How great was it that the Pittsburgh Pirates made the postseason in 2013? C’mon, haters! Even your cold, grizzled hearts were warmed by the success of the Pirates.
Well, hold on to those warm and fuzzies, because they still have a nice little cadre of talent for your 2014 fantasy teams.
And I’m going to write about it.
Projected 2014 Pirates Offense
|1. Starling Marte||LF||25||R||513||76||14||47||38||.280|
|2. Neil Walker||2B||28||S||488||63||15||63||3||.281|
|3. Andrew McCutchen||CF||27||R||584||96||24||88||25||.298|
|4. Pedro Alvarez||3B||26||L||540||62||32||79||2||.242|
|5. Gaby Sanchez||1B||30||R||320||41||10||49||2||.261|
|6. Russell Martin||C||30||R||434||54||15||57||7||.227|
|7. Jose Tabata||RF||25||R||316||41||5||27||6||.279|
|8. Jordy Mercer||SS||27||R||459||51||11||43||5||.262|
Neil Walker is the second hitter perhaps only in my mind, but wouldn’t that be fantastic? Positions 5 and 6 might switch and with any luck the Pirates will get a first baseman that has a name other than Gaby Sanchez. Because Gaby Sanchez. The Pirates will also ship off an outfielder (mark my words), but until then it’s a platoon between Travis Snider and Jose Tabata, with neither providing any fantasy value.
Starling has the bat to stick at the top of this lineup. This will help his run totals, but he’s not going to be the perennial 20 home run guy that everyone is hoping he’ll be. His value is in his speed. Luckily, he’s speedy. Here’s a full profile on him.
Pedro Alvarez is country strong. 30+ homers are a foregone conclusion for him, as are a million billion strikeouts. And those strikeouts will keep his batting average low. He’s turing 26 and he’s a lock for the cleanup position. Despite his AVG, I like him a lot in 2014. Here’s a full profile.
At this point it really looks like we know what we’ll get with Neil Walker and I think the above projection sums it up nicely. In a fit of crazy, the Pirates might bat Jordy Mercer 2nd, meaning that Neil Walker would slide to 6th and while he’ll gain some RBI, he’ll lose some runs. Still, without huge HR or SB numbers, he’s best used as a MI player.
We’ll talk about Andrew McCutchen below. I want to believe that he and I are friends, so from here on out I’ll simply be calling him “Cutch”, and he’ll be calling me frequently to hang out on weekends.
Projected 2014 Pirates Pitching
Look, I’ll be up front about my bias. I don’t trust Fransisco Liriano. I don’t trust him. How’s that saying go? Burn fantasy owners once, shame on you. Burn fantasy owners a hundred times, it’s Francisco Liriano.
So while he appeared like he was back to form in 2013, I’m terribly afraid his control will walk away once more. He’ll get drafted by many for his strikeout totals, but I’d let other owners take that risk, particularly with starting pitching being so darned deep.
Gerrit Cole, on the other hand, needs to be drafted and locked up in a safe deposit box. The highly-rated prospect showed he was the real deal in his first season. Expect more of the same in 2014. I’d place him around or just outside the top 25 starting pitchers taken on draft day.
Grilli has the talent, but he also caught the injury bug in 2013. He has excellent strikeout totals so don’t be afraid to draft him, but don’t take him in the first couple closers runs due to his injury risk.
Fantasy Star: Cutch
Cutch will be drafted in the first half of the first round and for good reason. He’s young. He’s consistent. He has maybe the quickest bat in the major leagues. He has awesome dreads.
He also has one of the highest floors in the game. Even in a down season you’ll get 5 category production from him. But here’s the kicker: he also has some more upside in there. If everything clicks, if it all breaks right, you could see a 100 RUN 30 HR 100 RBI 30 SB .300 AVG season out of Cutch. That’s a fantasy star.
Fantasy Bust: Francisco Liriano
I can just feel it in my bones. Can’t you?
The Pirates have some more talent waiting in the wings as they have perhaps the best farm system in baseball right now. Jameson Tallion won’t be the Ace that Gerrit Cole can be, but he has solid #2 starter potential. If A.J. Burnett decides not to retire it could give Tallion a little more seasoning in the minors, but regardless, he’ll get to show what he can do in 2014.
Hanson is the heir apparent to Mercer at shortstop. Temper your expectations in 2014, and he’ll never be the offensive force that Xander Bogaerts will be, but in a couple seasons Hanson could crack the fantasy shortstop top 10.
Polanco is a toolsey outfielder who will make an excellent addition to the outfield of Cutch and Marte. In the minors he hit, then hit again, then hit some more. Is upside is in the 15/30/.280 range, but with the options the Pirates have in the outfield there is no reason to rush him.
Fantasy Sleeper: Mark Melancon
I generally play in Holds leagues, so a player like Melancon would be drafted. Plus, I’d draft him not just for holds, but because I’m a fan of the MRI strategy as well.
Drop a buck on him or take him with your last couple picks. If Grilli’s arm doesn’t hold up, he’s certainly next in line for saves.
The Pittsburgh Pirates don’t have a wealth of fantasy options, but they have superstar talent in Cutch, with a couple of mid-range picks in Marte and Alvarez. And that’s just on the hitting side. Cole is a star as well.
I’m not calling for them to make the playoffs again in 2014 (although wouldn’t that be great?), but I am calling for some fine fantasy performances fro their core players.