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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
Astros' Roberto Hernandez arrives at camp, throws in bullpen
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:28 am ET) Astros starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez arrived for spring training Thursday and threw in the bullpen. Hernandez missed the first two weeks of camp due to visa issues.

Hernandez, who is competing for a spot in the rotation, said he will throw in the bullpen again Saturday and then should be ready for his spring debut.

“We’ve got to get him off the bullpen mound and then gauge,” manager A.J. Hinch said, per MLB.com. “He’s prepared. He’s been working out at the main stadium in Santo Domingo. When he tells me he’s ready, he’ll be inserted. I’m just glad he’s here. Let’s get through one day first and then we’ll plan it out.”


Report: Mariners' Choi likely to miss 4-6 weeks following surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:24 am ET) Mariners first base prospect Ji-Man Choi will undergo surgery Thursday after suffering a fractured fibula during Wednesday's spring game against the Padres, according to MLB.com. He is expected to be sidelined 4-6 months.

Astros catcher Hank Conger dealing with left wrist injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:19 am ET) Astros catcher Hank Conger is dealing with a minor left wrist injury, according to the Houston Chronicle. However, he could catch in a game this weekend.

Padres' Upton crushes HR off batter's eye in CF in spring debut
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:16 am ET) Padres outfielder Justin Upton, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Braves, wasted little time showing the kind of impact he can bring to the San Diego lineup. Upton homered in his spring debut Wednesday against the Mariners, and it wasn't a shot that barely made it over the wall.

"That ball was crushed," manager Bud Black said, per U-T San Diego.

Upton blasted an 0-1 breaking ball from Mariners pitcher Forrest Snow off the batter's eye in center field at Peoria Stadium, which sits 410 feet away from home plate.

"You try to stay within yourself, under control," Upton said. "Most of the time, if you swing the bat with good path, you can get some backspin. I got lucky today and ran into one."


Redmond: Giancarlo Stanton on same plan as everybody else
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:07 am ET) Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton hit third and started in right field for his spring debut Thursday against the Cardinals.

Stanton, who hasn't played in a game since getting hit in the face by a pitch in September, hit off coaches and participated in a few live batting practices before getting into a spring game Thursday.

“It’s been great to see him, he looks good, I know he’s in great shape and know it’s the start of the process to prepare yourself for the season,” manager Mike Redmond said, per The Palm Beach Post. “He’s on the same plan as everybody else.”


Marlins SP Jose Fernandez (elbow) throws second bullpen session
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:58 am ET) Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez (elbow) threw 20 pitches Thursday during his second bullpen session this spring, per The Palm Beach Post. Fernandez threw in front of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and the training staff.

Fernandez is expected to throw two bullpen sessions a week for most of March.


Dodgers' Turner: Joc Pederson only talks about hitting, ever
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:50 am ET) Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, who is competing for the starting job in center field, got his spring campaign started off on the right foot Wednesday against the White Sox. The highly touted prospect went 2 for 2 with one double and one run.

One person who was likely happy to see Pederson get off to a quick start was teammate Justin Turner, who spent the offseason working out in Los Angeles with the 22-year-old outfielder.

"He doesn't talk about anything but hitting, ever," Turner said, per the Los Angeles Times. "He loves to talk hitting. He's not afraid to ask questions, which I love. One of my pet peeves is when you're around guys who have a lot of valuable information and you don't ask them anything. When I'm around guys, I ask questions. I want to know what they're doing, what they're thinking, because I want to learn."


Rangers' Alexander Claudio hoping to earn a role
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:27 am ET) Rangers pitcher Alexander Claudio is hoping to be the team's lefty in the bullpen, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Claudio is one of three lefties in camp competing for the job. He performed well in his first taste of spring training, retiring two lefties during his inning of work. He allowed one hit, and struck out two batters. While Claudio's fastball barely registers on the radar gun, manager Jeff Banister still came away impressed.

"I like the secondary stuff," Banister said. "He's accepted the type of pitcher he is and is willing to be that guy. He’s really intriguing with the kind of deception he brings."

Claudio posted a 2.92 ERA over 12 1/3 innings last season.


Dodgers' Erik Bedard willing to go to Triple-A
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers pitcher Erik Bedard is willing to go to Triple-A if he doesn't break camp with the major-league club, according to MLB.com.

Bedard allowed one run over two innings in his first taste of spring action on Wednesday. The veteran said he knows that if the Dodgers five starters are healthy, he'll be sent to the minors. "I know where I stand," Bedard said. "The game is still fun. I like to play baseball."

Bedard posted a 4.76 ERA over 75 2/3 innings last season. 


Dodgers' Alex Guerrero willing to play third base
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers infielder Alex Guerrero has been willing to learn third this spring, according to MLB.com.

Guerrero is in a bit of a unique position. With Howie Kendrick entrenched at second, Guerrero doesn't really have a spot in the team's infield. Due to his contract, however, the team can't just send him to the minors. Guerrero can block the move, and has already said he plans to do so if the team tries to send him down. If he can play third well, that may not be a problem.

For what it's worth, manager Don Mattingly believes Guerrero has looked better this spring. "I really do think the second year [in camp] he looks a lot different as far as being relaxed," Mattingly said. "He's swinging the bat well and he keeps improving."

The 28-year-old hit .333/.371/.621 over three minor-league levels last season. 


 
 
 
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