Pittsburgh Pirates: What Clint Hurdle’s Opening Day Lineup Should Look Like

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What Clint Hurdle's Opening Day Lineup Should Look Like

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates are continuing to show signs that they are an improved team, winning 79 games last season. The team had a record of 48-37 in the first half, but fell off in the second half of the season, going 31-46.

Clint Hurdle recently received an extension to his contract that will keep at the helm in Pittsburgh through the 2014 season. Hurdle has done a respectable job in his two years with Pittsburgh, winning 46% of his games so far. This team is moving in the right direction and Owner Bob Nutting is starting to get excited.

"We've rebuilt the facilities, we've rebuilt the leadership, we've rebuilt the approach that we are taking to create a championship organization for Pittsburgh," Nutting said. "I could not be more excited for the 2013 campaign, and where we're headed”

Nutting has been in charge of this team since 2003 and I know the team did not have any talent then, but the fact that they have had 10 consecutive losing seasons says something about the ownership and front office.

Nutting is slightly optimistic about the team potentially having a winning season saying, "At some point, we'll need to pass through 82 [wins, the number that would secure a winning season] and when we do, I will appropriately celebrate," Nutting said. "But that would be an inappropriate target. Had that been the goal, Neal would've gone about his work the last five years very differently.”

This team has the potential to make a run in the NL Central in 2013, a division that could be wide open this year. If they want to contend this year this is what their opening day lineup should look like…

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Starling Marte LF

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Left Fielder Starling Marte made a good first impression last season, hitting a Home Run on the first pitch he saw in his career in game against the Houston Astros last year. Marte has an incredible amount of potential and would likely be a Center Fielder with just about any other team. His speed will be his biggest weapon in 2013.

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Neil Walker 2B

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Second Basemen Neil Walker has shown very good consistency in his four seasons with the Pirates, hitting for an average of .280 with an On-Base % of .339. Many people within the club think that Walker will break out and have an incredible season. But for now the Pirates will take that consistency.

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Andrew McCutchen CF

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Andrew McCutchen has definitely established himself as a star and the leader of this team last year, making the all-star team, winning the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in Center Field, as well as finishing third in the NL MVP voting. McCutchen had 194 hits to go along with a career high 34 HR’s. McCutchen will be the leader of this team again and will be the key to the Pirates success in 2013.

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Pedro Alvarez 3B

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Pedro Alvarez finally started to live up to his potential, hitting 30 HR’s and driving in 85 runs in the 2013 season. This was the first time that Alvarez was able to put together a full season and he played the way that a former #2 overall draft pick should play. Alvarez is an example of a very good draft choice by GM Neal Huntington. Alvarez will need to continue to hit for power and limit his strikeouts in 2013.

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Garrett Jones 1B

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

First Basemen Garrett Jones is entering his fourth full season with the Pirates; he has averaged over 20 HR’s in each of those seasons. At 32, Jones is past his physical prime, but for a player that did not come up until his late 20’s, Jones has not shown at signs of aging, hitting a career high 27 HR’s in 2012. Jones will need to continue hitting for consistent power in 2013.

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Travis Snider RF

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Right Fielder Travis Snider was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays before the trade deadline last July. Snider has yet to play more than 82 games in a season, but he could get his first chance to play a full season in Pittsburgh, assuming he beats out Jose Tabata and Jerry Sands for the Right Field job.

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Russell Martin C

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Catcher Russell Martin will have an interesting spring in 2013, as he will attempt to play shortstop for team Canada in the World Baseball Classic. This will give Martin less time to become acquainted with the Pirates pitching rotation. Martin’s durability has been his greatest strength, averaging close to 130 games played in the last two seasons. Martin will need to learn his new pitching staff quickly, but his veteran experience will be a great asset in 2013.

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Clint Barmes SS

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Shortstop Clint Barmes is not an offensive threat, .249 career avg., but his defense is why the Pirates brought him in after the 2011 season. Barmes had a great year defensively, saving 13 runs at shortstop in 2012. Barmes will be a valuable asset to the club in 2013 if he continues to play solid defense.

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A.J. Burnett1 SP

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

RHP A.J. Burnett had a very impressive rebound season in 2012, going 16-10 with a 3.51 ERA in just over 200 innings pitched. At 36, Burnett has seen his fastball velocity drop from 94 mph in 2009 with the Yankees, down to 92 mph last year. This diminished fastball velocity has allowed Burnett to improve his control, seeing his BB/9 rate drop from 4.2 to 2.7 walks per 9 innings in the same period of time. Manager Clint Hurdle will need Burnett to carry the rotation again in 2013.

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