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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 P Kyle Kendrick gives up 4 runs in loss
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(1:51 am ET) Rockies pitcher Kyle Kendrick allowed four earned runs in Friday night's 11-8 loss to the Giants. 

Kendrick went 6 1/3 innings and struck out four batters while walking three. 


Royals' Kendrys Morales drives in five runs during Friday's win
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:50 am ET) Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales provided all the offense that the Royals needed to defeat the Cardinals on Friday.

Morales drove in all five the team's runs Friday. He did it by hitting two home runs off Lance Lynn. Morales went 3 for 5 in the game to raise his average to .305.

Prior to his three-hit game Friday, Morales had been hitting .154 with no home runs over his last four games.


Giants' Ryan Vogelsong pitches 6 scoreless innings
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(1:47 am ET) Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong went six innings without allowing an earned run during Friday night's 11-8 win over the Rockies. 

Even though his relievers gave up eight runs, Vogelsong was still able to get credit for the win thanks to some great run support from his offense. Vogelsong finished the game with five strikeouts and three walks. 

Vogelsong gave up only two hits throughout the game. He now has a 4.60 ERA for the season. 

Vogelsong's next start is now projected for May 27 against the Brewers. 


Cardinals SP Lance Lynn receives loss during Friday's game
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn received his fourth loss of the season during Friday's 5-0 loss to the Royals.

Lynn allowed five runs on 10 hits over six innings during the outing. He struck out four batters and walked one. He surrendered two home runs to Kendrys Morales.

Lynn has pitched at least six innings in his five last starts. Friday's loss broke his two-game winning streak. His next expected start is set for Wednesday against the Diamondbacks.


Royals SP Chris Young pitches six scoreless innings Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:39 am ET) Royals pitcher Chris Young tossed six scoreless innings to earn his fourth win of the season during Friday's 5-0 win over the Cardinals.

Young scattered six hits while striking out two batters and walking two. He lowered his ERA to 0.78 on the season.

Young (4-0) has not surrendered more than one run in any of his four starts this season. His next expected start is set for Wednesday at the New York Yankees.


Dodgers RP Kenley Jansen earns second save of season Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:28 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Kenley Jansen tossed a perfect ninth inning to earn his second save of the season during Friday's 2-1 win over the Padres.

Jansen entered with a one-run lead and he shut the door on the Padres. He struck out Will Middlebrooks to end the game.


Rays P Chris Archer strikes out 8 in win
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(1:27 am ET) Rays pitcher Chris Archer gave up only one earned run during Friday night's 5-2 win over the Athletics. 

Archer gave up his lone run in the fourth inning to Stephen Vogt on a solo home run. The Athletics were able to get six hits on Archer. Archer struck out eight batters while walking four. Archer now has an ERA of 2.40 this season. 

His next start is projected for May 27 against the Mariners. 


Dodgers OF Joc Pederson hits 11th home run of season Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson smacked his 11th home run of the season to propel the Dodgers to a 2-1 win over the Padres on Friday.

With the game tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Pederson hit a solo shot off Joaquin Benoit. He finished the game 2 for 4. Pederson is 8 for 40 with two home runs over his last 10 games.


Red Sox P Rick Porcello rocked in loss to Angels
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(1:23 am ET) Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello allowed seven earned runs during Friday night's 12-5 loss to the Angels. 

Porcello was only able to go 4 1/3 innings, with his appearance in the fifth inning a particular disaster for him. Five of the nine runs that inning were credited to Porcello. Porcello struck out four batters while walking three. 

Porcello has now struck out 10 batters over the past two games. He now has an ERA of 5.07 this season. 

His next start is projected for May 27 against the Twins. 


Padres SP Andrew Cashner does not allow an earned run Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:19 am ET) Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner surrendered one unearned run over six innings, but the run haunted the Padres as they fell 2-1 to the Dodgers on Friday.

Cashner (1-7) struck out three batters and walked one, but he received a no-decision for his effort. He lowered his ERA to 2.89.

Cashner has not given up more than four earned runs in six-consecutive starts. His next expected start is scheduled for Wednesday at the Los Angeles Angels.


 
 
 
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