marte is on the verge of becoming a star, and actually had a higher WAR than perennial MVP candidate McCutchen last year. The Pirates wound up fourth in runs in the National League last year, but they will be missing the run-producing bat of Alvarez in the middle of their lineup. Will replacing Alvarez with John Jaso and Michael Morse provide enough protection for McCutchen. Walker’s replacement, Josh Harrison, is untested as an everyday player, and is definitely an offensive downgrade. Kang may not be ready for Opening Day after his gruesome broken leg. Many questions remain when trying to figure out exactly how the Pirates will strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers next year. The pressure is going to be on Marte to continue growing as a star player and on Polanco to develop the untapped power suggested by his big frame.