Following their loss to the San Diego Padres last night, the Pittsburgh Pirates currently stand at 26-18, a mark that puts them a half game out of first place. Trading Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole during the offseason while signing precisely zero major league free agents put them on pace for a dumpster-fire season. All things considered, the Pirates’ success is quite a pleasant surprise.
There is no guarantee that the Pirates will continue this pace throughout the season. However, the future of the team looks much brighter than it did during spring training. Young players such as Colin Moran, Kyle Crick, and Michael Feliz have shown their value so far, but three Pirates players have really stepped their game up in 2018.
I am a huge Trevor Williams fan, in part due to his amazing Twitter account. Additionally, Williams has more potential than most would think. He continues to adjust and improve, making him extremely effective.
— Trevor Williams (@MeLlamoTrevor) May 4, 2018
Throwing his fastball and changeup more while cutting down on the use of his slider has paid off for the 26-year-old. Williams is 5-2 with a 2.72 earned run average and has been the Pirates’ most dependable starter this season. Not bad for a guy who was battling Tyler Glasnow for the fifth spot in the rotation only a year ago.
The beloved catcher became a fixture in the lineup after replacing Russell Martin in 2015. Francisco Cervelli has always been a solid hitter, but his 2018 season has exceeded all expectations. His .296 batting average and .418 on base percentage are all-star numbers, while his six home runs have already topped his 2017 total.
Fangraphs.com indicates that Cervelli is making harder contact and hitting to right field more often than last season. Cervelli also swings at less pitches in general, therefore increasing his walk total and allowing him to see more pitches in the strike zone. As a result, Cervelli has moved up in the batting order. If he can avoid injury, it will be interesting to see what Cervelli does throughout the summer months.
— Joe Block (@joe_block) May 19, 2018
Despite Neal Huntington’s rough offseason, the Pirates general manager struck gold when he managed to dump the embattled Daniel Hudson to the Tampa Bay Rays, getting 2017 American League All Star Corey Dickerson in return. Although the Rays’ decision to dump Dickerson’s small contract was questionable, the Pirates have reaped the benefits.
Dickerson has five home runs this season, a number that should go up when considering his history of 20-plus home run seasons (three so far.) Dickerson is batting at a surprising .318 clip with a .355 OBP and has transitioned well from designated hitter back to left field, where he is having the best defensive season of his career. By all accounts, he has served as a positive influence in the Pirates clubhouse.
Dickerson was a low risk, high reward acquisition that has paid off so far. Despite hot prospect Austin Meadows looming in the background, it is possible that the Pirates will extend Dickerson’s contract and keep him around for a few more seasons.
*Credit to fangraphs.com for the statistics