Prime candidates for a sneaky bounce back in 2018. The Buccos buckled last season, weighed down by everything from a half-season PED suspension (Starling Marte) to medical woes both frightening (Jameson Taillon, testicular cancer) and more conventional (Gregory Polanco, hamstring, ankle, etc.).
Taillon could be the team’s ace as soon as next season, while Tyler Glasnow and other young arms offer additional upside. Marte and Polanco back and at full strength could be worth an extra three or four wins alone, while Josh Bell gets to build on his 26-homer rookie campaign. Andrew McCutchen’s walk-year status lingers as we enter free agency. But whether the Pirates give him another extension, stand pat and see what happens from April to June, or trade him for lots of prospects, there’s enough here to foster some optimism, two straight losing seasons notwithstanding.