The Pirates surprised a lot of people by starting the 2011 season with a 56-50 record and contending for the NL Central crown. However, a 16-40 finish ended any hopes of finishing above .500 for the first time in 19 seasons.
As a result, the Pirates have once again shaken up their roster, with only Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker the main holdovers from last season’s starting lineup. Here’s a look at the DOs and DON’Ts as it relates to the Pirates revamped roster:
- DO draft Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker. Both are solid contributors at their respective positions. McCutchen put together the first of what may be several 20/20 season last year, finishing with 23 homeruns and stolen bases. While Walker hit 12 homeruns, drove in 83 and scored 76. Not bad for a second baseman. However, despite their abilities to help your fantasy team…
- DON’T overdraft McCutchen or Walker. McCutchen might be worth taking in the 4th or 5th round in mixed leagues and Walker should go in the teens.
- DO draft Alex Presley as your 3rd or 4th outfielder. He has some speed and some pop and could go for 15 homeruns and 20 stolen bases. He also has the ability to hit for average and, at the top of the Pirates order, he should score some runs.
- DON’T expect a return to his 2010 form from Casey McGehee. While I don’t think he’ll be as bad as he was in 2011, when he hit .223/.280/.346, I also think his .285/.337/.464 season in 2010 was probably his career year. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
- I DO like Jose Tabata, even though he has yet to display any of the power that was expected of him. He is another outfielder who will not hurt your batting average and can give you 15-20 stolen bases.
- I DON’T like anyone else in the Pirates starting lineup. Garrett Jones (1B), Clint Barmes (SS) and Rod Barajas (C) do not do much for me and should be considered utility/bench players in NL only leagues and injury replacements, at best, in mixed leagues.
- DO expect better things from James McDonald. After a rough first half of 2011, when he posted a 4.42 ERA while walking 4.5 per 9 IP, he turned things around in the second half, posting a 3.93 ERA and only walking 3.6 per 9 IP. If he can continue to make improvements with his command, he is a potential breakout candidate.
- DON’T expect a repeat from Jeff Karstens. Karstens surprised a lot of people by going 7-4 with a 2.55 ERA in the first half of 2011. But with a hit rate around 24% and a strand rate of 87%, smart owners knew to sell high on him and he proved them right by finishing with a second half ERA of 4.66. Expect more of the same in 2011 as, frankly, he just isn’t that good.
- DO take Joel Hanrahan as your primary closer. As far as closers go, he is about as solid as they come. He had 40 saves last year to go with a 1.83 ERA. While his ERA for 2012 might not be that low, he should still be able to rack up a good number of saves, as the Pirates do not have an explosive offense and thus will likely be involved in a lot of close games.
- DON’T expect more than 140 innings out of Erik Bedard (and that might even be a bit generous). Bedard has been hit with injuries each of the last 3 seasons, with his high water mark for innings pitched being 129 from last year. While he has been pretty good, while healthy, he is not the kind of guy to build a staff around, i.e. make sure you have a backup plan for when, not if, he gets hurt.
- DO avoid the other Pirates starters. Neither Charlie Morton nor Kevin Correia is going to help your team much and should only be considered in deep NL only leagues.
- DON’T forget about Pedro Alvarez. After a horrible year in 2011, the former 2nd overall pick in the 2008 draft is trying to regain his confidence and that of the team. The Pirates acquired Casey McGehee to give themselves another option at third, but Alvarez still has a ton of upside and the Pirates are hoping that he stakes his claim to the third base job this spring.
Finally, DO take a close look at recent addition A.J. Burnett. Although he hasn’t fared well the last couple years in the AL, he makes his return to the “weaker” NL, where he posted a 3.73 ERA in 7 seasons. He should improve over last year’s 5.15 ERA, if only because he will be facing a pitcher at least once a game.