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2013 Fantasy outlooks: Pittsburgh Pirates

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The Pirates headed into last season's trade deadline as legitimate playoff contenders, and after fortifying their roster with a few deals, they seemed poised to end their 19-year streak of losing seasons, if not their playoff drought. Instead, a 20-39 record from August 1 forward ensured that the Pirates would go two full decades without a winning record or a postseason berth.

The acquisitions of Wandy Rodriguez and Travis Snider didn't pay off down the stretch, and neither did the promotion of outfield prospect Starling Marte, but all three will be counted on to play a key role in 2013. Snider and Marte will start the season in the outfield corners and be asked to bolster a lineup that relied heavily on Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker for production. Rodriguez will return to the rotation, as will A.J. Burnett, James McDonald and Jeff Karstens.

One member of the rotation who won't be back is Kevin Correia, who bolted for the Twins as a free agent, but offseason signee Francisco Liriano will fill the vacancy. The Pirates also swapped out free agents for the other part of their battery, as the departing Rod Barajas will be replaced by ex-Yankee Russell Martin. The biggest move of their offseason, however, was the trade that sent closer Joel Hanrahan, along with infielder Brock Holt, to the Red Sox for Mark Melancon, Jerry Sands, Ivan DeJesus and Stolmy Pimentel. None of the acquired players is likely to have a serious Fantasy impact this season, but Hanrahan's departure opens the door for Jason Grilli to assume the closer's role.

2013 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

Unlike in blackjack, the Pirates will do their best to avoid hitting "21," as they try to break their skein of losing seasons. It's not unthinkable that the 2013 Bucs could be a winning team, but several factors would have to work in their favor. McCutchen will need to sustain the mammoth gains he achieved last season, and Burnett -- who went 16-10 with a 3.51 ERA -- will have to keep his comeback going. It will also help if Martin hits for power away from Yankee Stadium, Snider and Marte live up to their potential and Liriano stays healthy enough to deliver at least 160 innings. Just as the Pirates present their fans with a great deal of uncertainty, many of their players will cause some angst in the draft room, as few of the Pirates' Fantasy fortunes are clear for the coming year.

Buyer beware ... Andrew McCutchen, outfielder

McCutchen had a major breakout in 2012, batting .327, scoring 100-plus runs for the first time and posting his first 90-plus RBI season. There is no denying that McCutchen took his power game to another level, but were his gains enough to ensure that he will be an elite producer in Fantasy again this year? To match last season's level of production, McCutchen would not only have to maintain his power, but he will also have to come near the .348 batting average on grounders he put up a year ago. While McCutchen gets his fair share of infield hits, that is still an outrageously high average. Owners should expect fewer hits and runs as McCutchen's overall batting average should fall to around .290. That's still good enough to make him a first-rounder in Head-to-Head, but in Rotisserie leagues, the projected dip in average should drop McCutchen into the second round. You may be tempted to take him with your first pick for fear that he won't be available in Round 2, but resist the urge and let someone else take him that early.

Breakout ... Pedro Alvarez, third baseman

2013 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Starling Marte LF
2. Neil Walker 2B
3. Andrew McCutchen CF
4. Garrett Jones 1B
5. Pedro Alvarez 3B
6. Travis Snider RF
7. Russell Martin C
8. Clint Barmes SS
Bench Jose Tabata OF
Bench Gaby Sanchez 1B
Bench Josh Harrison 2B

Alvarez got off to a tepid start last season, and as late as June 15, he owned a .189/.254/.373 slash line. Even during the early weeks, Alvarez hit with power, but later in the season, he hit for extra bases even more frequently. and he started to strike out less and walk more. In other words, he began to resemble the version of himself that got Fantasy owners excited back when he was a prospect. Alvarez's poor start, coming on the heels of a frustrating 2011 campaign, may have confirmed for many owners that he was a dud, but for the better part of the 2012 season -- from June 16 on -- he compiled a .274/.352/.518 slash line. He won't need to approach that level to be viable in standard mixed leagues, and even with a conservative assessment, Alvarez projects to be a top 10 third baseman in Rotisserie formats.

Enigma ... James McDonald, starting pitcher

Just as Alvarez was starting to put things together last season, McDonald was falling apart. With a 2.37 ERA in the first half, McDonald finally seemed to be living up to expectations, as he appeared to have put his command issues behind him. The second half started poorly for McDonald, as he failed to notch a quality start his first four times out, and he registered a 7.52 ERA after the All-Star break. To be sure, he turned in several clunkers, and he did have a harder time locating in the strike zone, but McDonald's slump was amplified by rough stretches in July and September. In five August starts, McDonald threw strikes at a higher rate than he did during the first half, and he held batters to a .223 average. According to FanGraphs, he stranded only 61 percent of his baserunners that month, which helped to exaggerate the extent of his slump. While McDonald's inconsistency does makes his value hard to assess, the fact that his downturn was neither as long nor as severe as it appeared on the surface should give owners more confidence in him. He showed enough of his good side last season to be worth drafting as a late-round pick in standard mixed leagues.

