Series Preview: Pirates vs. Cubs

Pirates vs Cubs

Pittsburgh Pirates (6-6)


Chicago Cubs (6-5)

Monday, April 20th — 7:05 pm
Tuesday, April 21st — 7:05 pm
Wednesday, April 22nd — 7:05 pm
Thursday, April 23rd — 12:35 pm

PNC Park — Pittsburgh, PA


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Fresh off a sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers, the Pirates now host the Chicago Cubs to wrap up a long homestand. Most eyes will be on the Penguins-Rangers Stanley Cup playoff series this week, but an intriguing matchup will be taking place across the river at PNC Park. It’s still early, but this four-game set will have an impact on the NL Central standings.

Probable Pitchers

Monday — A.J. Burnett (0-1, 2.25) vs. Jake Arrieta (1-1, 1.98)

Tuesday — Francisco Liriano (0-1, 2.08) vs. Travis Wood (1-1, 2.31)

Wednesday — Vance Worley (1-1, 5.84) vs. Jason Hammel (1-0, 5.11)

Thursday — Jeff Locke (2-0, 1.93) vs. Kyle Hendricks (0-0, 6.10)

News, Notes, Storylines

– Due to the Pens’ series, the Monday and Wednesday Bucco games will not be televised on ROOT Sports.

– After being hit by a pitch in the chest on Sunday, Jordy Mercer will understandably sit out of Monday night’s contest. Jung-Ho Kang gets the nod at shortstop.

– The Pirates will miss Jon Lester this week, as he pitched on Sunday at Wrigley. A Cole-Lester matchup would have been fun; guess we’ll have to wait a little longer for that.

– Bucs are planning on wearing their new camo alternate jerseys for Thursday home games, so we should be seeing those for the first time this Thursday.

Opponent Blogs

Bleed Cubbie Blue | Bleacher Nation 

What they’re saying:

“The Cubs have been a favorite Pirates opponent in recent years (they’ve gone 6-14 against the Pirates over the past two seasons, for example). I predict the series will split, two wins each, and the Cubs will win the first and third games of the series.” – BCB

Player to Watch

kris bryant

Kris Bryant… who else? Pittsburgh will get its first look at Chicago’s young phenom, who made his much anticipated big league debut on Friday. Bryant picked up three hits (one double) and three walks in his first 14 plate appearances. Could we see his first MLB homer at PNC…?

Go Bucs

Strengths & Weaknesses Within the NL Central

pittsburgh pirates st louis cardinals

After a long, cold winter, we’re getting awfully close to Opening Day 2015. The National League Central looks to be one of the more competitive divisions in baseball this season — all five teams could hang around for a while, and at least three might be vying for a postseason spot come September.

This division has a lot of intriguing players who will put their respective teams in a position to compete. FanGraphs did a rundown of their positional rankings last week, ranking how all 30 teams stack up position-by-position based on wins above replacement projections. Team WAR totals by position can be found HERE. While there isn’t a perfect correlation, their WAR projections are typically a strong indicator of success, as Jeff Sullivan wrote in December.

Using FG’s depth charts/team WAR totals, I broke each position on each team into percentiles (based on all of MLB) and displayed the NL Central on some radar charts below. Each position includes bench playing time — for example, the Pirates’ projected wins above replacement at second base isn’t just Neil Walker; it’s Walker (2.9 WAR in 525 PA), Jung-Ho Kang (0.4 WAR in 140 PA), and Sean Rodriguez (0.1 WAR in 21 PA).

Let’s take a look, starting with our Bucs…

Continue reading “Strengths & Weaknesses Within the NL Central”

FanGraphs’ 2015 Projected Standings & Playoff Probabilities

clint hurdle postseason

FanGraphs has posted their projected standings and preseason playoff probabilities for the 2015 season. Their model is based on Steamer & ZiPS projections as well as their team depth charts, ultimately simulating the season 10,000 times and observing the results.

Last year, they accurately projected the final NL Central standings…

fangraphs projected nl central standings 2014

…as well as the NL Wild Card matchup, giving the Pirates and Giants the best preseason odds for the do-or-die game.

So, here’s what the numbers say for 2015:

fangraphs projected nl central standings 2015

Continue reading “FanGraphs’ 2015 Projected Standings & Playoff Probabilities”

Now & Later: Which MLB teams feature the most top talent?

andrew mccutchen batting

If you followed MLB Network’s annual “Top 10: Right Now” features this year, you’ll know the Pirates ranked very well. With “The Shredder,” they again objectively named the best major league players at each position. Subjectively, I can say some of the rankings were questionable (Pirates included). But they’re still fun to think about, and there’s not much else going on in the final days before spring training. also recently finished up their top 10 position-by-position lists for the minor league side of things. If you recall their top 100 we wrote a little bit about, the Bucs are doing well in the farm system as well.

