We're only a week into 2016, but baseball fans are eagerly awaiting the beginning of spring training and the onset of another season. As we near closer to pitchers and catchers reporting, let's take a look at the Pirates' resolutions for the New Year.
Getty ImagesJeff Haynes
Kang comes back strong
Jung Ho Kang had a terrific rookie season for the Pirates in 2015, one that granted him enough votes to finish third in the voting for NL Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, Kang's season ended with a painful twist, as he broke his leg during a collision while trying to turn a double play. After settling in nicely into the Pirates' left side of the infield in 2015, Kang has become a big part of the Pirates' vision for the future. With both Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer failing to produce in 2015, Kang's bat – which produced 15 home runs and 58 RBI in 126 games last year – is vital to the Pirates' lineup. If he returns to form without a hitch in 2016, Pittsburgh will be in good shape.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportCharles LeClaire
Fluid situation at first
After parting ways with longtime first baseman Pedro Alvarez this offseason, the Pirates have a hodgepodge at the position. At the moment, it appears as though they'll use some combination of Michael Morse and offseason acquisitions Jason Rogers and John Jaso in a platoon at first base. While the veterans Morse and Jaso have displayed power throughout their careers, neither drove in more than 40 runs last season. Additionally, the 27-year-old Rogers is projected to have big-league power, but has yet to display as much in his limited 161 major-league at-bats. There is plenty of potential amongst the trio, but that potential will have to be realized in order for the Pirates to have pop in their lineup.
Getty ImagesMike Ehrmann
McCutchen wins NL MVP
Andrew McCutchen has been one of the most consistent performers in MLB over the past four seasons. He has finished in the top five in the voting for the NL MVP award in each of those four seasons, taking home the award in 2013. Entering his age-29 season, McCutchen is poised for another big season in the prime years of his career. Although he was named MVP in 2013, his performance that season was relatively one of the least productive of the past four seasons, which indicates that he could be in the mix for the award once again if he continues to perform at the high level he's attained.
Getty ImagesJustin K. Aller
Cole wins NL Cy Young Award
Lost in all the hoopla surrounding Jake Arrieta exceeding Zack Greinke for the 2015 NL Cy Young Award was the fact that Pirates righty Gerrit Cole finished fourth in the voting behind Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Although Cole performed well in his first two major-league seasons, his third season in 2015 was phenomenal. Not only did he make a major contribution to Pittsburgh last season with a 19-8 record, 2.60 ERA and 202 strikeouts versus 44 walks in 208 innings, but he also brought on excitement as to what he'll do in the future. Entering his age-25 season, sky is the limit for Cole, and while he'll have to surpass the same competition to win the award in 2016, he's certainly capable of doing so.
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY SportsRobert Mayer
Make it past the first round
The Pirates have made major strides over the past three seasons as they have developed a winning culture and posted a collective 280-206 (.576) record. While they have made the postseason three consecutive years – their first such streak since their last playoff surge in the early-90s – they have yet to make it past the NLDS, and have lost the NL Wild Card game in back-to-back seasons. A major goal for Pittsburgh in 2016 is to overcome its postseason hump and advance to the NLCS for the first time since 1992. They'll have a tough road to merely making the playoffs again in the uber-competitive NL Central, but they have the talent in place to do so – and to survive deep into October.