The Pittsburgh Pirates are coming off of another disappointing season. Their pitching was horrendous for the most part, but offensively they had a player develop into a star. This season could finally be a step in the right direction, top pick SP Gerrit Cole isn't to far away and SP Jameson Tallion could be joining him as well.
After back-to-back 3.5 WAR seasons, center fielder Andrew McCutchen finally came on to the scene as an all-star. His .259/.364/.456 line, 129 wRC+ and 5.7 WAR wasn't too far off of his career average. The main difference was that his UZR was 17 runs better than the past. Jose Tabata has the potential to be a solid outfielder for the Pirates as well. He mostly offers speed and average to above average defense. He's not coming off the greatest of seasons, but he received a 6 year/$15m dollar contract. That may give him the incentive to perform better. The final outfield spot should go to Garrett Jones. Jones has some power in his bat, but his defensive isn't the greatest. Should one or two of these guys struggle, Alex Presely and Nate McLouth will step in.
Second base is locked up by Neil Walker. The past two seasons Walker has posted 2 and 3 WAR seasons. He has a solid eye, he doesn't strike out a lot and can draw walks at a league average rate. He has average power potential, but overall he's a good player to have. Clint Barmes is a new addition and will be playing shortstop. His line from last season was .244/.312/.386 with a 94 wRC+. That essentially makes him a league average player. His defensive is what made him a 3 WAR player last year. If he can give the Pirates similar production, he could be flipped at the deadline.
At first base former Casey McGhee should be the starter. He's coming off a disappointing .223/.280/.346 year but he's only one season removed from a 3 WAR season. If he can get some of his 2009-2010 power back, he could be a good asset for the Pirates. At third Pedro Alvarez hasn't shown why the Pirates took him in the first round. He has shown that he can hit home runs, his main problem though is that he strikes out a ton. In 2010 he struck out 30% of the time, and in 2011 he struck out 30.5% of the time. His defensive isn't that great either, so most of his value will have to come offensively.
Rod Barajas figures to take over catching duties. He can doesn't do a lot great. He can hit for power and limit strikeouts, but that's about it.
Their starting pitchers weren't that great. Their best pitcher was Charlie Morton. His 3.77 FIP was solid, but when looking at his 4.08 xFIP regression is a likely outcome. James McDonald, a former reliever is an intriguing pitcher. In his first full season as a starter his numbers weren't that good. He had trouble keeping the ball in the ballpark, a number that is pretty unsustainable. His 4.68 was pretty bad, but he has interesting strikeout potential. Erik Bedard is coming over after a good year with the Red Sox and Mariners. He had a 3.64 FIP, which is right in line with his career average. If he can stay healthy he could be a bright spot in the rotation. Kevin Correia and Jeff Karstens are two other pitchers who will be in the rotation. Neither are very good though. There are two pitchers who could arrive sometime in 2012 though. Gerrit Cole was the number one pick last year. In 5 starts in rookie ball he posted ace-like numbers, but that's an extremely small sample size. Jameson Tallion was the second pick two years ago, and he also hasn't disappointed. In 23 starts last year in single A he had a 3.37 FIP, 24.6 K% and a 5.6 BB%. If those can translate to higher levels, he has number one to number two potential.
Their bull-pen is highlighted by Joel Hanrahan. Hanrahan had a great season, posting a 2.18 FIP, 22.3 K% AND 5.8 BB%. Evan Meeks struggled mainly due to his high BB%, if he can fix that, he can be a solid arm. Chris Leroux and Jason Grilli are a few other arms who could have good years for the Pirates.
2012 probably won't be the Pirates year, but if the likes of Garret Cole and Jameson Tallion continue their development, the Pirates will have a lot to look forward to. They need Pedro Alvarez to show why they drafted him and for Andrew McCutchen to keep doing his thing. If all that happens, 2012 can be considered a success for the Pirates.