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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
Rockies shelve RP Ken Roberts, activate RP Brooks Brown
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:16 pm ET) Rockies lefty reliever Ken Roberts has been placed on the disabled list with elbow inflammation, per the Denver Post, which is further reporting that they have activated bullpen mate Brooks Brown, who has recovered from a shoulder injury.

Roberts had performed well until a disastrous appearance Friday night against San Francisco in which he allowed three runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning.

Brown, who has been absent since May 3, returns with a 4.50 ERA.


Twins' Joe Mauer will not start despite six-game hit streak
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:15 pm ET) Twins first baseman Joe Mauer will not start against the White Sox on Saturday despite being in the midst of a six-game hit streak.

Mauer, who is hitting .333/.360/.500 with eight hits and six RBI in his last six games, will still be available for the game.

Trevor Plouffe -- replacing Mauer -- will make just his second start at first base this season.


Mets LF Michael Cuddyer out against Pirates SP A.J. Burnett
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:04 pm ET) Mets veteran left fielder Michael Cuddyer is catching a break Saturday against Pittsburgh. He is getting the day off in favor of rookie Darrell Ceciliani.

Cuddyer has not had much success against Pirates scheduled starter. A.J. Burnett. He is 7-for-34 lifetime against the right-hander with just one home run and three RBI.


Nationals Michael Taylor to start in left field against Phillies
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:59 pm ET) Nationals outfielder Michael Taylor will start in left field against the Phillies on Saturday.

Taylor will face off against left-handed pitcher Cole Hamels. Taylor is a career .261/.320/.478 hitter against left-handed pitchers, and has homered against Hamels once in 5 at-bats.


Phillies SS Freddy Galvis benched Saturday at Washington
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:53 pm ET) Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis complained that the cold weather in Colorado made him cold at the plate - but perhaps he's just cold at the plate. He went hitless in four at-bats at much-warmer Washington on Friday night.

The bottom line is that he's out of the lineup Saturday for the fifth time this season. He has just three hits in his last 27 at-bats.


Nationals 2B Dan Uggla gets the start against Phillies
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:53 pm ET) Nationals 2B Dan Uggla has been solid against left-handed pitchers this year, something his team wants him to continue on Saturday against the Phillies' Cole Hamels.

Uggla, who is hitting .273/.385/.545 in 11 at-bats against lefties this season, will get the start over Danny Espinosa.

In 62 career at-bats against Hamels, Uggla is only hitting .145/.239/.323 with three home runs, two doubles and six RBI.


Angels SS Erick Aybar smashes his first homer of 2015
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:45 pm ET) Angels shortstop Erick Aybar has been raking for three weeks, but he did something Friday night he had not done all year.

He homered.

Aybar blasted off with one aboard to put the cherry on top in a nine-run fifth that buried Boston. He had already walked and scored in the inning.

He has hit safely in 16 of his last 18 games and his .325 slugging percentage is at its highest point since the season opener.


Braves SP Miller looks to continue hot streak in start against Brewers
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:40 pm ET) Braves starting pitcher Shelby Miller has been on fire to start the season.

Miller (5-1) will get the start on Saturday against the Brewers, where he will look to extend his excellent start to the season.

Through eight starts, Miller has a 1.33 ERA.


Mariners' McClendon: Hisashi Iwakuma still not close to return
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:39 pm ET) Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma continues to receive treatment for his strained right lat muscle. However, he has yet to resume throwing, per MLB.com.

“I would imagine when we get back he’ll start throwing again and then start his process all over again,” McClendon said. “He’s going to be out awhile.”


Austin Jackson's struggles in minors delaying return to Mariners
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:37 pm ET) Mariners outfielder Austin Jackson played in his sixth rehab game for Triple-A Tacoma on Friday. He went 1 for 5 with three strikeouts.

Jackson is batting .250 (6 for 24) with four walks and seven strikeouts on his rehab assignment. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, however, gave no indication Saturday of a specific date for Jackson's return.

“The ankle is feeling good, but the bat isn’t,” McClendon said, per MLB.com. “As of right now, it’s still open.”


 
 
 
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