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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Pittsburgh Pirates

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For a time it appeared that maybe, just maybe, the Pirates' long streak of futility would end in 2011.

They were atop the NL Central as late as July 25 with a record that was six games above .500. It was too good to be true, though, as the Pirates finished 72-90, completing their 19th straight season with a losing record.

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Still, it was the first time since 2004 that Pittsburgh notched more than 70 wins, and there were a few favorable developments. Andrew McCutchen added 20-homer power to his arsenal and cemented his status as a top 10 Fantasy outfielder. Joel Hanrahan also emerged as a top closer, and the starting rotation featured three pitchers with sub-4.00 ERAs.

There were still more disappointments than highlights, as Jose Tabata missed time with injuries, Pedro Alvarez had the mother of all sophomore slumps, and the team went through catchers like Spinal Tap drummers. Tabata and Alvarez will return in 2012, offering the promise of improvement, and should they falter, offseason acquisitions Nate McLouth and Casey McGehee will be around to plug the holes they would leave in the lineup. The Pirates also signed free agents Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas to solidify the shortstop and catcher positions, respectively.

The pitching staff will look largely the same, though one free-agent lefty -- Erik Bedard -- will take the place of another -- Paul Maholm. Two of the three starters with sub-4.00 ERAs, Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton, will head up the rotation (Maholm was the third), and Hanrahan will once again be the team's closer.

While the Pirates should enter 2012 a little stronger and deeper than were a year ago, their fans may have to wait yet another year for a winning record. The good news is that help is on the way, as the farm system offers potential reinforcements for the rotation (Brad Lincoln, Jeff Locke, Gerrit Cole, Rudy Owens) and the outfield (Starling Marte, Robert Grossman) for the not-too-distant future. It's a slow climb, but the Pirates finally appear headed in the right direction.

Breakout ... Jose Tabata, OF

Though Tabata is a breakout candidate, he's one with an asterisk, as he had problems staying healthy last season. That said, he has the potential to steal 30 bases if he plays a full season. Also, Tabata virtually never pops out, so seasons like his last one, in which he batted just .266, should be the exception. While he may never be a 20-homer threat, Tabata's minor league history suggests that there is a little more thump in his bat than what he has shown in his first two seasons. While Tabata is something of an injury risk, he is expected to be ready for opening day, and he should produce like a No. 4 OF in mixed leagues.

One-hit wonder ... Jeff Karstens, SP

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Karstens led the Pirates' starters with a 3.38 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 2011, making him the team's de facto ace. He also posted 16 quality starts in 26 tries, including a streak of nine in a row, which endeared him to owners in Head-to-Head leagues. To be sure, Karstens was a better pitcher last year than he had been in the past, and specifically, he raised his ground ball rate, which led to fewer long balls. However, Karstens still gives up a lot of dingers, so it's unlikely that he can manage to strand 78 percent of his baserunners again this year. While owners may be able to count on Karstens for a low WHIP, look for his ERA to sail north of 4.00, making him a far less attractive option for mixed leagues.

Injury risk sleeper ... Erik Bedard, SP

Bedard, who is a perennial injury risk, missed time again in 2011 due to injuries, but his surgically-repaired left shoulder held up fine. Knee and lat injuries limited the 32-year-old to 24 starts, but he was largely effective in his turns in the rotation. Bedard can still rack up a strikeout per inning, and he will get the benefit of home games at pitcher-friendly PNC Park. Because of his injury history, Bedard can be passed over until the later rounds of mixed league drafts, but if he pitches even as much as he did last year, he could pay a nice dividend to his owners.

2012 Pittsburgh Pirates Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Jose Tabata RF 1 Jeff Karstens RH
2 Alex Presley LF 2 Charlie Morton RH
3 Andrew McCutchen CF 3 Erik Bedard LH
4 Neil Walker 2B 4 James McDonald RH
5 Garrett Jones 1B 5 Kevin Correia RH
6 Pedro Alvarez 3B Alt Brad Lincoln RH
7 Clint Barmes SS
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Rod Barajas C CL Joel Hanrahan RH
Top bench options SU Evan Meek RH
R Casey McGehee 3B RP Jason Grilli RH
R Nate McLouth OF RP Chris Resop RH
R Michael McKenry C RP Daniel Moskos LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Gerrit Cole 21 SP DNP Class A
For the most part, Cole looked sharp in the Arizona Fall League, which marked his pro debut. Could be a late-season callup, and surely a top keeper league target.
2 Jameson Taillon 20 SP Class A Class A
The organization is being conservative with his innings and promotions, so Taillon is not on the fast track. Still deserves to be drafted in long-term keeper leagues.
3 Josh Bell 19 OF DNP Class A
Bell is a switch hitter with great power potential. He is still a ways off from the majors and will make his pro debut this spring.
4 Jeff Locke 24 SP Majors Triple-A
The southpaw has strong command, though it didn't show in his brief big league debut last fall. Likely to start in the minors, Locke could settle into the Bucs' rotation sometime this year.
5 Starling Marte 23 OF Double-A Triple-A
The speedster is starting to develop some power, but could stand to be more patient. Marte is likely to debut sometime in 2012, but fellow prospect Robert Grossman just might leapfrog over him.
Best of the rest: Robert Grossman, OF; Luis Heredia, SP; Kyle McPherson, SP; Tony Sanchez, C; Stetson Allie, SP; Nick Kingham, SP; Alex Dickerson, 1B; Bryan Morris, RP; Zack Von Rosenberg, SP; Zach Dodson, SP; Rudy Owens, SP; Justin Wilson, SP; Clay Holmes, SP; Jose Osuna, OF; Jordy Mercer, SS; Gorkys Hernandez, OF; Duke Welker, RP.