So why not compare all of the lists and see which organizations are loaded with the most talent? The positions are a little different (MLB uses all three outfield positions and starter/reliever; MiLB has just outfield and right-handed pitchers/left-handed pitchers), but we’ll go with it.

The method: if a team has the #1 player at a position, they get 10 points; #2 player gets 9 points; #3 gets 8; and so on. We’ll keep it simple for now — everything on the same scale, even though the best at one position may not be as valuable as the best at another position.

Here are the results…

Continue reading “Now & Later: Which MLB teams feature the most top talent?”

NL Central Breakdown of MLB’s Top 100 Prospects

pirates prospect rankings

Yesterday, we took a look around the NL Central — specifically, how each team plans on divvying up their money in 2015. Today, we’ll go to the amateur level, as released their preseason top 100 prospect rankings on Friday night.

As you can see above, the Pirates placed seven prospects on the list:

12. Tyler Glasnow, RHP
31. Jameson Taillon, RHP
34. Josh Bell, 1B/OF
46. Austin Meadows, OF
64. Reese McGuire, C
74. Nick Kingham, RHP
92. Alen Hanson, SS/2B

That was the most for any team, followed by the Twins and Cubs at six prospects apiece. The heralded Chicago system features two of the game’s top five, making it look a little stronger than Pittsburgh’s. On the other end of the spectrum, the Brewers and Cardinals each only had one player on the list.

Here’s the NL Central breakdown:

nl central prospects

And here are the Central’s best prospects, in order, according to

Rank Player Team Position Overall
2 Kris Bryant Cubs 3B 70
5 Addison Russell Cubs SS 65
12 Tyler Glasnow Pirates RHP 60
22 Jorge Soler Cubs OF 60
24 Robert Stephenson Reds RHP 60
26 Jesse Winker Reds OF 60
31 Jameson Taillon Pirates RHP 60
34 Josh Bell Pirates 1B/OF 55
46 Austin Meadows Pirates OF 55
47 C.J. Edwards Cubs RHP 55
49 Kyle Schwarber Cubs C/OF 55
57 Albert Almora Cubs OF 55
64 Reese McGuire Pirates C 55
74 Nick Kingham Pirates RHP 55
88 Orlando Arcia Brewers SS 55
90 Stephen Piscotty Cardinals OF 55
92 Alen Hanson Pirates SS/2B 55

The “Overall” column is the projected future value of each player, based on the 20-80 scouting scale. For reference: 55 is an above average hitter/mid-rotation starter; 60 is a “plus” hitter or #2/3 starting pitcher; 65 (Addison Russell) is an All-Star-caliber hitter; 70 (Kris Bryant) is a top 5 hitter in all of baseball. [Note: all of Kiley McDaniel’s scouting work at FanGraphs is recommended reading.]

I’d be interested in seeing how this group of prospects compares to other divisions around the league (possible project for another day). With the 13 prospects between Pittsburgh and Chicago, plus two top-30 guys in Cincy, I’d imagine the NLC features one of the best all-around prospect talent pools. The division is competitive as it is now, and shaping up to remain that way later.

The Cubs have a bright future ahead, but it’s promising to see the Pirates held in high regard as well — they’re built to contend now and later. A great core already calls Pittsburgh home, and though it’s a long shot that all these guys pan out, there is certainly more help on the way.

When discussing the Bucs on MLB Network last night, Jonathan Mayo mentioned that a potential rotation of Gerrit Cole – Jameson Taillon – Tyler Glasnow might not be too far off. That’s fun to think about. Greg Amsinger followed up with, “Buy stock in the Pittsburgh Pirates while you can.”

Glasnow’s fastball rates as a 75 on the scouting scale, which looks to be the best in the Top 100 behind Lucas Giolito‘s perfect 80. Despite missing last season to Tommy John surgery, Taillon is still held in high regard and his fastball/curve/change remain rated as above average (it’ll be interesting to see if anything changes upon his return). Josh Bell’s hit and power tools are both marked as “plus” tools right now, with his move to first base as the only question mark. Meadows’ stock could soar if he stays on the field this year; Keith Law had him ranked 2nd on his Pirates’ list this week. MLB has his scouting grades at 60 for hit/run/field, 55 for power, but just 40 for arm — sounds a bit like the Pirates’ current center fielder.

Speaking of Cutch, check out this video — Top Prospect to MVP:

Go Bucs