2013 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. A.J. Burnett RHP
2. Wandy Rodriguez LHP
3. James McDonald RHP
4. Francisco Liriano LHP
5. Jeff Karstens RHP
ALT Jeff Locke LHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Jason Grilli RHP
2. Mark Melancon RHP
3. Jared Hughes RHP
4. Tony Watson LHP
5. Chris Leroux RHP

Prospects report

Gerrit Cole has lived up to his billing as a first overall pick, as he cruised through Advanced Class A and Double-A last season. He even got a brief taste of Triple-A, which is where he is likely to begin the 2013 season. Barring a change in fortunes, he should arrive in Pittsburgh's rotation later this year. ... Jameson Taillon is less likely to join the Pirates' rotation this season, but he looked good in the Florida State League after overcoming a midseason slump. ... 18-year-old Luis Heredia is at least two years away from the majors, but like fellow hurlers Cole and Taillon, he should be targeted in long-term keeper leagues. ... Kyle McPherson lacks the upside of the Pirates' top three pitching prospects, but he is the one who is most likely to make an impact this year. He's worth a late-round pick in deeper NL-only leagues. ... The Pirates lack position player prospects who are close to making a Fantasy impact, but outfielders Gregory Polanco and Josh Bell and shortstop Alen Hanson are all worth having in long-term keeper leagues.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Astros RP Luke Gregerson earns save Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:53 am ET) Astros pitcher Luke Gregerson picked up his third save of the season during Monday's 7-5 win over the Mariners.

Gregerson entered in the ninth inning with a two-run lead and only allowed one base runner before recording the save. In addition to walking one batter, Gregerson also struck out a batter.

Gregerson has yet to surrender a run in seven innings of work this season and is a perfect 3 for 3 in save opportunities.


Astros 3B Luis Valbuena hits two home runs Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:48 am ET) Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena connected on two home runs to help lead the Astros to a 7-5 win over the Mariners on Monday.

Valbuena hit his fourth home run of the season when he connected on a solo home run off Hisashi Iwakuma during the first inning. During the eighth inning, Valbuena hit another solo shot off Danny Farquhar for his fifth homer of the season. He is now batting .244 on the season.


Mariners OF Nelson Cruz collects two hits Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:47 am ET) Mariners outfielder Nelson Cruz continued his hot start when he drove in two runs during Monday's 7-5 loss to the Astros.

Cruz was 2 of 5 during the game, including a double in the fifth inning, which drove in Robinson Cano. He also struck out once. Cruz is not batting .358 on the season.


Astros SP Asher Wojciechowski fails to go five innings Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Astros pitcher Asher Wojciechowski was only able to pitch four innings during Monday's win over the Mariners.

Wojciechowski surrendered four runs on eight hits over four innings of work Monday. He also struck out six batters, while walking two in his second start of the season. Wojciechowski also failed to go past the fourth inning in his first start of the season. His ERA now stands at 6.00.

His next start is expected to be Saturday at Oakland.


Mariners SP Hisashi Iwakuma gives up four runs Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:44 am ET) Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma failed to get past the fifth inning of Monday's loss to the Astros and received a no-decision as a result.

Iwakuma surrendered four runs on five hits over 5 1/2 innings. He struck out three and walked three on 71 pitches. He has given up four runs in each of his three starts this season.

Iwakuma's troubles began in the first inning when he gave up a solo home run to Luis Valbuena. He also surrendered a solo shot to Colby Rasmus in the fifth inning and his ERA is now 6.61. Felix Hernandez remains the only Mariners starter with a win this season.

Iwakuma's next expected start will be Sunday against the Twins.


Athletics P Tyler Clippard earns first save of season Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:24 am ET) After going the first 13 games without a save opportunity, Athletics pitcher Tyler Clippard converted his first save chance of the season during the A's 6-3 win over the Angels on Monday.

Clippard entered the game with a three-run lead in the ninth inning, but walked two batters before recording the final out. He also struck out one batter. 


Athletics C Stephen Vogt hits three-run home run Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:19 am ET) Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt connected on a three-run home run to help lead the Athletics to a 6-3 win over the Angels on Monday.

Vogt hit the home run off starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker in the third inning of the game. The home run was his only hit for the game. He finished the game 1 for 3 with one walk.


Athletics SP Kendall Graveman only throws 3 innings Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:15 am ET) Athletics pitcher Kendall Graveman started Monday's game against the Angels, but only pitched the first three innings.

Graveman started the fourth inning, but was pulled after walking the first two batters of the inning. Over three innings of work, Graveman surrendered four hits and two earned runs, while walking three batters and striking out two.

Despite only throwing three innings, Graveman was able to lower his ERA from 7.27 to 6.94, but he received a no-decision for his effort.

His next start is expected to be Saturday against the Astros.


Angels SP Matt Shoemaker struggles during Monday's loss
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker started to struggle during the first inning of Monday's loss to the Athletics and he never improved.

After giving up a run in the first, Shoemaker pitched a scoreless second, but ran into trouble in the third and fourth innings. Shoemaker gave up a three-run home run to Stephen Vogt in the third and failed to get out of the fourth inning after being replaced following a solo home run to Marcus Semien.

Shoemaker (2-1) surrendered five runs on seven hits over three innings. He struck out two and walked three, while taking the loss. It was the first time in his three starts this season that he failed to pitch at least six innings. His ERA rose from 4.38 to 6.46.

His next expected to start will be Saturday against the Rangers. 


Rockies' Nolan Arenado doesn't think wrist injury is serious
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(12:46 am ET) Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado thinks he'll be able to return to the diamond for Tuesday night's game against the Padres. 

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“This is nothing chronic, just some soreness,” he said. “I’ve never had this before. I think I’ll be fine.”

Arenado is hitting .311 with three home runs and 10 BRI. 


 
 
 
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