We crack into the top 5 of the power rankings with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Projected Record: 95-67 3rd in the NL Central (2nd NL Wild Card)
Potential Lineup: RF Polanco #25, 3B Harrison #5, CF McCutchen #22, LF Marte #8, 1B Jaso #28, C Cervelli #29, SS Mercer #10, 2B Hanson #63, Pitcher
Potential Rotation: 1.Cole #45, 2.Liriano #47, 3.Niese #18, 4.Vogelsong #14, 5.Locke #49
Potential Bullpen: CL Melancon #35, 8th Watson #44, 7th Caminero #37 Mid Relief: Hughes #48, Feliz #30, Nicasio #12, Lobstein #53
Potential Bench: IF/OF Morse #31 , IF/OF Rodriguez #3, C Stewart #19, IF Florimon #51, OF/IF Goebbert #23
Injuries: IF Kang #27
The last three National League Wild Card Games have taken place at PNC Park in Pittsburgh the Pirates won the first of the three in 2013 but in the last two they scored a combined zero runs ending two seasons both were the Pirates had a shot to make a serious World Series run if they could’ve just bypassed the Wild Card Game. A year ago the Bucks won 98 games yet it still was not good enough to win an NL Central that had the three teams with the highest records in Baseball. St Louis at 100 wins and the Cubs at 97. Looking ahead to 2016 there isn’t much change to the Pirate squad that won 98 games a year ago. The Pirates scored the 11th most runs in baseball a year ago but this season they will not have Neil Walker who was traded to the New York Mets, or Pedro Alvarez who was released by the club. The Pirates signed John Jaso to take over the First Base Position and have flexibility at second base between Josh Harrison and Jo Ho Kang who will be returning from injury both can play almost all infield positions. Despite losing Walker and Alvarez the Pirates offense should still be strong and feature one of the best Outfielders in the game with Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Gregory Polanco. As for the rotation the Pirates rotation finished 5th best in the Majors in team ERA. Greatly in part due to the season put together by ace Gerrit Cole who pitched to a 2.60 ERA, won 19 ball games, and struck out over 200 batters. The Pirates this offseason added starter Jon Niese will replace the now retired who had a strong 2015. The team also signed veteran Ryan Vogelsong to build rotation depth. With Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano leading the charge the Bucos rotation should still be strong in 2016. The bullpen was also very strong for Pittsburgh finishing with the MLB’s best bullpen ERA at 2.67. Closer Mark Melancon took home the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the year award posting a 2.23 and 51 saves. Set-up man Tony Watson was also stealler posting a 1.91 ERA for the Buccos in 2016. With that duo in the backend the Pirates bullpen will be very hard to hit off of again in 2016. In a packed NL Central the Pirates should be right in thick of things and will try to avoid settling for wild card spot.