The Pirates seem to be in an interesting situation heading into next year- it looks like the lineup they are developing will, at least, have a solid 1-5 in Tabata, Cutch, Walker, Jones (who they should platoon with Pearce...), and Alvarez. Snyder looks like a decent catcher, Doumit and his attitude will be gone. Milledge (who, again, should platoon with Bowker) and Cedeno are below-average, but they're not Chris Stynes either. The only bad part of this group is that there is very little behind them, in case one falters...while there are some intriguing hitting prospects who should be at AAA next year (Lambo, D'Arnaud, Harrison, Hague, Hernandez, Presley?), none strikes me as a possible impact player, at least next year. Lambo has the highest upside, but he still strikes me as very much a developmental player. I also like Hague, particularly that his plate discipline (and I know this is discussed ad naseum here) sets him up well to not be overwhelmed by ML pitching. Anyway, they also have two horses in Meek/Hanrahan, which the entire bullpen can revolve around. Hopefully Moskos rebounds from his terrible AAA start and gives them a third shutdown guy.
But the $64,000 question, which will determine whether this team will win 70 games (their lowest possible total, methinks) or 90 games (their highest) or somewhere in between is the starting pitching. This year was somewhat of a Murphy's law situation- while some things were inevitable (Duke being a fringe 5-starter/BP pitcher), others were just exasperating (Morton's breakdown, McCutchen becoming a BP pitcher, injuries to Veal/Hart/Ascanio, Lincoln faltering). Basically, Neal's strategy with starting pitching is to throw enough stuff at the wall that some will stick. Next year, there will be so much MORE to throw at the wall. The only guy they will probably lose is Duke (who cares?), but they add the injured pitchers, McDonald, and the foursome at AA right now, at least by the time June rolls around.
You would think that between Maholm, Ohlendorf, Karstens, McDonald, Lincoln, Morton, Hart, Veal, Ascanio, and Morris/Owens/Wilson/Locke we could find 5 decent enough guys by June, at least? Not to mention guys like Crotta, D. Cutch...oh hell, they're not actually worth mentioning, but I hope you get my point. And now there's rumors that Neal will acquire some more-established guy to throw into the mix. It can't possibly get worse from a SP perspective, or am I going crazy?