No. 26 Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates have finished below .500 for eight straight seasons. The streak may not end this year, but the Pirates should be more competitive in the first year of PNC park.
New manager Lloyd McClendon has two great players to build his lineup around. Brian Giles is the first player in franchise history to turn in back-to-back .300, 30-homer, 100 RBI seasons, and the new stadium's shorter right field wall should help him hit even more balls out of the park. Jason Kendall is the National League's best hitting catcher outside of Mike Piazza, and he will be another year removed from his horrible ankle injury.
Pittsburgh signed right fielder Derek Bell in the offseason, but Kendall and Giles won't have much other help in a lineup that finished ninth in runs scored in the NL last season. The pitching staff finished just 12th in the league in ERA, and bringing in Terry Mulholland won't help much.
The key to the Pirates' rotation will be future Cy Young candidate Kris Benson. Putting the 26-year-old In Focus shows that he slumped badly in last season's second half from 8-6 with a 3.05 ERA to 2-6 and a 5.01 ERA. Benson has to be consistent to fulfill his promise as the staff ace.
Plus, the Pirates' offense just doesn't look like a contender. That's why I rank Pittsburgh the 26th best team in baseball.