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Pirates homegrown outfielders powering them back into contention

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

Consider yourself lucky, Pittsburgh. You get to watch these three for years.
Consider yourself lucky, Pittsburgh. You get to watch these three for years. (USATSI)

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With an 8-6 win over the Marlins Saturday, the Pittsburgh Pirates are now .500 (34-34) for the first time since April 17. They've won four of five and are 16-8 since May 20. There are lots of reasons for this, but one of them in the past few games on display has been the impressive display of their homegrown outfielders.

No doubt about it, the Pirates' outfield has the ability to be the best in baseball -- and it could be the best for the better part of a decade.

We know about Andrew McCutchen. He was last season's NL MVP. He's on fire right now, too. In the month of June -- 13 games -- McCutchen is hitting .415/.483/.981(!) with nine doubles, seven homers and 18 RBI. Again, that's in 13 games this month. Wow. Even if he doesn't start in the All-Star Game, he'll be there for the fourth-straight season and back-to-back MVPs is certainly possible at this rate.

"Cutch" is far from alone in the outfield when it comes to production, though. He's flanked by two up and comers.

Starling Marte was having a rough follow-up to his breakout 2013 season. I say was because it appears to be a thing of the past. In the last six games -- five of which were of the multi-hit variety -- Marte is hitting .500/.500/.643 with three doubles, a homer and five RBI. He's being slotted second in the order right now and is thriving with McCutchen as his protection.

And, of course, there's hot prospect Gregory Polanco. He's been up less than a week but has certainly announced his presence with authority. In just five games, he's hitting .385/.407/.500 with five RBI and six runs scored. He seems to have already settled into the leadoff spot.

Oh, and he did this Friday night:

The best news of all, though, is that this will be the outfield in Pittsburgh for a long time, as I alluded to above. McCutchen is playing with a six-year, $51.5 million deal that also includes a club option for 2018. Marte owns a club-friendly six-year, $31 million contract with a pair of club options -- meaning the Pirates can keep him on this current deal through the 2021 season. Polanco, having just been up, is under team control for six seasons.

It's an outfield situation that should be the envy of, oh, I don't know, about 29 other teams. All three were drafted/signed* and developed by the Pirates and will be the backbone of the club for at least six seasons.

*McCutchen was taken in the first round, 11th overall; Marte was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2007 at age 19; Polanco was signed in 2009 at age 19

And behind the talented trio, don't count out a second straight postseason berth after a two decade drought. The Pirates are again playing like a postseason contender and the three homegrown outfielders are a significant part of it.

 
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