ENEMY LINES

A rival scout sizes up the Pirates

I think they'll take a step backward this year. They have prospects coming up, but they're not ready yet.... Andrew McCutchen is an outstanding young player: He has the potential to be a 30-30 or maybe even a 40-40 threat. He'll have to carry that offense, though, and that may mean being selective and not being afraid to take a walk. He's got a chance to be better than Carlos Beltran was in his prime.... Pedro Alvarez's swing is still a bit of a mess. He's a dead pull hitter with an uppercut swing that has several holes—a plus fastball inside, a breaking ball away and a front-door breaking ball. He really struggles with pitch recognition. Alvarez got rushed to the big leagues and hasn't played as hard as he should. If he doesn't drastically change his mind-set, he might become a bust.... Garrett Jones has impressive power, but he strikes out too much. He's better suited as a platoon guy.... A.J. Burnett's stuff is still there, and so is his velocity. For him it's about a consistent release point.... They have six potential starting pitchers, but all of them are 3s, 4s or 5s. None of them are Number 1 or 2 guys.... Brad Lincoln has a power arm and will flash a quality breaking ball, but the problem with guys his size [six feet] is they struggle to pitch down in the zone. Their fastball gets flat. If he can't figure it out soon, he's not a starter candidate.... Number 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole needs to work on command, consistency and pitching to both sides of the plate. He can't get away with just power stuff up here. Can he figure out how to pitch? That's the eight-million-dollar question.

THE LINEUP

With 2011 Statistics

MANAGER CLINT HURDLE

2nd season with Pirates

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ROTATION W L ERA WHIP
RH A.J. BURNETT 11 11 5.15 1.43
RH JAMES MCDONALD 9 9 4.21 1.49
LH ERIK BEDARD 5 9 3.62 1.28
RH KEVIN CORREIA 12 11 4.79 1.39
RH CHARLIE MORTON 10 10 3.83 1.53
BULLPEN W SV ERA WHIP
RH JOEL HANRAHAN 1 40 1.83 1.05
RH EVAN MEEK 1 0 3.48 1.89

NEW ACQUISITION

PROJECTED PAYROLL

$40.0 million

THE NUMBER

3.69

Pitches per batter faced by the Pirates staff, the most efficient in baseball. But most efficient did not equate to most effective. Bucs pitchers faced more batters than any other NL team, while also allowing the highest batting average (.270) and on-base percentage (.338).

MODEST PROPOSAL

When the Pirates selected Pedro Alvarez with the second pick in the 2008 draft, they thought he'd be holding down the cleanup spot by now. Instead, he's entering his third major league season with a career line of .230/.304/.392. Strikeouts were expected to be a problem for him, and they have been: Alvarez has whiffed in 34% of his career at bats, a pace that makes it hard to hit for average or get on base. More of a surprise has been his lack of power—just 20 homers in 582 at bats. Alvarez has hit nearly half his balls in play on the ground, and for a slow runner, that's not a recipe for success. He has to work on getting the ball in the air to leverage his strength. Manager Clint Hurdle, though, has to give him the chance. Over the last seven weeks of the 2011 season, Alvarez got three straight starts just once, and while he was playing poorly when he lost playing time, the change did him no good. Alvarez hit .150/.261/.250 from Aug. 6 (when he lost the every-day job) to the end of the season. The Pirates have nothing to gain by limiting Alvarez's playing time; give him 550 at bats this season and find out whether he's a player or a bust.

PHOTOSCOTT KANE/ICON SMI (MCCUTCHEN) PHOTODUSTIN BRADFORD/ICON SMI (ALVAREZ)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)