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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
Giants' Nori Aoki (leg) could return by end of July, skipper says
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(8:22 pm ET) Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he expects outfielder Nori Aoki to be ready to return from the disabled list about two weeks following the All-Star break, according to CSN Bay Area. 

Aoki has been on the 15-day DL since June 24 due to a fractured right fibula. It sounds like Aoki could be back with the Giants by the end of July.


Phillies SP Jerome Williams makes Double-A rehab start Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(8:10 pm ET) Phillies right-hander Jerome Williams made his first rehab start with Double-A Reading on Tuesday. The veteran hurler went 3 1/3 innings, allowing one run (a home run) on three hits. He struck out three and did not issue a walk, throwing 38 of his 58 pitches for strikes.

Williams has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 17 with a hamstring injury. It is not known if Williams will need any additional rehab appearances before returning to the Phillies' rotation.


Phillies' Cesar Hernandez could remain starting second baseman
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(8:06 pm ET) Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Tuesday that Cesar Hernandez will likely keep the starting second baseman job once Chase Utley returns from the disabled list.

Hernandez has been one of the Phillies' hottest hitters over the last two weeks or so, and is earning high praise from the coaches and front office. Amaro wentas far as to call Hernandez the "team's best second baseman", according to CSN Philadelphia.

Utley, meanwhile, was batting .179 before landing on the DL with an ankle injury. The veteran has struggled all season, and may have seen his starting role vanish.


Marlins' Jeff Baker leaves Tuesday's game with oblique injury
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7:59 pm ET) Marlins first baseman Jeff Baker left Tuesday's game against the Red Sox after one inning with left oblique pain, according to the Miami Herald

Baker struck out in his only at-bat before being replaced in the bottom of the second inning. Michael Morse moved from left field to first base, with Ichiro Suzuki entering the game in left.

The Marlins have not provided any further updates on Baker's status.


Dodgers SP Brandon Beachy could return Saturday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:30 pm ET) Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday that pitcher Brandon Beachy is a candidate to start Saturday's game against the Brewers, reports MLB.com.

Beachy has not pitched this season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. He has been on a minor-league rehab assignment.


Dustin Pedroia tests hamstring, may return to Red Sox soon
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(7:27 pm ET) Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia fielded ground balls and did change of direction drills before Tuesday's game.

The injured hamstring that landed Pedroia on the disabled list passed the pregame test, and the Sox are looking to activate Pedroia in the near future. 

Pedroia is eligible to come off the DL on Friday. The team could activate him for the weekend series or wait until after the All Star Break to give Pedroia extra rest. 

"Pedey’s looking at this, looking at what’s coming up after the weekend, and he’s being realistic about it as well,” manager John Farrell said, per ESPN. “The best way to describe it is that he’ll be out there as soon as he’s ready -- the first day that he’s fully ready."


Mets' Travis d'Arnaud using elbow brace
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:15 pm ET) Mets cather Travis d'Arnaud still needs to use a brace for his injured elbow, reports ESPNNewYork.com. d'Arnaud has been sidelined since June 20 due to a sprained elbow.

Hunter Pence returns to Giants' lineup on Tuesday
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(7:06 pm ET) Giants right fielder Hunter Pence is in the starting lineup for Tuesday's game.

Pence has missed the last 30 games with a wrist injury. He last played on June 2.

The team waited until after batting practice before making a roster move to activate Pence.  


Buster Posey not in Giants lineup on Tuesday
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(7:04 pm ET) Giants catcher Buster Posey isn't in the starting lineup for Tuesday's game. 

Posey has started 55 games at catcher this season, but he's only gotten the call in four of the last 11. 

Andrew Susac will get the start at catcher for the 26th time. 


Mets OF Michael Cuddyer not in Tuesday's lineup
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:00 pm ET) The Mets kept outfielder Michael Cuddyer out of Tuesday's lineup at San Francisco, the team announced.

John Mayberry received the start in left field and will bat sixth. Cuddyer is hitting .100 with one double and no RBI in his last 13 games. He has been bothered by a knee issue recently, which manager Terrry Collins said was acting up, but was good enough to play, reports ESPNNewYork.com.

The Mets are the underdogs (-125) at San Francisco on Tuesday.


 
 
 
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