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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
Report: Rockies considering Kendrick as back-of-the-rotation arm
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:28 am ET) The Rockies are looking at free agent Kyle Kendrick as a potential back-of-the-rotation arm, according to ESPN. Kendrick is 1-1 with a 5.26 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in seven career outings (six starts) at Coors Field.

Rangers' Daniels: Ryan Rua 'in a good position' to make roster
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:57 am ET) Ryan Rua received his first stint in the majors late last season and made such a strong impression in such a short period of time that the Rangers are looking to him to potentially be the starting left fielder in 2015, per MLB.com.

"He's in a spot where he if continues progressing at the rate he has, then I would expect that he's in a good position to make our club and get at-bats," general manager Jon Daniels said. "It's not going to be handed to him, but he has a strong chance to earn that spot."

The 24-year-old Rua hit .295 with two home runs, seven doubles and 14 RBI in 28 games with the Rangers in 2014. He had a .285/.365/.489/.854 slash line in 382 minor-league games before his promotion to the majors.

"He's not a guy that was off the radar screen and only produced for a month," Daniels said. "He's always hit from Day 1, and is an extremely hard worker that I think is going to have a good big league career."


Hart: Braves expecting Markakis to be 'full go' in spring training
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:29 am ET) Braves outfielder Nick Markakis underwent fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck Wednesday, per MLB.com. The team expects Markakis to resume baseball activities before the start of spring training. 

"We talked to (Dr.) Steve Wray after the surgery and he said it really went well," Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said. "He said [the procedure] really went well, and he thinks that this guy will be ready to go full go in spring training. The only thing is that there will be a little bit of a disruption for his normal routine getting ready for spring training."

Markakis is expected to be cleared for physical activities within the next month, and the hope is he will be fully cleared within six weeks. Markakis agreed to a four-year, $44 million deal with the Braves in early December.


Three teams showing interest in Norichika Aoki
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Orioles, Reds and Mariners are among the teams looking at outfielder Norichika Aoki, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The 32-year-old Aoki hit .285/.349/.360 over 491 at-bats last year. With the Royals signing Alex Rios earlier in the week, Aoki will likely have to move on with a different club. 


Report: Athletics release Jorge De Leon
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Athletics have released pitcher Jorge De Leon, according to SB Nation.

De Leon was designated for assignment by the club last week, and the team couldn't find a way to deal him. De Leon appeared in eight games last season, posting a 4.91 ERA over 7 1/3 innings. 


Report: Padres' Seth Smith popping up in trade talks
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) Padres outfielder Seth Smith has come up in trade talks recently, according to ESPN.

If the Matt Kemp and Wil Myers trades go through, the team would have a surplus in the outfield. On top of those two players, San Diego would also have Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, Cameron Maybin and Smith. The 32-year-old Smith hit .266/.367/.440 over 443 at-bats last year. 


D-Backs, David Hernandez avoid arbitration
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Diamondbacks have reached an agreement with David Hernandez on a contract, according to the azcentral.com.

Hernandez was eligible for arbitration, but settled on a $2 million salary figure for next season. The 29-year-old posted a missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.


Report: Three teams showing interest in Jake Peavy
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Marlins, Braves and Giants are showing interest in pitcher Jake Peavy, according to FoxSports.com.

The 33-year-old Peavy is coming off a season in which he posted a 3.73 ERA over 202 2/3 innings. Peavy had some issues in Boston, posting a 4.72 ERA to start the season, but settled in once he joined the Giants. With San Francisco, Peavy had a 2.17 ERA over 78 2/3 innings. The Marlins interest in Peavy is dependent on whether Dan Haren decides to pitch. If Haren comes back, the team would not have interest in Peavy.


Padres, Rays and Nationals on the verge of three team deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Nationals, Padres and Rays are on the verge of a three-team deal which would send outfielder Wil Myers to San Diego, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. 

The deal would also send outfielder Steven Souza back to Tampa Bay and prospect Trea Turner to Washington. 

The deal is yet to be finalized, with a few key pieces to also be involved in the deal. 


Royals, Edinson Volquez agree to two year contract
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Royals and free agent pitcher Edinson Volquez have an agreement on a two-year deal, worth $20 million in the first two years, pending a physical, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. 

Volquez, who pitched for the Pirates in 2014, went 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA and 140 strikeouts. 


 
 
 
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