The Pirates shocked many by fielding a competitive team in 2012, and while the final result was a second straight fourth-place finish and their 20th straight losing season, fans of the team likely have a more optimistic view of the future than any time since Mr. Bonds left town. Will 2013 be the year when the Pirates top 80 wins for the first time since 1992?
In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2013 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C Russell Martin||.211||.311||.403||50||21||53||6||485||w/NYY|
|1B Garrett Jones||.274||.317||.516||68||27||86||2||515|
|2B Neil Walker||.280||.342||.426||62||14||69||7||530|
|SS Clint Barmes||.229||.272||.321||34||8||45||0||493|
|3B Pedro Alvarez||.244||.317||.467||64||30||85||1||586|
|LF Starling Marte||.257||.300||.437||18||5||17||12||182|
|CF Andrew McCutchen||.327||.400||.553||107||31||96||20||673|
|RF Travis Snider||.250||.319||.378||23||4||17||2||185||w/2T|
Unsettled: Corner outfielders. Andrew McCutchen is obviously locked in as the team’s center fielder, but Starling Marte and Travis Snider could face a spring-training challenge from Jose Tabata or Alex Presley. Jerry Sands could also be an option after a big year at the Triple-A level in 2012, and Brad Hawpe signed a minor-leagued deal with the team. Also, Garrett Jones is capable of playing the outfield should the team want to play Gaby Sanchez at first base regularly or should it find another first-base option. Marte’s speed is intriguing in fantasy, but be sure he’s been named the starter before you invest.
Target: Neil Walker. Given that McCutchen is a locked-in first-rounder, there’s not much benefit to telling you to target him. If you’re going to dig deeper than that in this lineup (and no one can blame you if you don’t), Walker is the second-best hitting option here. A hitter that does everything well and nothing great, Walker’s baseline is about what he’s provided over the last few years: a dozen homers, a handful of steals and a solid average. He does seem like he has a little latent power though, and it wouldn’t shock me to see the 27-year-old reach the 20-homer level over the next few years. When that happens, he’ll lock up a spot as a solid starting second baseman in fantasy leagues.
|A.J. Burnett (R)||16-10||3.51||1.24||180||62||202.1|
|Wandy Rodriguez (L)||12-13||3.76||1.27||139||56||205.2||w/2T|
|James McDonald (R)||12-8||4.21||1.26||151||69||171.0|
|Jeff Karstens (R)||5-4||3.97||1.15||66||15||90.2|
|Francisco Liriano (L)||6-12||5.34||1.47||167||87||156.2|
Unsettled: Francisco Liriano broke his non-throwing arm over the holidays, and it cost him nearly $12 million in guaranteed money. He and the Pirates had agreed to a two-year, $12.75-million, but now he’ll get just $1 million of guaranteed money. He’s expected to begin throwing off the mound in mid-March, and even if he needs a DL stint, he shouldn’t miss much time. That doesn’t mean you should consider him in fantasy leagues. Top prospect Gerrit Cole could find his way to the majors this season after handling Double-A last year and even making one start in Triple-A. If Liriano’s pitching well by the time the team is ready to promote Cole, Jeff Karstens could be the odd man out.
Target: A.J. Burnett. The 36-year-old staff ace had a quality season in his return to the National League, posting an 8.0 K/9 and a 2.8 K/BB. He hasn’t lost a whole lot off his fastball, which still sits in the 92-to-92 mph range. Still, the 16-game-winner doesn’t get much attention in fantasy circles and should serve as a draft day bargain. His high strikeout rate makes him a better option than the declining Wandy Rodriguez. Managers in deeper leagues will also want to consider Gerrit Cole — he should already be long-gone in dynasty formats.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Jason Grilli (R)||2||2.91||1.14||90||22||58.2|
|Mark Melancon (R)||1||6.20||1.27||41||12||45.0||w/BOS|
Chasing Saves: The 36-year-old Grilli signed a two-year deal with the Pirates this offseason and is expected to serve as the team’s closer with the departure of Joel Hanrahan. He struck out a whopping 90 batters last season, good for a 13.8 K/9 rate that put him among the elite in the bullpen. I have confidence in him doing well in the ninth inning, so much so that I consider him a top-ten closer this season. If something goes wrong, the Pirates have a nice backup in Melancon, who produced good peripherals last year despite a 6.20 ERA. He racked up 20 saves with the Astros in 2011, proving he “has what it takes to close.” He’s worth consideration as a RP in deeper leagues for those that like to speculate on saves.
The Pirates aren’t exactly devoid of talent in fantasy leagues, considering they have a locked-in first-round pick in the offense, but fantasy owners aren’t going to find many starters here. Aside from Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez deserve looks, while players like Garrett Jones, Russell and Starling Marte could help with depth. Prospect watchers should be focused intently on how Gerrit Cole is performing in Triple-A to see when the Pirates will call up their second viable fantasy starter. Jason Grilli is likely going to go for pennies on the dollar in your league considering how adept he is at striking out batters.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the St. Louis Cardinals.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to CBSSports.com's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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