First, can you let readers know about the Bucsdugout.com website and what they should expect in terms of coverage and new features in 2014?
David Manel and I plan to cover games from PNC Park this year, Wilbur Miller will cover the minor-league system, and David Todd and I will continue to run the Bucs Dugout Podcast. My book about Pirates fans will be out this spring. That’s my main focus right now.
What do you say to those that feel so much went right for the Pirates last season – banner seasons from Alvarez, McCutchen, Liraiano, etc. – that duplicating the team’s success of last season seems unlikely?
I don’t agree that Alvarez had a banner season, but in general, I agree with those people, whoever they are. The tendency of teams who win as many games as the Pirates did last year is to regress to the mean, particularly when they don’t upgrade. Losing A.J. Burnett’s 2013 production — assuming the Pirates actually do lose him — will really hurt.
Where are the greatest opportunities for “upside” for this team in 2014, and do you see those actually happening?
I could see Gregory Polanco joining the team in June and upgrading the Pirates’ outfield defense even more. Wandy Rodriguez was a very solid pitcher fairly recently, and he seems to be a forgotten man. I’m not sure how optimistic to be about his health, however. I’m also interested to see how Stolmy Pimentel will do out of the bullpen. Probably the Pirates’ best shot at a big upside season, though, is Gerrit Cole pitching all year like he did down the stretch in 2013.
How do you see first base ultimately shaking out this season? Can Lambo be a al part of the solution?
Maybe, but I still think they’ll acquire someone, perhaps shortly before spring training opens. If I had to bet on someone, it would be Ike Davis.
What are your thoughts on the starting rotation? In a recent article (http://www.bucsdugout.com/2014/1/13/5304568/a-guess-at-the-pirates-25-man-roster), You projected that to be Cole, Liriano, Rodriguez, Morton and Volquez. Will Rodrguez be healthy, and how successful do you see Morton and Volquez being?
Morton will go as far as the Pirates’ infield defense will take him. As for Volquez, your guess is as good as mine. The Pirates must have thought they could fix him. If they can, Ray Searage will have pretty firmly established himself as one of baseball’s best pitching coaches.
Currently, there are no left-handed SP’s after 2014. How do you see the Pirates addressing this issue?
They’ll have Gerrit Cole switch pitching hands. No problemo! Well, either that, or maybe they’ll just have Jeff Locke pitch a few innings.
How much does this team lean on statistical analysis compared to other MLB teams? And how exactly does it do so, from your perspective?
Most teams lean on statistical analysis to some degree, and the Pirates are no exception. Their main stats guy, Dan Fox, helped design the last season’s very successful approach defensive shifts.
At this stage in the offseason, what realistic moves would you like to see this team make to help this team contend in 2014, taking into account the team’s payroll, free agents left, and potential trade prospects?
Oh man, I don’t know. There isn’t much left on the free agent market, especially offensively. Re-signing Burnett would probably be the single best thing they could do. There are still some pitchers available. I expect a lot of them will sign soon now that the Yankees have signed Masahiro Tanaka, but maybe someone will come cheaply.
Any fear that we are overhyping Polanco? And outside of Polanco, what other prospects do you see contributing substantially to this team in 2014, and how so?
You never know for sure how a prospect will perform until he actually does it, but Polanco is worthy of the hype. He’s always had a million tools, and he’s done a great job turning them into skills these past two years.
Any last thoughts for readers?