Eight Sports Illustrated baseball experts picked MLB’s division winners and wild-card qualifiers. Only two think the Pirates will grab a wild card.

So you’re saying there’s a chance…

Actually, there is a chance. A wild card isn’t that difficult to get. The Pirates did in three straight times paying cut-rate prices.

But certain things must happen. As in, MUST HAPPEN.

First and foremost, Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen have to be at their BEST. Not just OK, and certainly not rotten like last season. Cole and McCutchen must be at their peak, because nobody else on the Pirates can make up for what Cole and McCutchen are supposed to do.

You need a few established players to do more, and better. Starling Marte hitting 20 HR would be a start.

You need a few players who aren’t so established to come out of nowhere. Like Josh Bell hitting 25 HR, and Jameson Taillon winning 15 games.

If all that happens, it won’t be enough to catch Chicago and finish first. But it might get a wild card.

Cole and McCutchen must be the catalysts, though. They need to be what you think they are, and what they weren’t even close to being last year.

Cutch had career lows in batting average, OBP and slugging percentage. What else is there? Cole was 7-10 with a 3.88 ERA. He wasn’t exactly an ace.

Cole and Cutch frigged it up in 2016. They need to un-frig it in 2017.

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