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Pittsburgh_Pirates

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Deadline Deals: Pittsburgh Pirates Edition

Posted on 31 July 2012 by Chris Caylor

For the second straight year, the Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in the thick of the NL Central race. In 2011, the acquisitions of Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick turned out to be rentals that did nothing to help their disastrous second half. Pirates GM Neal Huntington has been busy again this past week, making four different trades. How did he fare this time around?

1) Wandy Rodriguez for three minor leaguers – It might seem like a big price for a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but Houston kicked in a fair amount of cash in order to obtain better quality prospects. The Pirates are waist-deep in pitching prospects. While you can make a case that the Pirates did not need Rodriguez, they didn’t surrender any of those top prospects to get him. As a bonus, acquiring Rodriguez means that other pitching-needy teams (Braves, Cardinals, D-Backs) don’t get him either. The Pirates’ rotation may not be overpowering, but it’s plenty sturdy.
2) Travis Snider for Brad Lincoln – It might seem like Snider has been around for 10 years, but he’s only 24, and two seasons removed from hitting 14 home runs in about a half-season worth of at-bats for the Toronto Blue Jays. He has consistently mashed in the minors, including in Triple-A this season: 13 HR, 56 RBI, 1.021 OPS for Las Vegas. With Edgar Encarnacion and Adam Lind in place, Snider is left without a regular place to play. The Pirates are a perfect landing spot for him. While it may be asking too much to jump right in and offer lineup protection for Andrew McCutchen, Snider has solid run-producer potential. The fact that Snider isn’t just a two-month rental shows that GM Neal Huntington has his eye on the future as well as 2012. In Lincoln, the Pirates are losing a useful bullpen arm who has seen huge jumps in his K/9 and K/BB ratios. Lincoln, 27, could be enjoying a breakout season, but it also seems reasonable to expect a correction in his numbers moving to the AL East.
3) Gaby Sanchez and Kyle Kaminska for Gorkys Hernandez and a competitive balance draft pick – In 2010-11, Sanchez compiled 38 HR, 163 RBI and 144 runs scored. Not spectacular numbers, but certainly useful. In 2012, Sanchez bottomed out, tallying an awful .556 OPS before being sent down. At age 28, Sanchez obviously no longer qualifies as a prospect, but if he can regain his prior form, he will provide an upgrade at first. At worst, he should be a decent part-timer (.298/.390./.488 against lefties). The Marlins get the Pirates’ competitive-balance draft pick, which will be the 33rd overall next year, per Jim Callis of Baseball America. Hernandez and Kaminska are thrown-ins, essentially.
4) Chad Qualls for Casey McGehee – Qualls, a veteran of several pennant races, presumably replaces Lincoln in the Bucco bullpen. McGehee had been a part-time player – and not a very productive one at that (88 OPS+) – before the Snider/Sanchez deals, so he was entirely expendable. Compared to Lincoln, Qualls is a downgrade, but the Pirates are hoping to get Juan Cruz back in August to help take up the slack from Lincoln’s trade.

After the deals, let’s take a peek at the Pirates’ lineup and rotation:

C – Rod Barajas
1B – Gaby Sanchez/Garrett Jones
2B – Neil Walker
SS – Clint Barmes
3B – Pedro Alvarez
LF – Starling Marte/Travis Snider
CF – Andrew McCutchen
RF – Travis Snider/Garrett Jones

Rotation – James McDonald, A.J. Burnett, Erik Bedard, Wandy Rodriguez, Jeff Karstens

The only thing Huntington has not yet addressed is the gaping black hole at shortstop. How Clint Barmes still has an every day job in the majors defies reason. Stephen Drew or Marco Scutaro would have been perfect fits, both offensively and defensively (then again, Jose Lind might represent an improvement over Barmes at the plate).

In all, though, the Buccos’ dealings should prove more productive, not only the rest of this season but into 2013 and beyond. Whether it’s enough to catch the Reds and continue to hold off the Cardinals remains to be seen; however, it seems clear that the Pirates are on the verge of snapping their 20-year run of sub-.500 finishes.

