5 Reasons Pittsburgh Pirates Will Make Postseason Again In 2014

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5 Reasons Pittsburgh Pirates Will Be A Playoff Team in 2014

5 Reasons Pittsburgh Pirates Will Be A Playoff Team In 2014
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

The offseason is rapidly coming to a close; pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in less than a month already. At this point, the majority of MLB teams seem to be about done with their offseason moves, except for some minor changes.

It would be hard for a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates to repeat what they did in 2013, and especially hard for them to top what they did last season. It certainly wouldn't be impossible, however.

The Pirates certainly didn't do a lot over the offseason to make fans think the team can be better, or even as good as it was in 2013. The losses seem to outweigh the additions. Losing Marlon Byrd, Justin Morneau and potentially A.J. Burnett is clearly more impactful than adding depth pieces like Chris Stewart, Jaff Decker and Edinson Volquez.

In fact, based on the history of the Pirates in the past 20 years, it wouldn't surprise me if fans of the Pirates fell back into a sense of hopelessness after watching what the Pirates did, or really didn't do, this offseason. The Pirates' front office and management said that the team would be willing to spend money once the team was competitive. They weren't going to spend money when it wasn't going to help them win, but now, the team is good enough to support a somewhat expensive roster. The Pirates' lack of spending over this offseason shouldn't be very shocking, but I bought into what management said. I expected bigger and better things, only to be disappointed.

Nonetheless, the Pirates are still a very good team on paper. It certainly wouldn't be difficult to imagine them winning the National League Central division, or to at least sneak in to the playoffs via a Wild Card spot.

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5. Starting Pitching

Starting Pitching
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, Wandy Rodriguez and Jeff Locke is the current projected rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates. For the fifth spot in the rotation, it is either going to be Locke or newcomer Edinson Volquez. Preferably, neither pitcher would win the job because the Pirates added a better option prior to Opening Day, but it appears the Pirates are operating under a budget strategy of having a lower salary than they did last season.

Even with Locke or Volquez starting the season in the rotation, the Pirates still have one of the best rotations in baseball. Cole, Liriano and Morton make up a formidable front-three. Much like last season, the Bucs will rely on their pitching to carry them through the rigorous 162 game schedule.

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4. Bullpen

Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates' bullpen was outstanding in 2013, ranking among the best in every statistic. Heading into 2014, the bullpen is almost identical. The Pirates have two power lefties, Tony Watson and Justin Wilson, as well as a great setup man and closer, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli, respectively.

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3. Organizational Depth

Organizational Depth
Brad Penner-USA Today Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates have what some consider to be the best farm system in baseball. It is filled with players that will soon make an impact at the MLB level, as well as younger players that will arrive in a few years down the road. Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon will presumably arrive before the All-Star break and will hopefully provide a boost to the Pirates when they show up.

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2. Andrew McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen
Tim Heitman-USA Today Sports

Any team with the reigning National League MVP is going to have a chance to win. Andrew McCutchen was outstanding in 2013, hitting for a .317/.404/.508 line with 21 home runs and 27 stolen bases; he was great on defense as well. His 8.2 fWAR was second to only Mike Trout among all MLB players.

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1. Defense

Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates' defense was at the top of most categories last season, thanks in large part to an extraordinary defensive shortstop, a great catcher, and a speedy outfield. Clint Barmes is one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, with Andrelton Simmons possibly being the only one better. Russell Martin threw out attempted base-stealers at a great clip last season, and Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte ran like gazelles when tracking down fly balls in the outfield. There is no reason to believe that the defense will regress in 2014.