Pittsburgh Pirates Wake Up Call – Bucs’ strongest unit?

In our daily Wake-Up Call, we get you ready for the day with a complete look at all things Pittsburgh Pirates.

Starting pitching. Relief pitching. Infield. Outfield. Which unit is the Pittsburgh Pirates’ strongest?

Prior to the Andrew McCutchen trade, the answer might have easily been the outfield. Even when diminished from his 2013 MVP-caliber form, McCutchen would still have headlined many outfield trios across the league. Based on talent level alone, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco would have also likely given the outfield the edge when judging the Pittsburgh Pirates’ various positions.

Maybe we’re not being fair to the starting pitching in saying that. Especially prior to the Gerrit Cole trade. As it stands now, the starting pitching could still be the strength of this time. Jameson Taillon is ready to take another step forward, and there has been nothing seen to think otherwise. Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl have both grown into their roles, and show promise. Whoever wins the last starting nod between Joe Musgrove and Taylor Glasnow can bring some talent to the back end. In the end, we may have to judge the group based on Ivan Nova‘s performance, which is nothing close to a guarantee at this point.

The infield is a hodge podge at this point, aside from Josh Bell at first. Though his defense is still somewhat suspect — though improved — at first, his bat is far more important to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ chances to compete within the next 2-3 years. Josh Harrison‘s future in Pittsburgh is cloudy to say the least, but the club has options at second with Max Moroff and Sean Rodriguez, backed by one of the team’s three-headed infield monster in the minors (that being Kevin Kramer, Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker). Jordy Mercer is a known commodity. The unit’s productivity will likely come down to how quickly Colin Moran can show that he can stick at the major league level while providing pop.

The bullpen has a legitimate superstar in Felipe Rivero, backed by some arms with strikeout ability in George Kontos, Kyle Crick and Michael Feliz. Much like we talked about with starting pitching, either Glasnow or Musgrove’s inclusion among relievers could be transformative. They still might need one more left-hander, but the club is clearly stocked with relief arms that intrigue, even if some pieces are still a bit unproven.

The issue when discussing these units is that the Pittsburgh Pirates still lag behind their NL Central competitors in many of these areas. The sooner one of these units distinguish themselves as a step above other units in the central, the easier it will be for Pittsburgh to find a path to true contention.

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Jason Rollison

Jason Rollison has been analyzing baseball and the Pirates in one way or another for 4+ years. Jason's previous stops include rumbunter.com, Pittsburgh Sporting News, Call To The Pen and several print publications. He also covers the State College Spikes for the Centre County Gazette (State College, PA) When it comes to analyzing baseball, he likes to take a middle-of-the-road approach, with one foot on the analytics side of the fence and the other on the old-school side. Having said that, he is a sucker for pitchf/x. Jason has appeared as a phone-in and in-studio guests in numerous outlets, including Trib Live Radio and 93.7 The Fan (CBS Sports Radio)