5 Players Who Must Perform Well For Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014

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5 Key Players For Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014

5 Key Players For Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014
Tim Heitman-USA Today Sports

It seems like the MLB offseason is moving along at a rapid pace. For me, maybe that's just because the Pittsburgh Pirates were in the postseason, so my offseason started later than usual. Regardless of why it's moving faster than usual, I'm not going to complain.

We are now in January, and most of the top free agents are already off the board. There are still trades to be made, but we will just approach this slideshow with the assumption that the Pirates won't make any big moves prior to the 2014 season starting. At this point, they don't appear to be making any threat of making a huge move anyway. Maybe general manager Neal Huntington is hibernating.

For the first time since 1992, the Pirates are looking to build off of a good season and possibly have an even better season. Repeating last year's success will be difficult; improving upon it will be darn near impossible. At this point, the Pirates' offseason has been judged more on who the team has lost rather than who they have acquired. Marlon Byrd, Justin Morneau and maybe even A.J. Burnett will be gone in 2014, while the team has only acquired Edinson Volquez, Chris Stewart and a few minor league players.

If the Pirates do intend on being postseason contenders for a second straight season, they will need to have some players step up and prove that they are worthy of being everyday MLB players. They will also need their superstar roaming in centerfield to continue being a superstar.

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Francisco Liriano

Francisco Liriano
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Francisco Liriano was great in 2013, but as I wrote on Sunday, I have skepticism as to whether he can repeat his success in 2014. To repeat the team's success again, they will need a dominant Liriano for a second straight season.

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The National League MVP

The National League MVP
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA Today Sports

I realize Andrew McCutchen can't get much better, but there are still improvements that could be made to his game. His offense is as good as it's going to get -- at least the National League is hoping he can't get better offensively. He can still improve defensively and as a base-runner, however. But for the most part, McCutchen just needs to stay healthy in 2014.

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Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Gerrit Cole kept getting better in his rookie campaign. As the season went on, he just got more and more dominant. He got so dominant that the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to go with him instead of their veteran pitcher A.J. Burnett in a crucial game in the NLDS. The Pirates will need Cole to build off of his strong rookie season.

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Andrew Lambo

Andrew Lambo
David Kohl-USA Today Sports

As each day passes, it becomes more and more likely that Andrew Lambo will be the starting first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates next season. For a player who has proven nothing in his MLB career, the Pirates are putting a lot of faith in him. First base is a premium offensive position, he needs to be at least a decent hitter in 2014 for the Pirates.

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Gregory Polanco

Gregory Polanco
Brad Penner-USA Today Sports

Gregory Polanco had better be the real deal for the Pittsburgh Pirates. With his debut likely to happen at some point in June or July, the Pirates decided to not acquire a full-time right fielder for 2014. When Polanco gets promoted, he will be an everyday right fielder for the Bucs, and he will need to produce.

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