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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
Kevin Quackenbush picks up his fifth save Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:00 am ET) Padres closer Kevin Quackenbush saved his fifth game Saturday against the Giants.

Quackenbush entered with a two-run lead, and made things interesting before shutting the door. With two outs, he gave up a run-scoring single to Gregor Blanco. The run was charged to starter Andrew Cashner. Quackenbush managed to pick up a line out to finally close out the game. 


Drew Storen picks up ninth save
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) Nationals closer Drew Storen picked up his ninth save Saturday against the Marlins.

Storen entered with a one-run lead, and got himself in trouble before closing things out. With one out, Storen gave up two straight singles. With the tying run on second base, Storen managed a game-ending double play. 


Jenrry Mejia saves No. 27
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) Mets closer Jenrry Mejia managed his 27th save Saturday against the Braves.

Mejia entered with a two-run lead, and managed to close things out. After quickly getting his first out, Mejia gave up a single to Ramiro Pena. With a man on base, Mejia managed to make quick work of the next two hitters to finish the game. He did not record any walks or strikeouts during the outing. 


Marc Rzepczynski picks up four out save
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) Indians pitcher Marc Rzepczynski picked up a four out save Saturday against the Twins. 

Rzepczynski entered with a four-run lead, but two men on base. He was able to strike out Oswaldo Arcia to end the eighth inning. Rzepczynski would come out in the ninth, and got through the inning with no issues. He struck out the first two hitters he faced and forced a groundout against the final batter. It was his first save of the season. 


Jake McGee saves 18th game Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) Rays closer Jake McGee saved his 18th game Saturday against the White Sox. 

McGee entered with a three-run lead, and had some trouble before closing it out. After a leadoff walk against Jose Abreu, McGee gave up a run-scoring single to Marcus Semien. McGee would walk the next batter, but proceeded to notch three outs against the next three hitters. He struck out one during the outing. 


Francisco Rodriguez saves No. 43 Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez saved his 43rd game Saturday against the Pirates.

Rodriguez entered with a one-run lead, and shut the door. He threw a perfect inning, getting a flyout and two groundouts to finish off the game. Rodriguez threw just six pitches during the outing. 


Andrew Cashner turns in exceptional start Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner turned in an excellent start Saturday against the Giants.

Cashner allowed two run on four hits over eight innings. He struck out seven and walked one during the outing. Cashner was exceptional early on, tossing eight scoreless frames to open the game. He came out to start the ninth, but immediately gave up a solo home run to Hunter Pence. After giving up a single to the next hitter, Cashner was pulled from the start. That runner would come around to score after Cashner left. He was charged with the run.

With the win, Cashner improved to 5-7. He’ll take on the Giants in his next start. 


Yusmeiro Petit drops one Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) Giants pitcher Yusmeiro Petit turned in a a decent start Saturday against the Padres.

Petit allowed three runs, two earned, on four hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked three during the outing. Petit gave up his first run in the third inning. After a leadoff double, Yangervis Solarte managed to reach on an error. The run scored on a play, but was unearned. He gave up his other two runs in the sixth inning. With two men on base, Rene Rivera doubled in both runs. 

With the loss, Petit dropped to 5-5. He’ll take on the Padres in his next start.


Trevor May knocked around Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) Twins pitcher Trevor May got knocked around Saturday against the Indians.

May allowed seven runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings. He struck out three and walked two during the outing. May opened the game with a scoreless inning, but quickly got himself in trouble in the second. With two outs, and two men on base, May gave up a two-run triple against Mike Aviles. Michael Bourn would plate Aviles on a single. May would give up another run in the third on another run-scoring single. The fifth proved to be problematic as well. With two outs, and two men on base, May gave up a three-run shot to Yan Gomes. He was pulled from the game at that point. 

With the loss, May dropped to 3-5. He’ll take on the Tigers in his next start.


T.J. House wins one Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) Indians pitcher T.J. House picked up a win Saturday against the Twins.

House allowed two runs on six hits over five innings. He struck out five and issued one walk during the outing. House gave up both his runs fairly early. He got himself in trouble in the second inning, loading the bases with nobody out. He managed to escape the inning by giving up just one run. Another run came in during the third inning. After a leadoff double was moved to third, Kennys Vargas plated a run on a groundout. 

With the win, House improved to 4-3. He’ll take on the Rays in his next start. 


 
 
 
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