1) All of a sudden the Pirates have starting pitching depth. A.J Burnett will be the opening day starter for the Bucs, barring another spring training bunting snafu. Burnett will headline a rotation which also includes Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, Jeff Locke and Francisco Liriano.
Rodriguez is entering his first spring training with the Pirates and will hope to continue where he left off at the very end of last season, when he recorded seven quality starts in the last eight games he pitched. McDonald is coming off his best year as a MLB pitcher but fell apart toward the end of the season finishing with a 12-8 record despite starting 10-3. Karstens was originally let go by the team after last season but was resigned when Francisco Liriano broke his non-throwing arm. We basically know what to expect from him. Locke is the most pro-ready starter coming from Triple-A Indianapolis and it looks like he will make the Pirates opening day roster, if not as a starter then as a relief/spot start guy. Liriano is the Pirates newest addition, I think. Technically the Pirates and Liriano haven't finalized what is looking like a two-year deal. Liriano is a hard throwing, left-handed strikeout pitcher who was brought in presumably to replace Erik Bedard, a hard throwing, left-handed strikeout pitcher. It is worth noting that the Pirates are also supposedly in negotiations with former Colorado Rockies' pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, in case the Liriano deal falls through.
Despite having seemingly great depth in the starting rotation, a few of the Pirates starters have had injury issues in the past. Liriano ended the 2011 season on the DL when pitching for the Twins, not to mention the voided contract this winter as a result of a broken arm, and Karstens only managed 15 starts for the big club last year. Also concerning are the full season capabilities of McDonald and Locke. McDonald was dreadful in the second half of last season causing him to be shut down before his final two starts and Locke, potentially being a first year starter in the MLB, who knows what to expect?
Ridiculous Prediction Number One: A series of unfortunate events, whether they be performance or health related, will force the Pirates to include highly touted prospect Gerrit Cole in the opening day rotation. Cole will go on to be the youngest twenty game winner since Dwight Gooden for the 1985 New York Mets on his way to earning NL Cy Young honors.
2) The Pirates will enter the 2013 season with one of the fastest outfields in the Majors. That means two things for the Bucs; speed on the base paths and the ability to track down fly balls, especially in the notoriously deep leftfield notch at PNC Park. Not such a ridiculous predication, Starling Marte will start in left field for the Pirates, and obviously McCutchen will patrol center.
The right field situation is quite uncertain, possible candidates include to start in right include Travis Snider, Alex Pressley, Jose Tabata and Garrett Jones. Of these four players, Snider is the best defensively, Pressley is the fastest, Tabata has the most experience playing outfield in the Majors and Jones has the most powerful bat.
It is likely Jones will platoon at first base with Gaby Sanchez and play right a handful of times. If Marte can prove to be an effective leadoff hitter it will hurt both Tabata and Pressley's chances to start on a regular basis. With Marte's speed, he has leadoff hitter written all over him, which leaves Snider to be the most viable candidate to start in right.
Ridiculous Prediction Number Two: The Pirates outfield wins all three NL Golden Glove Awards at the conclusion of the 2013 season. Considering the consistency in which the award is presented to players in consecutive years it is not hard to imagine McCutchen winning his second straight. Marte has the speed and the arm to patrol the spacious left field at PNC Park, which should boost his Range Factor and Defensive WAR metrics. And Travis Snider, did you see the superhuman homerun robbing catch he made against the Mets last year? Enough Said.
If you didn't see Snider's catch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ov7N6XYrMtc
3) The Pirates are in line for what seems like a promising season. Fans of most MLB teams wouldn't consider ending the season with a .500 record promising, but here in Pittsburgh, winning baseball is kind of a sensitive subject. If the Bucs can play a full season like they played the start of the last two then there will be a lot of happy Pirates fans come October. No matter how good of a season the Bucs have it seems unlikely they will be able to beat out the stacked Cincinnati Reds for first place in the NL Central division. If the Pirates make the playoffs it will likely be in a wildcard position.
Ridiculous Prediction Number Three: The Pirates will play a MLB playoff game at PNC Park in 2013. The same could be said for most teams, but if the Pirates can stay healthy and perform the way they have proved they can in the past it could be an exciting season. That being said, I'm going to have to see this one to believe it.
Have a ridiculous Pirates prediction of your own? Send me a tweet @MikeTGaffney and let me hear it.