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DOs And DONTs: Pittsburgh Pirates

Posted on 18 February 2012 by Mark Sherrard

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.

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DOs And DONTs: Chicago Cubs

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DOs And DONTs: Chicago Cubs

Posted on 11 February 2012 by Mark Sherrard

The Chicago Cubs are in the midst of rebuilding their roster this year, but that does not mean you should overlook them when it comes to building your fantasy team.

Here is a look at the Do’s and Don’ts regarding the Cubs roster and their fantasy impact:

DO draft Starlin Castro.  He is the Cubs star and a fantasy star in the making.  He is still young and has yet to reach his full potential, so I wouldn’t go overboard and take him in the first round. But those of you in keeper leagues need to jump on his bandwagon before his price skyrockets.

DON’T expect a lot of wins from the Cubs pitchers.  Let’s face it, this team is not going to be very good.   They finished 71-91 last year with Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster leading the team with 10 wins apiece.  Do not expect more than 10 wins from any of the Cubs starters.

DO take a chance on Bryan LaHair in the end game or late rounds.  He hit .331/.405/.664 with 38 homeruns in just 456 at bats at AAA Iowa in 2011.  Yes, at 28, he is old, but there have been other late bloomers, such as Casey McGehee and Ryan Ludwick.  After holding his own in 59 at bats with the Cubs late last season, he will be given a chance to prove he belongs.  But, at the same time…

DON’T forget about Anthony Rizzo.  He is the Cubs future at first base and could get a mid-season callup if LaHair does not hit the ground running.  Rizzo struggled in 128 at bats with the Padres last season, hitting only .141/.281/.242.  But he is a career .296/.366/.514 hitter in the minors.

DO look at Tony Campana as a source of cheap speed.  He stole 24 bases in 143 at bats last year and will be used as a 4th or 5th outfielder for the Cubs.  He also showed the ability to hit for average in the minors, posting a career line of .303/.359/.353 .  Just do not expect any power from him.

DON’T be fooled by Darwin Barney.  After hitting .306/.334/.374 in the first half last year, he struggled in the second half, hitting only .238/.286/.328.  There are rumors that the Cubs consider him a utility player and recent addition, Adrian Cardenas, could compete with Barney for the starting second base job this spring.

DO draft Brett Jackson for your reserve or bench.  The Cubs top prospect has 20/20 potential and although he will start at AAA this year, he could get the call should Marlon Byrd or Alfonso Soriano be traded.  His strikeout totals are somewhat concerning, but his ability to draw walks helps to make up for it.

DON’T rely on Carlos Marmol as your main source of saves.  He struggled last year with a 4.01 ERA and has been the subject of trade rumors this offseason.  He could end up as trade bait come July, which means…

DO hedge your bets.  If you draft Marmol, make sure you look at Kerry Wood and/or Jeff Samardzija as a backup plan.  If Marmol is ineffective or traded, one of those two could take his place, with rookie Chris Carpenter as a possible dark horse.

Finally, I DON’T know what to make of Ian Stewart.  Is he the capable of bouncing back after a truly awful 2011 campaign or is he washed up?  The Cubs are hoping that a change of scenery will help him return to form and he might be worth a late round flier.  Just don’t expect much from him and you could be pleasantly surprised.

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