Could the Pirates surprise in 2010?

Yesterday’s trade of Jesse Chavez for Akinori Iwamura was hardly a blockbuster. The Pirates traded a replacement level reliever for an average second baseman, filling a hole for the time being and allowing Delwyn Young to return to pinch-hitting duties. Iwamura will not turn the Pirates into a contender or transform them into a .500 ball club by himself. Most likely, the trade will improve the team’s record by about two wins.

However, it is another small step in making the team respectable. As we move deeper into the offseason, we can take a closer look at the 2010 projections. But for now, let’s take a quick look at how the team is shaping up. Here’s the expected lineup at this point:

C Ryan Doumit
1B Garrett Jones
2B Akinori Iwamura
SS Ronny Cedeno
3B Andy LaRoche
LF Lastings Milledge
CF Andrew McCutchen
RF Brandon Moss

Let’s briefly break down this lineup. Doumit should bounce back from his poor 2009 season to some degree. He is always an injury waiting to happen, meaning Jason Jaramillo is likely to receive plenty of playing time. But even with Doumit playing 60% of the time and Jaramillo playing the other 40%, the Pirates should be able to receive at least average production from the catching position.

Garrett Jones is a mystery to me at this point. I doubt I will be surprised by his performance, whether he repeats his 2009 production or totally falls apart. After accounting for offense, defense and position, it is probably reasonable to expect him to be about average.

Iwamura is likely to provide average production at second, provided he stays healthy. As someone who tore his ACL last winter and returned as a quicker and more agile recreational softball shortstop in June (I think that’s sort of the same as major league baseball), I am not worried by his knee injury this season.

I am confident that both LaRoche and Milledge will be well above average players next season. I am not expecting star-level careers for either of them, but they can be very nice players for several years.

McCutchen, on the other hand, is a star in the making. Enough said.

I am sure you noticed that I did not mention Cedeno and Moss. They are likely to be replacement level players, making shortstop and right field two of the top priorities for the remainder of the offseason. Other than those two positions, the Pirates are likely to receive at least average production from the rest of the lineup.

As I mentioned in a previous post, with a bit more depth, the rotation has the potential to be average-ish. (Notice how often I refer to a portion of the team as average?) The bullpen needs some work and the team depth is thin, but anyone that is convinced this team will lose 100 games in 2010 is being far too reckless.

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