The Pirates kick off a three-game series against the 48-63 Padres on Tuesday. Here's what to expect as the Bucs face a team that will look pretty different from the one they lost two of three to back in April.
Game times and probables
Tuesday, 7:05: Luis Perdomo vs. Chad Kuhl
Wednesday, 7:05: Edwin Jackson vs. Ryan Vogelsong
Thursday, 12:35: Christian Friedrich vs. Jameson Taillon
Padres starters rank 24th in the big leagues with a 4.4 fWAR, and that total includes performances from now-departed hurlers Drew Pomeranz, James Shields and Andrew Cashner. All three starters the Pirates will face this series are former free-talent acquisitions.
The 23-year-old Perdomo was a Rule 5 pick from the Cardinals organization last offseason; he has a 5.46 ERA thus far, although he has good velocity and ground ball numbers and has suffered an inordinately high .377 batting average against on balls in play. Jackson has fallen a long way since Pirates fans campaigned for him to sign with the Bucs prior to the 2012 season -- he followed poor 2013 and 2014 seasons in the Cubs rotation with a passable year spent in relief in 2015, and he hasn't fared well in 2016 as his velocity and strikeout rate have continued to decline. His mid-80s slider, once a plus pitch, is no longer a serious threat. The lefty Friedrich, a former Rockies reliever, has been slightly more effective than Jackson this season, which isn't saying much.
C Derek Norris, Christian Bethancourt
1B Wil Myers, Brett Wallace
2B Ryan Schimpf
SS Alexei Ramirez, Jose Rondon
3B Yangervis Solarte
INF Adam Rosales
LF Alex Dickerson
CF Travis Jankowski
RF Jabari Blash
The big difference in the Padres' group of position players since the Pirates last played them is in their outfield -- Melvin Upton is now a Blue Jay, and Matt Kemp a Brave. Those departures have cleared the way for former Pirates prospect Alex Dickerson, whose first prolonged exposure to big-league pitching has gone quite well, and Jabari Blash, a powerful former Rule 5 pick who has struggled.
The Padres' infield, the butt of jokes heading into the season, is actually pretty good, particularly if you can ignore whatever's going on at shortstop. Wil Myers is in the midst of a great year offensively and is far better as a first baseman than he was as a center fielder. Rookie second baseman Ryan Schimpf has hit 10 homers in 157 plate appearances so far. And third baseman Yangervis Solarte is quietly in the midst of a very good third big-league season.
Ryan Buchter (L)
Brad Hand (L)
Buddy Baumann (L)
Clayton Richard (L)
The Padres' bullpen is currently eight deep, which makes sense, given how weak the rotation currently is. Richard, who just signed, could soon make a spot start or two to spare starters like Friedrich and Perdomo some wear and tear. The team can also use Villanueva and Campos in multi-inning stints as needed. They could, theoretically, also use Hand that way, although he's mostly pitched single innings over the past six weeks and has done well in that role. He and Buchter are probably the Padres' most effective relievers at the moment. They're both lefties, so righty bench bats like David Freese or Sean Rodriguez could have some interesting pinch-hit appearances this series.