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The Pittsburgh Pirates undoubtedly enter spring training with a lot more questions than answers. Players are battling for positions in the starting rotation, bullpen and even in the Pirates outfield.
But despite all of these lingering questions that will likely be answered prior to Opening Day, two outfield positions are locked up by a pair of players who may find themselves under increased pressure this season.
A year after missing a majority of the 2017 season due to a suspension for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, Starling Marte enters 2018 with higher expectations than usual. With the departure of Andrew McCutchen, Marte will now serve as the undisputed starting center fielder and will be expected to produce at a high level, both offensively and defensively, like he has in the past.
Gregory Polanco will be expected to do the same. But even more so, it will be vital that the 25-year-old stays healthy. He battled various injuries last season and had somewhat of a disappointing campaign, hitting .251 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs in 108 games. His average didn’t dip much from 2016, but his home run and RBI numbers did fall from 22 and 86, respectively, in 2016.
Marte and Polanco arrived in Pittsburgh as two of the organization’s top prospects. The expectations have always been high and in the “Post McCutchen” era of Pirates baseball, those expectations will be even higher.
The Pirates may be on the verge of an up and down year in 2018, but if the team wants to see more ups than downs, the play of Marte and Polanco will be crucial. The pressure will be high for the two young outfielders and it will be interesting to see if they thrive or struggle to meet those higher expectations.
Baseball talk on the web
- MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred says pace of play changes are coming in 2018.
- Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum threw for scouts from 15 major league teams.
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