Team Previews in a Fantasy Nutshell: Pittsburgh Pirates
Projected Starting Lineup
C Francisco Cervelli—Cervelli regressed last year, hitting only one home run after hitting seven the year before. I do expect a mild rebound, but he’s still nothing more than a No. 2 catcher in deeper leagues.
1B Josh Bell—If only Josh Bell could hit for power--then I would be excited about him. As it is, he is a solid contact hitter who should hit about 15 or so home runs. This is ok for a corner infielder, but not for a first basemen. More importantly, there are questions about him being able to field the position. If he can’t learn to play good enough defense at 1B, he will lose late inning at bats for certain.
2B Josh Harrison—Harrison is a pretty good contact hitter with speed, but all those Fantasy owners who thought that he would hit 15-20 home runs at his peak have been sadly mistaken.
SS Jordy Mercer—I always like to play Jordy in DFS when a LHP is on the mound. Outside of that, he is worth a couple of bucks in an NL only league but only about a dollar in a mixed league due to his mostly pedestrian stats.
3B Jung Ho Kang—Kang has had problems off the field recently (he was arrested for his third DUI back in Korea), and he is facing possible disciplinary charges by MLB. He received a suspended sentence back in Korea for his transgressions, but MLB has not yet ruled on him. He is still trying to get his VISA to come over and play, and it will take him about 30 days from the time he arrives until the time he can start for the Pirates. ETA is about May 1 at the earliest. Draft him assuming he gets 400 at bats this season.
OF Starling Marte—Marte is a sure-fire second round pick mainly for his speed. I still think there is more power that we will see from him this year. Recently, he hit an opposite-field home run in the WBC to help the Dominican Republic beat the USA. If he can continue to show that power all season long, he might just become a first rounder next year.
OF Gregory Polanco—Polanco has been flying up draft boards over the last month (he went in the third round of mixed LABR) due to his power/speed combination. I think the third round might be a bit soon for him, but I totally see why people like him. He is young and still maturing as a hitter.
OF Andrew McCutchen—“Cutch” was a monumental disappointment last year to his Fantasy owners who expected him to build off his 2015 season. Instead, 2016 was a disaster which saw him with a lower batting average, fewer steals, fewer runs, and fewer RBIs. Was he putting too much pressure on himself to hit the long ball? This is a great year to draft him. He will go in the 4th or 5th round of most drafts but is a 2nd round player if playing at his best. I am willing to take the shot that last year was an aberration to try to win my Fantasy league.
Util David Freese—Freese will fill in at 3B with Kang not available and then will take some at bats away from Bell when Kang returns. He is nothing more than a decent utility replacement in NL-only leagues.
SP Gerrit Cole—Cole has an injured ligament in his elbow and decided to forego surgery to see if rest would help alleviate the pain. Supposedly, he is feeling 100 percent during spring training, but can you trust that he will finish the season, not on the disabled list? Taking Cole requires that you select him in the 6th or 7th round of most drafts and I am not willing to do that with someone who has a red flag next to his name.
SP Jameson Taillon—Is Taillon ready for primetime? The Pirates have been waiting for him to be dominant and he has nothing left to prove in the minors. I am willing to take the gamble on Taillon this season as my SP3 but he has never thrown from more than 104 IP in the majors, and there is a good chance he will be shut down come late August if the team is out of playoff contention.
SP Ivan Nova—Nova benefited from a trade that sent him from Yankee Stadium (a hitter’s paradise) to PNC Park (a pitcher’s paradise). He was arguably the Pirates best pitcher in the last two months of the season, and they signed him to a three-year deal in the off-season. He won’t strike a ton of guys out, but he will have pretty good numbers, and I like him as an SP5 this year.
SP Chad Kuhl—Kuhl is keeping the seat warm for minor league prospect Tyler Glasnow. Until Glasnow can work on a third pitch in the minors, Kuhl will get the starts and should pitch well enough to keep the team in games. He won’t go deep into games to get a bunch of wins, but his counting stats might be good enough to be rosterable in NL-only formats.
SP Drew Hutchinson—Leave it to pitching coach, Ray Searage, to get the most out of this guy. Every so often Hutchinson is capable of putting together an amazing start, but he rarely can do so consistently. That makes him one of my favorites for a cheap DFS play, but not so much in seasonal leagues.
RP Daniel Hudson—Hudson is closer-in-waiting for the Pirates, and someone who I think could get saves after the All-Star break. He gets the job as soon as Watson gets moved to a contender.
Closer Tony Watson—In the perfect world, Watson would pitch so well in the first half of the season that he would a) keep the Pirates competitive, and b) increase his trade value to a contending team. If he can lower his home run total, it is quite possible that A&B both occur. Just note that if he does get moved it will be to become a setup man and not a closer.