The 2020 MLB season is now a 60-game dash, starting on July 23 and ending, hopefully, with a full-size postseason in October. Between now and the start of the season, we’ll be giving quick capsule previews of each team, reminding you of where things stood back in Spring Training and where they stand now as we embark on what is sure to be the strangest season in baseball history. First up: The Pittsburgh Pirates roster and schedule:
PIRATES ROSTER (projected)
When the season opens on July 23-24, teams can sport rosters of up to 30 players, with a minimum of 25. Two weeks later, rosters must be reduced to 28 and then, two weeks after that, they must be reduced to 26. Teams will be permitted to add a 27th player for doubleheaders.
In light of that, there is a great degree of latitude for which specific players will break summer camp. For now, though, here are who we expect to be on the Pirates roster to begin the season:
The Pirates stunk it up last season, finishing 69-93, good for last place in the NL Central. As a result, president Frank Coonelly, GM Neal Huntington, manager Clint Hurdle, and pitching coach Ray Searage were fired. They have been replaced, respectively, by Travis Williams, Ben Cherington, Derek Shelton, and Oscar Marin. The Pirates also traded All-Star outfielder Starling Marte to the Diamondbacks in the offseason. Starter Chris Archer will miss the season after undergoing neck surgery, and outfielder Gregory Polanco is currently a question mark after testing positive for COVID-19. Additionally, closer Keone Kela is on the 10-day injured list for undisclosed reasons and seems unlikely to be ready for the start of the season.
With all that out of the way, let’s talk about who is on the roster. The Pirates were tops in the National League in batting average, hitting .265 last season. They can thank Kevin Newman (.308) and Bryan Reynolds (.314) for that and both will reprise their roles at shortstop and left field, respectively. Josh Bell will provide the power after drilling 37 homers and knocking in 116 runs last year. The Pirates will also hope to get some production out of Polanco if and when he returns.
The starting pitching was rather unimpressive last season as Joe Musgrove led the way with a 4.44 ERA among Pirates starters who made at least 10 starts. That being said, the rotation does have some upside. Musgrove, for example, averaged better than four strikeouts for every one walk he issued in 2019. Lefty Steven Brault and right-hander Chad Kuhl will share the No. 5 spot.
Without Kela in the closer’s role, Kyle Crick would seem to be the initial favorite for save opportunities. Nick Burdi could also find himself in the mix, though he has all of 10 innings of major league experience. Burdi posted excellent strikeout rates in the minors and even struck out 19 of the 50 batters he has faced in the bigs.
While there are certainly some bright spots on the Pirates’ roster, it lacks the upper echelon of talent as well as the depth emblematic of contending ball clubs. The Pirates are likely ticketed for another last-place finish in the NL Central and the Baseball Prospectus projected standings agree, putting them on a 26-34 record in the NL Central cellar.
Every team will play 60 games. Teams will be playing 40 games against their own division rivals and 20 interleague games against the corresponding geographic division from the other league. Six of the 20 interleague games will be “rivalry” games.
- July 24-26: @ Cardinals
- July 27-29: vs. Brewers
- July 31-August 2: @ Cubs
- August 3-4: @ Twins
- August 5-6: vs. Twins
- August 7-9: vs. Tigers
- August 10-12: @ Cardinals
- August 13-16: @ Reds
- August 18-20: vs. Indians
- August 21-23: vs. Brewers
- August 25-26: @ White Sox
- August 28-31: @ Brewers
- September 1-3: vs. Cubs
- September 4-6: vs. Reds
- September 8-9: vs. White Sox
- September 11-13: @ Royals
- September 14-16: @ Reds
- September 17-20: vs. Cardinals
- September 21-24: vs. Cubs
- September 25-27: @ Indians