Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections are out for the 2011 Pirates, and it shows a team that should improve after its miserable 2010 showing. Of course, anything could happen, but the ZiPS projections are as good a crystal ball as any. It shows Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez leading the Pirates' offense, unsurprisingly, with competent backup work from Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Garrett Jones, Steve Pearce and John Bowker. It compares McCutchen to three very good ballplayers in Bernie Williams, Lloyd Moseby and Ellis Burks, and thinks that Alvarez will hit 28 homers next year (although it also thinks he'll pile up absurd strikeout totals).â†µ
ZiPS isn't as excited about the pitching side, and if ZiPS is right, the Pirates will have to hunt this offseason for relievers, in particular. But it thinks that Class AA Rudy Owens can pitch in the majors right away (and having seen Owens, I think I agree). It thinks the same about catcher Tony Sanchez, although Sanchez will probably need another year of development time.