So far in my 2010 preview I’ve looked at ten prospects who could make an impact in the majors this season, potential trades during the 2010 season, and 18 things to watch for in 2010. Also, be sure to check out the Opening Day Payroll projection for the breakdown of salaries for the 2010 40-man roster. Today, for opening day, we’ll wrap things up by looking at the expectations for each player on the Opening Day roster.
C – Ryan Doumit: The key for Doumit will be staying healthy. Doumit played in just 75 games last year thanks to a wrist injury, hitting for a .250/.299/.414 line. However, he hit for a .329/.406/.459 line from September to the end of the season. Doumit needs to return to his 2008 numbers, and play at least 120 games, in order to be what the Pirates need from him this season.
1B – Jeff Clement: I’m not sold on Clement, but I think now is the best time for him to get a shot at the majors, mostly because it’s the only chance he will see before guys like Jose Tabata come up. CHONE projections have Clement hitting for a .264/.342/.460 line with a homer every 23.65 at-bats. That’s a 23 home run season with 550 at-bats. If he can be an .800 OPS, 25 homer guy, he might not be that bad of an option. It wouldn’t be elite, but it would definitely help.
2B – Akinori Iwamura: Iwamura will provide strong defense at second, which alone makes his addition worthwhile. In the past he hasn’t hit for much power, although he will be a top of the order hitter, possibly batting leadoff in a “pitcher bats eighth” lineup, so the power isn’t necessary. The Pirates could benefit from his career .354 OBP, which may even see an increase in a move from the AL East to the NL Central. Iwamura’s career statline of .281/.354/.393 would be fine from the top of the order.
SS – Ronny Cedeno: I’d rather see Bobby Crosby here, as I think he provides the best all around package. Cedeno has shown some good defensive tools, although he looks more like a raw, unfinished product. After the trade last year he hit for a .258/.307/.394 line, which would be fine if his defense was on par with Jack Wilson. The defense will be the key for him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up losing his job to Crosby at some point this season.
3B – Andy LaRoche: LaRoche was strong on defense last year, but didn’t start hitting well until the end of the season. LaRoche hit 8 of his 12 homers in his final 170 at-bats, which is a 26 homer pace in a full season. He also hit for a .313/.359/.552 line from September to the end of the season. LaRoche needs to carry the late season power, and the September hitting, over to the 2010 season. He might even be able to move Pedro Alvarez to another position, although I think the more likely scenario would be LaRoche moving to second.
LF – Lastings Milledge: Milledge showed some great hitting skills, and solid defense, in his time with the Pirates in 2009. Not only did Milledge hit for a .291/.333/.395 line, but he also put up a 16.4 UZR/150 rating. Milledge needs to increase his power in order to be what the Pirates were hoping for when they swapped out Nyjer Morgan to get him. Most projections have him hitting around ten homers this year, although 20 would be ideal.
CF – Andrew McCutchen: Simply put, McCutchen needs to not only repeat his rookie season, but improve on those numbers. That may seem like it’s asking a lot, but I think it’s just expecting McCutchen to live up to his potential. McCutchen put up an .836 OPS in his rookie season, while hitting for a .286 average and 12 homers in 433 at-bats. I’d be happy with the same results, which amounts to 15 homers in a full season. A .300 average, .850 OPS, 20 homers, and 40 steals would be ideal, and I don’t think it’s out of the question.
RF – Garrett Jones: The big question for Jones is whether his 2009 power was legit. Jones hit 21 homers in 314 at-bats, which kind of makes him the poor man’s version of Jason Bay. A lot of people question whether Jones can hit for a high average again, citing his struggles against left handed pitching. I think the power is legit, and I think Jones has a great shot at 30 homers this year. As for the average, Jones put up a .293 average and a .372 on-base percentage last year. As long as he’s hitting for power and putting up a strong OPS (I’d take something around .350 at the least) I don’t care whether he’s hitting for a .260 average or a .290 average. Jones could end up at first base by the end of the 2010 season, depending on the play of Jeff Clement.
C – Jason Jaramillo: Jaramillo will probably see some time as a starter this season, and might even take over as the full time starter, bridging the gap until Tony Sanchez arrives, if Ryan Doumit is traded. Jaramillo just needs to repeat his performance from last season, when he threw out 28% of base runners. His hitting skills leave a bit to be desired, as his .673 OPS isn’t ideal for the everyday lineup. Jaramillo wasn’t much better in his career at the AAA level, with a .708 OPS, which means we probably won’t see much of an improvement.
OF – Ryan Church: Church provides strong defense at the corner outfield positions, and has a decent career stat line of .272/.345/.441. He would be an upgrade in the lineup over Clement with those numbers, only if Clement fell short of his projections. One troublesome trend has been Church’s declining OPS the last four seasons. He went from .891 in 2006, to .813 in 2007, to .785 in 2008, to .722 in 2009. If he doesn’t reverse that trend, he may not be any better than what Brandon Moss was in 2009.
SS – Bobby Crosby: I’ve mentioned this plenty of times, but Crosby’s career line against National League teams is .270/.339/.423. He already has the defense to replace Jack Wilson at shortstop, and if he could hit for that stat line he’d be a considerable upgrade over Wilson. Crosby will start out on the bench, but might get a chance to move in to the starter’s role if Cedeno struggles initially on defense.
2B/OF – Delwyn Young: Young had a monster Spring Training, although that doesn’t mean anything for the regular season. In 2009, Young was hitting for a .321/.386/.434 line as a bench player, until taking over for Freddy Sanchez at second base. &nbs
p;After that point, Young hit for a .221/.275/.338 line, possibly due to the effort he put in to learning the second base position. Young was replaced at the position in the off-season, although he could still play a few games to spell Iwamura. I’m not sold on Young as an everyday player, but he should be a great asset off the bench.
