By Will Carroll
February 29, 2012
The Pirates finally showed some signs of improvement last season before a late summer collapse. Their offseason showed an almost stubborn commitment to building internally, but none of the players from the Neal Huntington era have shown up in Pittsburgh yet. Before they arrive, though, the Pirates saw fit to deal with the big disparity between the 2011 and Five-Year ranks for its training staff. The Pirates swapped a former Dick Martin Award winner for a Pittsburgh native who had been training under Stan Conte in L.A. and Lonnie Soloff in Cleveland before taking his first lead job. Todd Tomcyzk faces a risk profile that's no better in '12 than it was in '11. It's essentially the same team, aside from a couple new faces like ... umm, Erik Bedard. Yeah, that's not better. Still, Pittsburgh hired a conditioning coordinator, but surprised many by hiring two. (Ostensibly, Ben Potenziano will be the assistant AT, but he was the strength and condditioning coach in San Francisco last season.). We'll see if these changes can do some good.

Health Keys: New staff needs to keep a fragile pitching staff going.

(HEAD TRAINER: Todd Tomzcyk; FIVE YEAR RANK: 7; 2011 RANK: 29)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
C Rod Barajas
As placeholders go, there are lots worse than Barajas and his slugging ways. If nothing else, a catcher should be available, and Barajas usually is.

1B Garrett Jones
Jones will see some OF time in the short RF at PNC Park, but the lack of better options at 1B is a major issue. Jones comps with Dave Parker, which the Pirates wish held true.

Also Green:
2B Neil Walker
CF Andrew McCutchen
CL Joel Hanrahan
SS Clint Barmes
A favorite of Clint Hurdle, Barmes tends to get overexposed above 100 games. The Pirates have plenty of options here, so Hurdle should mix in Chase d'Arnaud once or twice a week in order to keep Barmes effective.

LF Alex Presley
Presley is like the OF version of Neil Walker. Solid enough guy in the minors, works hard, likable and seems to do just enough to hold the slot. He's not the ideal defensive guy for PNC's big left field, but he is useful. The System isn't sure he'll hold the position based on his track record, which often comes from some fatigue injury.

SP James McDonald
He's got a nasty curve and some issues with inefficiency. If he can solve the latter, he'll handle the innings jump he's facing this year.

SP Brad Lincoln
Lincoln will jokingly tell you that his middle name is "Drafted Before Lincecum," but it has been the sword of Damocles of his career. Lincoln's a decent enough back-of-rotation starter, though even at 27, it's tough to see him going beyond 160 innings.

3B Pedro Alvarez
Alvarez was a hitting machine up until 2011, but the machine broke down last season. A quad strain was used as an excuse to get him into the minors, and then he was demoted, which seemed to break his confidence. The new conditioning focus for the Pirates will get its biggest test here. Casey McGehee is waiting in the wings if Alvarez can't find his swing.

RF Jose Tabata
Tabata's shift to RF is meant to make things easier on him defensively. He's injury-prone, dealing with hamstring, back and wrist injuries last season alone. When healthy, he's not as good as Andrew McCutchen, but he's a nice companion piece.

SP Erik Bedard
I don't hate the idea of placeholders. The Pirates are a year away from seeing Gerrit Cole and at least that far from Jameson Taillon, so they needed filler to keep mid-level prospects like Rudy Owens from getting exposed. The problem is that Bedard is seldom healthy enough to hold said place. Bedard is the definition of injury prone, making his 90 innings last year about the top end expectation. While Charlie Morton can likely fill a gap, this move seems doomed to fail. Buying risk has to have real upside.

SP Jeff Karstens
Karstens hit a wall at the 150 innings mark and his shoulder seemed taxed well before that.

SP Kevin Correia
Correia was a nice surprise in the first half but hit a wall so hard that the wall is still shaking from it. If there's upside, it's that he strained an oblique, not anything in his arm. He'll be back, but at about 150 innings he can't be counted on.

RP Evan Meek
He's an All Star in the way that ... wait, I'm not besmirching Marisa Tomei for a comp here. Tomei was great in The Wrestler as well. Meek's bad '11 was the result of fatigue built up from '10.

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