The biggest strength will be the team's outfield, though their lineup is fairly strong all around. Andrew McCutchen (.327, 31, 96) was their best player by a mile and was a NL MVP candidate. 24 year old Starling Marte will be the starting LF, after hitting .257, 5, 17 in 47 games last season. Marte profiles to be a player that should hit .300 with 20 HR and 20 SBs. That would be more than OFs Alex Presley and Jose Tabata, who played in a combined 207 games last season and hit a combined 13 HR, 41 RBI and 17 SB. The starting RF will be a guy who is ready to have a breakout season, Travis Snider. The 25 year old came over in a trade with Toronto last season after hitting .335 with 56 RBI in 56 games with AAA Las Vegas. Though he hit just .250 last year in 60 MLB games, his track record coming up in the minors shows he will be a .300 hitter with potential 20 HR power. Write this down, the combination of McCutchen, Marte and Snider will hit 70+ HR this season.
The infield gets some boost with the signing of catcher Russell Martin (.211, 21, 53). However, the tandem of Rod Barajas and Michael McKendry combined to hit 23 HRs for the Pirates last season. Having McKendry should allow Martin to get a little more rest this season, keeping him fresh. Martin is certainly an upgrade over Barajas and 2011 catcher Chris Snyder. Garrett Jones (.2474, 27, 86) and Pedro Alvarez (.244, 30, 85) give the team power at the corners, with Neil Walker (.280, 14, 69) at 2B. Clint Barmes (.229, 8,45) struggled last season at SS. Gaby Sanchez, Jerry Sands, Brandon Inge and Josh Harrison lead a strong bench. My line up would look like this: Marte LF, Walker 2B, McCutchen CF, Alvarez 3B, Snider RF, Jones 1B, Martin C, Barmes SS. Perhaps to off-shift the three left hand batters, manager Clint Hurdle can go with Marte LF, Walker 2B, Alvarez 3B, McCutchen CF, Jones 1B, Martin C, Snider RF, Barmes SS.
The pitching staff last season was led by AJ Burnett (16-10, 3.51 in 31 starts). James McDonald (12-8, 4.21) and Wandy Rodriguez (12-13, 3.76) give the team three solid starters. Charlie Morton is likely to miss the entire 2013 season. Jeff Karstens (5-4, 3.97 in 19 games, 15 starts) has looked decent but has had difficulty staying healthy. 25 year old LHP Jeff Locke went 10-5, 2.48 in AAA Indianapolis last season and is the favorite to win the 5th starter spot. Jonathan Sanchez and Vin Mazzaro are long shots to make the team, as they wait for top pitching prospect Gerrit Cole.
The closer position in MLB is overrated, so I do not think the loss of Joel Hanrahan will devastate the Pirates. Jason Grilli, who had called it a career in 2009, had 90 Ks in 58 2/3 IP last season. He is expected to be the closer with Jose Contreras and Mark Melancon (0-2, 6.40 in 41 games for Boston last season) hoping to set up. Melancon had a rough time in the AL, after going 8-4, 2.78, 20 saves for the Astros in 2011. Jared Hughes (2-2, 2.85 in 66 games) and LHP Tony Watson (5-2, 3.38 in 68 games) will round out the bullpen. If Grilli can repeat his 2012 season, the team will have a good closer.
Vegas put the Pirates over/ under right at the teams win total from 2012, at 79. I see them getting the over at 84-78, 3rd place in the NL Central division.