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DOs and DONTs: Cincinnati Reds

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DOs and DONTs: Cincinnati Reds

Posted on 21 February 2012 by Mark Sherrard

With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder moving out of the NL and, more importantly, out of the NL Central, the Reds look to take advantage of a weakened division.  With the addition of Mat Latos, a healthy Scott Rolen and one of the top Rookie of the Year Candidates in Devin Mesoraco, the Reds have the look of a contender, not only for the division, but also for the World Series.

Here’s a look at the DO’s and DON’Ts as they pertain to the Reds roster this season.

DO take Joey Votto in the first round.  With a career slash line of .313/.405/.550, an average of 30 homeruns the last 3 seasons and triple digit RBI’s and Runs the last two years, he is the kind of player to build a fantasy team around.  His consistency will help you in head-to-head leagues and his sheer volume of stats will help you in rotisserie leagues.

DON’T expect much from Scott Rolen.  He’s going on 37 years old, has a history of shoulder issues and hit only .242/.282/.397 last year.  Sure, he could have one more good season left in him, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

DO take a chance on Zack Cozart.   He has some pop and some speed and probably won’t hurt your average.  He is in line to be the Reds starting shortstop this season and could surprise.

DON’T overdraft Devin Mesoraco.  Yes, he is one of the top prospects in the game, but Dusty Baker is a bit rookie adverse and may have Mesoraco split time with Ryan Hanigan or even start the year in the minors.  Mesoraco is still the Reds catcher of the future, the question is whether Baker considers that future to be now.

DO pay close attention to the left field spring battle between Chris Heisey and Ryan Ludwick.  Heisey hit 18 homeruns in just 279 at bats last year, but had an ugly 78/19 K/BB ratio.  Ludwick has struggled the last couple years, but that could partly be due to playing in the cavernous Petco Park.  Ludwick hit .281/.343/.484 in 281 at bats with the Cardinals in 2010 before being traded to the Padres and should benefit from the change in scenery.

DON’T expect a high batting average from Drew Stubbs.  He struck out 205 times in 604 at bats (33%) last year and has struck out 422 times in 1298 career at bats (32.5%).  He can provide you with 15-20 homeruns and 30-40 stolen bases, but his strikeout totals concern me.

DO draft Mat Latos in the early rounds.  Sure he is leaving the friendly confines of Petco Park, where he has posted a career 3.11 ERA, but his 3.57 ERA on the road in not bad and his peripheral stats are pretty similar.  Bottom line, he is not going to lose much from the move and with a better lineup behind him, he should win a lot more games.

DON’T forget about Johnny Cueto.  He has improved his ERA and whip each year, including a 2.31 ERA and 1.09 whip last year, before missing the end of the season with a lat injury.  He is expected to be fully healthy to start the season and, while he may not post an ERA under 3.00 again this year, he should still be one of the top 10 pitchers in the NL.

DO keep an eye on Aroldis Chapman.  He is being stretched out this year to compete for a rotation spot and will likely battle Mike Leake and Jeff Francis for the last spot in the rotation.  He still has an overpowering fastball that can reach triple digits, but I’m not sure how it will translate to a starting role.

DON’T sleep on Homer Bailey.  The Reds former top prospect struggled in his first two seasons in the majors, but has shown some improvement the last few years.  His walk rate in particular has dropped from 4.1 in 2009, to 3.3 in 2010 to 2.3 in 2011 and he could be ready for a breakout.

DO draft Ryan Madson as your primary closer.  After years of serving as Brad Lidge‘s caddy, Madson finally got the chance to serve as the Phillies closer for the majority of 2011 and posted 32 saves while only allowing 2 blown saves.  He is a pretty safe bet to save 35-40 games in 2012.

Finally, DON’T forget about Jay Bruce or Brandon Phillips.  Neither of them are stars, but both can provide you with good production.  Phillips’ stolen base numbers have declined each of the last 3 years, but he can still hit around 20 homers with 10-15 stolen bases.  Not bad for a second baseman.  Bruce hit 32 homers and drove in 97 last year.  He won’t hit for a high average, but its hard to find many guys with his power in the post-PED era.

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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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