Team preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

BY John Halpin • February 8, 2011

Projected lineup

1. LF: Jose Tabata
2. RF: Garrett Jones/Matt Diaz
3. CF: Andrew McCutchen
4. 3B: Pedro Alvarez
5. 2B: Neil Walker
6. 1B: Lyle Overbay
7. C Chris Snyder
8. SS: Ronny Cedeno

Projected rotation

1. SP James McDonald
2. SP: Paul Maholm
3. SP: Kevin Correia
4. SP: Ross Ohlendorf
5. SP: Charlie Morton
CL: Joel Hanrahan

Five tips

• McCutchen is far and away the best fantasy player in the Bucs’ lineup; he’s ninth among the outfielders and 24th overall. His first full season was very good, and there’s probably more where that came from. The probability of a high batting average separates McCutchen from his fellow power/speed guys.

• Tabata’s power hasn’t yet developed as projected, but he batted .302 with seven homers, 103 runs scored and 44 stolen bases between the minors and majors last season. I’m bullish on the 22-year-old Tabata (ranks 43rd in the outfield rankings), because there are signs of improving plate discipline that could help him score plenty of runs. He hits too many balls on the ground, but, with his quick bat, that can improve.

• Walker has solid power and speed for a middle infielder, but he also has some low-average seasons on his minor-league resume. Count me as a skeptic; he’s 16th in my second-base rankings. On the bright side, batting third should be good for his RBI total.

• Alvarez struck out a LOT – 119 times in 347 at bats – during his rookie season. But 16 homers in 95 games at age 23 is impressive. He could become a 30-homer, 100-RBI producer this season, but the whiffs might hurt the batting average. Alvarez is 10th at the hot corner, and the power at the position starts to decline after him.

• McDonald is penciled in as the Bucs’ No. 1 starter. He’s in the 70s among starters in my rankings. People seem to be on his bandwagon too eagerly. McDonald misses bats, but hoping for an ERA better than 4.00 from him is risky. His control is so-so, and he’s never thrown more than 141 innings as a pro. McDonald is a very late option for standard leaguers.

Plus:

Odd man out: Remember Ryan Doumit? A year ago, he was a borderline top-10 fantasy catcher. Now, he’s a backup at catcher, first base and right field. He needs a trade, maybe to Houston.

Top prospects: Catcher Tony Sanchez could push Snyder if he has a solid first half in Double A, but that would be fast-tracking him. Sanchez projects to have decent, but not great, power.

Backup closer: Evan Meek, who lost the closer battle to Joel Hanrahan. However, Hanrahan could falter or get traded, so Meek is one of the better handcuff options.


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