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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 1B Chris Carter smacks 14th home run of season Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:12 am ET) Astros first baseman Chris Carter connected off Brandon Finnegan in the fifth inning for his 14th home run of the season during Monday's 6-1 win over the Royals.

The solo shot was his only hit in four at-bats during the game. He also struck out twice.

Prior to Monday's win, Carter was hitting .182 with two home runs and six RBI in his last 11 games.


Astros' Jose Altuve hits seventh home run of season Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:07 am ET) Astros second baseman Jose Altuve smacked his seventh home run of the season Monday to send the Astros to a 6-1 win over the Royals.

Altuve hit the solo shot off Joe Blanton in the third inning. It was his only hit in three at-bats during the contest. He also walked once.

Prior to Monday's contest, Altuve was hitting .250 with one home run and three RBI in his last 12 games.


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by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(12:04 am ET) The Padres will bring up second baseman Jedd Gyorko from Triple-A Tacoma, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune

Gyorko played one inning for Tacoma before being sent to San Diego. The Padres are expected to make a disabled list move to correspond bringing Gyorko up. Before being demoted on June 10, Gyorko was hitting .210. 


Royals C Salvador Perez hits 13th home run of season Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:03 am ET) Royals catcher Salvador Perez produced the only run of the game for the Royals during Monday's 6-1 loss to the Astros.

Perez hit his 13th home run of the season when he connected off Lance McCullers in the seventh inning. It was his only hit in four at-bats during the game.

Prior to Monday's contest, Perez was hitting .185 with two home runs and four RBI in his last seven games.


Dodgers P Mike Bolsinger exits game with flu-like symptoms
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(6/29/2015) Dodgers pitcher Mike Bolsinger left Monday night's game against the Diamondbacks with flu-like symptoms, according to MLB.com. 

Bolsinger went four innings, allowed three hits and struck out four batters. Before feeling ill, he Bolsinger hadn't allowed a hit. He now has an ERA of 2.76 for the season. 


Royals SP Joe Blanton allows five runs in Monday's loss
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6/29/2015) Royals pitcher Joe Blanton failed to get out of the third inning during Monday's start against the Indians, which the Royals lost 6-1.

Blanton surrendered five runs on five hits over 2 2/3 innings of work. He also struck out two and walked four during the outing. He gave up a solo home run to Jose Altuve in the third inning.

It was his first loss of the season. Monday's loss broke his two-game winning streak. Prior to Monday's outing, Blanton had given up a total of two runs over his last two starts.


Astros SP Lance McCullers allows one run in Monday's win
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6/29/2015) Astros pitcher Lance McCullers only made one mistake during Monday's start, which the Astros won 6-1 over the Royals.

McCullers surrendered one run on four hits over seven innings of work. The one run came on a solo home run by Salvador Perez in the seventh inning. McCullers also struck out six and walked two during the outing. He is now 4-2 with a 2.19 ERA.

Monday's win was McCullers' first in his last three starts. He has now given up a total of two runs over his last 13 innings of work.


Brewers' Adam Lind drives in two runs Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6/29/2015) Brewers first baseman Adam Lind only had one hit in three at-bats Monday, but he drove in two runs during the 7-4 win over the Phillies.

Lind drove in one run when he hit a double off Sean O'Sullivan in the first inning, which scored Jonathan Lucroy. He also drove in a run on a sacrifice fly in the third inning.

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(6/29/2015) The Rockies sent pitcher Tyler Matzek home to deal with his control issues, reports MLB.com.

"We've been working so hard with him, we've gone through different steps to the point where we feel like he needs a blow," Rockies director of pitching operations Mark Wiley said Monday. "It's not a monster thing. We're just giving him some time off to regroup while we decide where we want to go and how we're going to attack it from here."

Matzek walked five and hit a batter during a start at Class A last week.

"We're working to get him to where the mechanical part of his game and the mental part of his game are working together," Wiley said. "I've had other guys in the past that we've done the same thing with. Sometimes you put so much on yourself because you're working so hard to come back that you need to get away."


 
 
 
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