Who will be the stars of the 2018 Pirates?

Our predictions for the star players of the Pittsburgh Pirates this season

Devoted fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates have been waiting for their Bucs to top the divisional table since all the way back in 1992. Having lost the services of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole in the off-season, the Pirates find themselves in a transitional period as they commence the 2018 season. The expert pre-season predictions have the Pirates finishing mid-table, a distinctly unexciting prospect for those fans who are expected to fill the bleachers. This is a season in which veteran players need to live up to their full potential – something which has not always been the case in recent seasons – and for promising younger players to come to the fore. The online sportsbooks don’t give the Pirates much of a shot for the 2018 season, but there are a few players in Pittsburgh who may be able to change the opinions of those sports betting sites.

Center-fielder Starling Marte is the stand-out player on the Pirates’ roster. He is an adept fielder as well as a hitter with a fortunate propensity for getting on base. Last year a failed drug test derailed his season as he was suspended for 80 games, but at age 29 Marte will be hoping to get that train back on track in 2018. Marte ranks number 5 on the list of stolen bases since 2013, and while this and his ability to generate walks are definite pluses, his lack of A-grade hitting power means his batting average is less impressive than it should be. That being said, Marte is expected to establish himself as Pittsburgh’s undisputed star man in 2018.

Outfielder Gregory Polanco is another who will be glad to see the back of 2017, when he struggled through an injury blighted year. Polanco dedicated himself to improving his lower-body fitness during the off-season in the hope of avoiding a repeat this time around. The early signs are good, as the right-fielder has impressed during pre-season games. In 2016 Polanco was regarded as a star for the future, but at age 27 the time is now for him to live up to that potential. The Pirates will be hoping that all of those workouts will see an improvement not only to his general fitness, but also to his power at the plate.

A lot of Bucco fans have high hopes for pitcher Jameson Taillon. He has been an inspiration to many because of his quick recovery and return after suffering from testicular cancer, and now he hopes to impress on the mound. Good things have been expected of Taillon for a long time. He was regarded as one of the all-time best high school pitching prospects, and when drafted in the first round in 2010 he was awarded the second highest signing bonus in draft history. So far in the big leagues Taillon has been good but not the standout performer that everyone predicted. Describing himself as a changed man since his cancer scare, perhaps this will be the year that he will propel himself into the upper strata of the pitching world.

Venezuelan reliever Felipe Rivero is one player who did not disappoint in 2017 and hopes to carry that form into the new season. Rivero joined the organisation in July 2016 and did not take long to become established as the team’s primary closer. The reliever’s arsenal of pitching weapons includes a curveball, a slider, a devilish change-up and a rocket of a fast-ball, making him a formidable opponent at the end of games. Rivero is going to be an important member of the Pirate’s bullpen for 2018, and they will be relying on him to repeat his lethal form of 2017.

 

The four players mentioned above – along with the supporting cast in Pittsburgh – will have the responsibility of lifting their team out of what threatens to be a very mundane season. Time will tell as to whether they can live up to their full potential and prove the doubters wrong.

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)