2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Offensive Hopes Tied to Core Players

Pirates SpringClint Barmes batted .229 with eight home runs and 45 rbi in 2012, which are all close to his 2011 numbers (.244,12 home runs, 39 rbi). Barmes played solid defense, registering a .972 fielding percentage, slightly above his career average. Those numbers are right in line with Barmes’ career numbers and for the most part meet the Pirates expectations of solidifying the middle infield.

If you followed the 2012 Pirates, your aware that Clint Barmes was blamed for just about everything that went wrong. When others were struggling, Barmes’ became more noticeable, especially because he just signed a two year, $10.5 million contract last offseason. Expectations were high for the newcomer, but in reality, Clint Barmes was not going to be a savior and he was not the reason for the Pirates abysmal offense at times.

The Pirates issues in 2012 had very little to do with the shortstop and it should now be known that the only way this offense is going to succeed is via its star potential players. Clint Barmes, Garrett Jones, Travis Snider and Jose Tabata are not going to be what makes this Pirate ship sink or float.

That task is dependent upon  Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Starling Marte. These four players all need to take steps forward and naturally progress in 2013.

Taking Steps Forward in 2013

Pirates NewsAndrew McCutchen– McCutchen had a career year in 2012, batting .327 with 31 home runs, 96 rbi and 20 stolen bases. McCutchen faded down the stretch, as he posted a .289 average in the second half of the season.

McCutchen is the superstar that Pirates’ fans have been dreaming of for years, but Cutch needs to make sure there is no drop off in production in 2013. The Pirates need Cutch to be a superstar all year long if they have hopes of contending. Oh and some more stolen bases would be nice too considering his blazing speed.

The Pirates need McCutchen to put up a .315-.330 average, 25 home runs, 90 rbi, 35 stolen bases and gold glove defense in PNC Park’s vast outfield.

Pittsburgh Pirates NewsPedro Alvarez– After an injury-riddled season in 2011, Alvarez got off to a miserable start in 2012, but eventually found the home run stroke. ‘El Toro’ brought the long ball in bunches last season, totaling 30 home runs and 85 rbi to go along with a .244 average. Although the home runs were coming, the strikeouts piled up for Alvarez as well (180).

Alvarez has gone through the natural progression of a power hitter, fighting his way through major league pitching. This season, Alvarez needs to take the next step, which is consistency. Alvarez’ 180 strikeouts were second worst in the National League and his home runs all came on torrid streaks.  If Alvarez can hammer out the dramatic highs and lows and be more even keel, El Toro is capable of putting up huge numbers offensively.

Pedro committed 27 errors last season to go along with a .926 fielding percentage, both ranking him dead last among third baseman in the NL. Defense clearly needs to be worked on, but as long as Alvarez keeps the home runs coming, fielding will be secondary.

Alvarez needs to hit above .260 with 35+ home runs and 100+ rbi.

Pirates NewsNeil Walker– Walker was in the midst of another solid season in 2012 before a back injury sidelined him for periods of time in August and September. Walker has been one of the more consistent second baseman in the NL over the past three seasons, averaging 15 home runs and 85 rbi over the course of a 162 game season.

The Pirates need more of the same from the Pittsburgh native, but the only way that will happen is if Walker stays healthy. Walker has .300-potential and if he could boost that average up from his career .280 average, it would mean a lot for the lineup.

If Walker can hit .300, 15 home runs, 80-95 rbi, .340+ OBP, the Pirates would be in good shape and Walker would most likely be an All-Star.

Pittsburgh Pirates NewsStarling Marte- Marte has all the raw talent in the world, a true five-tool player in the making and could be a clone of Andrew McCutchen. Marte already has more power than McCutchen did at this point, but Marte lacks discipline at the plate. At points last season, Marte looked totally lost at the plate.

No one should expect Marte to bat .320 this season with 30 home runs, but if Marte can manage to get on base and set the table with his blazing speed, that would go a long way in helping this offense.

Marte needs to hit .290-.310, hit 15 home runs, 60 rbi and 25-30 stolen bases with a .320 OBP. Those are large, but reasonable demands for such a young, talented player. The tools are there, now its up to Marte to display them on the brightest stage there is.

These four, young players create a very solid nucleus for the Pirates moving forward and when they are all playing to their potential, role players such as Clint Barmes are not under a microscope.

So much was made about Clint Barme’s struggles in 2012 at the plate, when in reality Barmes batted just fine in order for a good team to win. His struggles, along with Rod Barajas and others were only magnified when McCutchen and company were slumping or hurt.

If these core players do not regress and naturally progress in 2013 into the players they are suppose to be, bottom of the order hitters such as Barmes, Tabata, Snider and Martin will not be scrutinized as much. Like most teams, this 2013 Pirates team will live and die with their star and star-potential players.


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