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Player News
Pitching prospect Miguel Castro heads from Blue Jays to Rockies
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:05 am ET) The Rockies have acquired promising reliever Miguel Castro in the deal that sent Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays, per CBSSports Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The 20-year-old Castro has been performing well at Triple-A Buffalo. He has 28 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings and is averaging more than a strikeout per inning throughout his minor league career.


Mariners closer Carson Smith takes second straight loss
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:56 am ET) Mariners closer Carson Smith struggled for a second straight game Monday in a loss to Arizona.

Smith opened the 10th inning in a tie game with two walks and a hit-by-pitch sandwiched around a strikeout. He was removed, but a sacrifice fly scored the go-ahead run and tagged him with the loss.

He has allowed three runs and taken two defeats in his last two appearances.


Diamondbacks SP Robbie Ray goes seven strong against Seattle
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:51 am ET) Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray rebounded nicely Monday from his worst start of the season. But his bullpen cost him a victory.

Ray, who couldn't make it out of the fifth inning last Tuesday, pitched through seven in Seattle. He gave up just two runs on six hits with two walks and eight strikeouts, which tied a season-high.

He pitched shutout ball through five, but a Logan Morrison RBI single in the sixth and Robinson Cano homer in the seventh narrowed his lead to 3-2.

Ray has five quality starts in his last six outings.


Mariners SP Mike Montgomery rebounds with strong effort
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) After three mediocre-to-awful starts that threatened to ruin what had been a fine rookie season, Mariners left-hander Mike Montgomery stopped the bleeding Monday night.

Montgomery wasn't lights-out, but he did allow just two earned runs on five hits in 6 2/3 innings in a no-decision against Arizona. He walked four and struck out five.

Home runs by Paul Goldschmidt and Welington Castillo in the first two innings appeared to have Montgomery reeling again. But he righted himself and later retired eight in a row.

Montgomery owns a 3.20 ERA, but hasn't won a game since July 5.


Counsell upset with Brewers OF Carlos Gomez for steal attempt
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:32 am ET) Craig Counsell has reacted angrily to a caught stealing by Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez in the ninth inning of their Monday night loss in San Francisco.

Gomez singled to open the inning with his team two runs behind. He attempted a steal with the tying run at the plate and was thrown out. He was 1-for-4 in the game.

"You cannot get thrown out there," Counsell told MLB.com.

Scooter Gennett later hit a double that would have either scored Gomez or put two runners in scoring position. But the Brewers did not score.


Blue Jays snag RP LaTroy Hawkins in deal with Rockies
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:12 am ET) Former Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins has been included in the deal that sent Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays, per CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Hawkins saved just two games this season before losing his job. But he has allowed just one earned run in 14 appearances since June 14.


Report: Rockies snag SS Jose Reyes in return for Tulowitzki
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:04 am ET) The Rockies will receive veteran shortstop Jose Reyes and minor leaguers in return for Troy Tulowitzki, according to Fox Sports MLB Insider Ken Rosenthal.

The 32-year-old Reyes owns a slash line on the year of .285/.333/.385.


Giants RP Sergio Romo earns second save of season Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:00 am ET) Giants pitcher Sergio Romo recorded the final three outs of the ninth inning to earn his second save of the season during Monday's 4-2 win over the Brewers.

Romo allowed one hit and struck out two during the appearance. He is now 2 for 2 in save chances this season with a 4.26 ERA.


Brewers SP Kyle Lohse allows four runs in Monday's loss
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:57 am ET) Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse had a decent outing Monday, but it was not enough as the Brewers lost 4-2 to the Giants.

Lohse (5-12) allowed four runs on five hits over 6 2/3 innings of work. He also struck out four and walked three. His biggest mistake was giving up a two-run home run to Brandon Crawford in the fourth inning.

Lohse is now winless in his last four starts. He has not earned a quality start in his last six outings.


Report: Nationals 1B Zimmerman, LF Werth to play Tuesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:56 am ET) The Nationals are expected to activate first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and left fielder Jayson Werth for their Tuesdsay night matchup against Marlins stud starter Jose Fernandez, according to MLB.com.

The team has not confirmed those moves,however.

Zimmerman has been sidelined for more than a month with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Werth has been out for more than two months with a fractured left wrist. Both have joined the team in Miami.


 
 
 
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