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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
David Ortiz takes a seat Sunday
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(10:52 am ET) David Ortiz was absent from the Red Sox's starting lineup for Sunday's game at the Orioles. Garin Cecchini got the nod as the team's designated hitter.

Braves duo remain out with injuries
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(10:43 am ET) On Sunday, for the third game in a row, both Evan Gattis (illness) and Jason Heyward (thumb) were out of the Braves' starting lineup. There is still no specific timetable for either's return, though the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Gattis took batting practice on Friday and may be available to pinch hit. They also reported that Heyward was not expected to play at all for Sunday's game against the Mets, but he could return for Monday's series opener against the Pirates.

Hunter Pence goes yard Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:52 am ET) Giants outfielder Hunter Pence hit his 20th home run Saturday against the Padres.

Pence struck in the ninth inning. With the bases empty, Pence smashed an 84 mph changeup from Andrew Cashner out to left. He finished 1 for 4, with one run scored and one RBI. 


Albert Pujols hits 27th home run
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:29 am ET) Angels first baseman Albert Pujols clubbed his 27th home run Saturday against the Rangers.

Pujols struck in the fifth inning. With a man on, Pujols belted a 90 mph fastball out to center for the two-run shot. He would also single twice during the game. Pujols finished 3 for 4, with one run scored and two RBI. 


Mike Trout clubs 35th home run
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:26 am ET) Angels outfielder Mike Trout clubbed his 35th home run Saturday against the Rangers.

Trout struck in the third inning. With a man on, Trout belted an 89 mph fastball out to center for the two-run shot. Trout also walked and tripled during the appearance. He finished 2 for 3, with three runs scored and two RBI. 


Huston Street notches 39th save
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:22 am ET) Angels closer Huston Street notched his 39th save Saturday against the Rangers.

Street entered with a three-run lead, and had no issues nailing down the save. He tossed a perfect inning, striking out one during the appearance. Street threw 12 pitches, 10 of which were strikes. 


Colby Lewis knocked around Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis got knocked around Saturday against the Angels.

Lewis allowed eight runs, seven earned, on nine hits over five innings. He struck out three and walked one during the outing. After giving up a run in the first inning, home runs became a big issue for Lewis. After Kole Calhoun reached on an error to start the third inning, Lewis gave up a two-run shot against Mike Trout. Things got worse in the fifth inning. After a Trout triple, Albert Pujols clubbed a two-run shot. After two singles, David Freese added a three-run shot.

With the loss, Lewis dropped to 10-14. He’ll take on the Athletics in his next start. 


Jered Weaver wins No. 18 Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:19 am ET) Angels pitcher Jered Weaver turned in a strong start against the Rangers.

Weaver allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings. He struck out seven and walked one during the outing. He was excellent to open the game, tossing six scoreless frames to start things off. He gave up his first run in the seventh inning. With men on second and third, Weaver gave up a run on a groundout. He gave up his final run in the eighth inning. After giving up two straight singles to open the inning, Weaver left the game. One run would come around to score, and was charged to Weaver.

With the win, Weaver improved to 18-8. He’ll take on the Mariners in his next start.


Abraham Almonte leaves with injury Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:17 am ET) Padres outfielder Abraham Almonte left Saturday's game with an ankle issue.

Almonte hit a ground-rule double in the third inning. He had trouble getting the second base, and appeared to injury his ankle. He was replaced by a pinch-runner. Almonte finished 1 for 1, with a double. 


Steve Pearce to miss a few days
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:12 am ET) Orioles designated hitter Steve Pearce will miss a few days after receiving a cortisone shot, according to MASN. 

Pearce was scratched Saturday with a wrist issue. He received a cortisone shot, and will miss the next few days as the shot kicks in. 


 
 
 
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