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Building a team of former Pirates

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MLB: Seattle Mariners at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine if the Pittsburgh Pirates got 2019 production out of former players, but only former players.

Here’s the game.

I am going to build a team of former Pirates from the 2013 season until now. Yes, yes I know. This doesn’t make actual sense. I understand that environments are different. Coaching and development is different. Everything is different. Once again, that’s why it’s just a game. In all honesty, WAR will be the main determining factor on how this team shapes out.

Rules:

  • No current Pirate can be on this team.
  • We are using 2019 stats.
  • This team is built purely off of players that were formerly in the Pirates’ organization from 2013 on.
  • This team CANNOT have players that were traded for each other. For example, Justin Wilson and Francisco Cervelli can’t both be on this team. Just one.
  • The players will need to have played major league baseball in 2019. Former prospects in the Pirates’ organization that are now big league players are fair game.
  • This team will have 25 players. Keep in mind that although some players have had injuries this season, their accrued fWAR will be accounted for as is.

*Note* The number beside each player’s name is their 2019 fWAR.

Let’s go!

Starting rotation

Gerrit Cole (7.3)

Charlie Morton (6.1)

Tyler Glasnow (2.2)

Ivan Nova (1.9)

Jordan Lyles (1.6 minus 0.8 from the Pirates this season equals 0.8)

*Side note* The top three of this rotation is the epitome of the Pirates’ incompetence. Development, philosophy, whatever you want to call it, the Pirates failed miserably with these guys. All three underachieved mightily in Pittsburgh only to blossom into ace-like talents elsewhere.

Bullpen

Mark Melancon (1.2)

Joakim Soria (0.9)

Daniel Hudson (0.8)

Juan Nicasio (0.4)

Justin Wilson (0.3)

Adrian Sampson (0.5)

Tyler Webb (0.1)

I really wish I could have included Jesse Chavez and Oliver Perez on this list. But alas, they were Pirates long before the 2013 season.

Batting Order

CF Andrew McCutchen (1.5)

RF Austin Meadows (4.1)

LF Jordan Luplow (1.9)

1B Neil Walker (0.3)

3B David Freese (1.6)

C Russell Martin (1.1)

SS Jordy Mercer (0.5)

2B Adeiny Hechavarria (0.4)

Pitcher

Bench

C Reese McGuire (1.2)

OF Alex Dickerson (0.6)

OF Matt Joyce (1.3)

UT Sean Rodriguez (0.1)

IF Phil Gosselin (-0.2)

Compared to the 2019 Pirates

For the sake of simplicity, I will be referring to the team of former Pirates as “the Formers” and the actual Pirates as just the Pirates.

Obviously on the starting pitching front, the Formers blow the Pirates out of the water. In 2019, the Formers have produced a combined fWAR of 18.3. This would be a top five rotation in baseball. At the same time, this doesn’t account for added starters that would undoubtedly be needed over a full season’s work. That could potentially add or subtract from the total.

The Pirates’ starting rotation this year has an fWAR of 7.9. Their top five guys have a total of 7.1, including 0.8 from Lyles earlier in the year.

In the bullpen, the Formers have a combined fWAR of 4.2. The fWAR of Pirates’ relievers this season is 0.7. For their top seven guys though, the total rises to 3.7.

For position players, the Formers have an accumulated fWAR of 14.4. The Pirates sit at 11.0 but when looking at their best player at each position plus the top five bench guys, the figure jumps to 15.7. Keep in mind though, this doesn’t include the disastrous seasons from regulars like Melky Cabrera and Elias Diaz.

The sum of fWAR for the Formers is 36.9. The Pirates best 25 players have an fWAR 26.5. When all Pirate players are included, that number drops to 19.6.

With teams using more and more players each year, depth would be a major issue. Guys like Josh Harrison (-0.6), Jared Hughes (-0.6), Max Moroff (-0.2), Alen Hanson (-0.5), and Tony Watson (-0.3) would all receive playing time and ultimately decrease the quality of the team. Those five players alone would drop the total team fWAR to 34.9. Team’s like the Dodgers, Yankees and Astros all have tremendous depth. Unfortunately for the Formers, this is not the case.

All things considered, I don’t think this hypothetical team would be all that great. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s an 80ish win team based purely off of the starting rotation. They would be phenomenal and healthy, yes, but would they alone be enough to carry the whole team? The bullpen seems shaky and the lineup would be hard-pressed to score runs. The injuries to McCutchen and to a lesser extent Meadows would be extremely difficult to overcome. Freese and Walker are no longer everyday players. The platoon of Joyce and Luplow would need to act as the main offensive driving force for stretches of the year. That seems unrealistic. Hitters 6-9 would be a black hole. The bench is unbearably thin.

Here’s the big question though.

Is this team of former Pirates better than the 2019 Pirates?

Probably, yeah. They have the three best pitchers. They have the best position player. That alone is probably enough.

Sadly, two awful trades in 2018 heavily shifted how this experiment worked out. If Pirates had been able to unlock the full powers of Cole and Glasnow, this franchise would be in a totally different position right now. They wouldn’t have had to trade for a guy like Archer because they would have felt comfortable with Glasnow. They could’ve kept Meadows (and Shane Baz). If they had been able to unlock the 2019 version of Cole two years ago, his inevitable trade most likely would have netted a more palatable return.

Almost every decision this organization has made after the 2015 season has been the wrong one. They’ve made the wrong trades. They haven’t discovered new market inefficiencies. They’ve refused to get with the times of current day baseball. Not to mention, this team is run by one of the cheapest owners in all of sports.

Yet here we are.

We currently exist in an era where a team put together of former players would be favorites to beat the actual team.