OF – John Raynor: Raynor is a former top prospect in the Florida Marlins farm system, and still has a chance to realize his potential in the majors. As a Rule 5 pick, he has to stay in the majors all year, or else the Pirates have to return him to Florida. However, as a 26 year old, it’s pretty much now or never for Raynor to realize his potential. I’d be happy with strong defense from all three outfield positions, speed on the bases, and the ability to hit for average off the bench. Raynor seems to have two of those in the bag, he just needs to successfully hit for average.
SP – Zach Duke: Duke will be the Opening Day starter for the Pirates, following a season in which he tied for the team led in wins (11) and was second in the rotation in ERA (4.06). Duke struggled in August and September, with a 5.81 ERA over 66.2 innings. That could be chalked up to poor defense, although Duke’s career history of inconsistencies could have been a factor. The Pirates need a repeat of 2009, preferably without the falloff in the last two months.
SP – Paul Maholm: Maholm struggled last year, partially due to injuries. He did manage to turn things around at the end of the season, with a 3.93 ERA in 66.1 innings over the last two months. Hopefully that was the real Maholm, the same one that put up a 3.71 ERA in 2008. The Pirates need this level of play from Maholm in 2010.
SP – Ross Ohlendorf: Ohlendorf is the next pitcher to try and put up back to back strong seasons for the Pirates. The last pitcher to put up back to back sub-4.00 ERA seasons for the Pirates was Kip Wells in 2002/2003, although clearly Wells didn’t continue that trend. I pointed out a few weeks ago that Ohlendorf was lucky in 2009, so he will need to rely less on luck in 2010 to repeat.
SP – Charlie Morton: Morton’s season in 2009 revolved around one start: a one inning, ten run outing on August 14th against the Cubs. Take out that start, and Morton had a 3.66 ERA in 96 innings, with a 61:37 K/BB ratio. The question is, was the start something that can be expected from Morton, or was it a fluke? Morton has the potential to be the best starter in the Pirates rotation. He needs to prove that the start was a fluke. He’s my choice for breakout pitcher of the year.
SP – Daniel McCutchen: McCutchen is only really guaranteed to start on April 11th. His performance in that outing, plus Kevin Hart’s performance at AAA, will likely determine who starts going forward. If McCutchen stays in the role, he will eventually be pushed out by Brad Lincoln, unless he performs well enough to force a Zach Duke trade. That would be somewhere in the 4.50 ERA range, which would be solid for a fifth starter.
RP – Jack Taschner: Taschner hasn’t had much historical success, with a 7.6 K/9 and a 1.54 K/BB in 169.1 career innings. He’s also hasn’t shown any advantage in his career against left handers. Taschner looked good this Spring, and will hope to turn his career around this year. He needs to cut down on the walks in order to have a chance of that happening.
RP – Hayden Penn: The Pirates are taking a flier on Penn to realize his former top prospect status. Penn needs to drastically improve his control numbers, and if he can do that, he has the stuff to be a great asset to the Pirates. Penn could enter the starting mix at some point this season, but it’s more likely that he’ll be an option in the bullpen. The Pirates don’t need him to be anything more than middle relief, but it would be great if he emerged as a late inning relief option.
RP – D.J. Carrasco: Carrasco has been strong out of the White Sox bullpen the last two seasons, and will play a key role for the Pirates in 2010 as a utility pitcher. Carrasco can pitch in pretty much any role, including starting depth. The Pirates need a repeat of his 2009 season, which may be easier in a move to the NL.
RP – Javier Lopez: Lopez hasn’t had great ratios in his career, with a walk rate that is too high, and a strikeout rate that isn’t high enough. He also doesn’t have a significant advantage against left handers, although he does have a .247 BAA in his career, with a .689 OPS. Lopez put up a strong 2.70 ERA from 2006-2008, then bombed in 2009. He needs to somehow get close to the 2006-2008 results to be effective for the Pirates in 2010.
RP – Evan Meek: Meek had a good season in 2009, although he could still use an improvement on the walk ratio. Meek has the potential to be a back of the bullpen reliever, and maybe even a closer candidate. The Pirates could use the 2009 version, although if he steps up his game this year he will help make the bullpen a very strong group.
RP – Brendan Donnelly: Donnelly had a big comeback in 2009, with a 1.78 ERA in 30 appearances with the Florida Marlins, thanks to an 8.9 K/9 and a 2.78 K/BB. Prior to his struggles in 2008, Donnelly had a career 2.88 ERA with an 8.8 K/9 and a 2.82 K/BB, which makes his 2009 performance seem legit. I don’t expect a sub-2.00 ERA again in 2010, although an ERA close to 3.00 with similar ratios to his 2009 performance would be welcome.
CL – Octavio Dotel: Dotel is an exceptional reliever, although he hasn’t had the best success rate in his past as a closer. Part of that could be due to his ascension to the closer role later in his career, after he was past his prime. Part of that could be the short leash he was on in each situation. The Pirates need Dotel to hold down the closers role long enough for future closer Joel Hanrahan to get healthy, and get some more time having success in late innings, to the point where he would be comfortable closing again.
RP – Joel Hanrahan: Hanrahan should return in mid-April, at which point he will take over the seventh inning set up duties, and get on track to become the Pirates’ long term closer. Hanrahan had excellent numbers with the Pirates after the trade last year, although I expect his numbers this year to be closer to his 2008 results.
RP – Jose Ascanio: It’s hard to say how Ascanio will return from his injury, and how effective he will be at that point. The Pirates need a full recovery, with Ascanio reaching his potential of a back of the bullpen reliever. If that happens, they could potentially have five late inning relievers in their pen, with Ascanio joining Dotel, Donnelly, Hanrahan, and Meek.