Our Opening Day player countdown returns for a fourth year. Each post can be found under the Features category.
A.J. Burnett (34) days until Opening Day…
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“Their ability to go get a ball, to read balls off the bat … if there is some air underneath a ball, we have three men more than capable of running it down and getting it in leather… When they’re on the field, it lifts up our entire defensive game” – Clint Hurdle
The Pirates are shaping up to have one of the best outfields in Major League Baseball, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it will be the best around if everything goes right. Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte have already proven to be one of the best outfield duos, and now we get to see the potential beast that is Gregory Polanco for an entire season.
Their offensive production is most noticeable, but their speed and defense really sets them apart. No one’s questioning their wheels. Then you have two natural center fielders in Marte and Polanco playing at the corners for what should be an exceptional outfield defense. The Bucco outfield is where fly balls go to die.
You’ve probably seen this stat before (considering the number of times we’ve posted it), but it’s worth repeating…
Liriano heads an impressive list of baseball’s best pitchers, this in terms of missing bats. It’s no secret he has filthy stuff. But it’s interesting — no pitcher the last two seasons has thrown a lower percentage of pitches in the strike zone (Jeff Locke was a close third). How does he get so many batters to chase?
College baseball season is back, which got me thinking about the Pirates’ draft strategy the past two years. In both 2013 and 2014, 76% of their selections were college-level players. I stumbled upon hitting stats from 2014, with some interesting findings about a pair of Pirates’ draft picks.
On draft day, the selection of Connor Joe at 39th overall seemed to be a head-scratcher. Similar to first rounder Cole Tucker, Joe had not been as highly touted by various outlets as his actual draft position suggested — Baseball America, for example, had him as the 102nd best draft prospect. The Pirates were particularly high on him; they obviously had their own draft board and were sticking to it.
One reason for that might have been his positional uncertainly — he’s played catcher, first base, and outfield in the past; it’s still unclear where the Pirates will put him. But the bat could play. The University of San Diego product had an All-American junior season: