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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
Braves SP Mike Foltynewicz set to compete for spot in rotation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:58 am ET) Newly acquired starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, who was acquired in the Evan Gattis trade with Houston, will compete for the final spot in the Braves' rotation this spring. Bo Porter, who is now Atlanta's third-base coach after serving as the Astros manager, gave his scouting report of the 6-4, 220-pound right-hander to MLB.com.

"He definitely has the skill set," Porter said. "You look at the overall package -- he has an overpowering fastball, his breaking ball is something he started to use more once he arrived at the major-league level and his changeup is a work in progress. But when you look at his size and his competitiveness, he has that bulldog mentality."

Foltynewicz is considered the Braves' second-best prospect by MLB.com. He went 7-7 with a 5.08 ERA in 21 outings (18 starts) at Triple-A in 2014. He also made 16 relief appearances at the major-league level last season, going 0-1 with a 5.30 ERA.


Orioles considering spring training invite for Mark Hendrickson
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) The Orioles are considering a spring training invite for pitcher Mark Hendrickson , according to MASN.

Hendrickson has been linked to the Orioles for some time now. He threw for the club back in June, and recently had a workout at the team's recent minicamp. The 40-year-old Hendrickson has completely remade his windup. He now throws from a submarine style angle. Hendrickson hasn't pitched in the majors since 2011. 


Angels sign Stewart, Herrmann to minor-league deals
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) The Angels have signed pitchers Zach Stewart and Frank Herrmann to minor-league deals, according to the Los Angeles Times

Both players will receive an invite to spring training. Stewart, 28, spent last season in the minors. He posted a 4.58 ERA over 110 innings.

The 30-year-old Herrmann spent all of last season in Triple-A. He posted a 6.37 ERA over 29 2/3 innings. 


Report: Joba Chamberlain has turned down multiple offers
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Former Tigers reliever Joba Chamberlain has turned down offers from multiple teams, according to FoxSports.com.

The 29-year-old Chamberlain is coming off a year in which he posted a 3.57 ERA over 63 innings with Detroit. He performed much better in the first half of the season, posting a 2.63 ERA over 37 2/3 innings. Chamberlain struggled in the second half, however. He posted a 4.97 ERA over 25 1/3 innings. Chamberlain saw his strikeout rate drop in the second half, while his walk rate creeped up. 

It appears Chamberlain has received attention during the offseason, but has held out to sign with a better club. While he was initially shooting for a two-year deal, Chamberlain may accept a one-year offer with incentives at this point.


Orioles have made an offer to Nolan Reimold
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) The Orioles have offered a contract to Nolan Reimold, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Team executive Dan Duquette confirmed the team made the offer, but said there are multiple teams interested in Reimold. The 31-year-old spent the first five seasons of his career in Baltimore. He spent last season with the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks, hitting .232 over 69 at-bats. 


Giants designate Chris Dominguez for assignment
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) The Giants have designated Chris Dominguez for assignment, according to MLB.com.

The 28-year-old Dominguez received 17 at-bats in the majors last season. He spent most of the season in Triple-A, where he hit .274/.307/.460 over 496 at-bats. Dominguez had to be removed from the 40-man roster in order to make room for Ryan Vogelsong.


Brewers, Neal Cotts agree on a one-year deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) The Brewers have reached a one-year deal with reliever Neal Cotts, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. 

Cotts was in Milwaukee on Thursday to take a physical. He passed the team physical, and will earn $3 million next season, according to FoxSports.com. The deal is expected to be announced by the club on Friday. The 34-year-old Cotts posted a 4.32 ERA over 66 2/3 innings last year.


Brewers talking to reliever Neal Cotts
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) The Brewers are talking to reliever Neal Cotts, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Cotts, 34, spent the last two seasons with the Rangers. After an exceptional comeback in 2013, Cotts regressed a bit in 2014, posting a 4.32 ERA. While the two sides have talked, it's unclear if a deal is close. If the Brewers were to reach a deal with Cotts, the team would have to remove a player from the 40-man roster. 


Phillies designate Cesar Jimenez for assignment on Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) The Phillies have designated pitcher Cesar Jimenez for assignment on Thursday, the team announced.

Philadelphia signed pitcher Chad Billingsley to a one-year deal, and needed to make room on the 40-man roster. In order to do so, Jimenez was designated for assignment. The 30-year-old Jimenez posted a 1.69 ERA over 16 innings with the major-league club last year.


Chad Billingsley signs with Phillies
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) The Phillies have signed pitcher Chad Billingsley, according to MLB.com.

Billingsley is set to make $1.5 million next year. He's eligible to make more based on whether he can reach certain performance bonuses in the contract. Billingsley has pitched just 12 innings in the majors since 2012 due to elbow issues. He had Tommy John surgery in 2013, but experienced more elbow issues while rehabbing after the surgery. He had season-ending surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in the same elbow, ending his 2014. The Dodgers opted to decline an option on Billingsley, making him a free-agent. 

The 30-year-old has compiled a 3.65 ERA over 1175 1/3 career innings. 


 
 
 
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