February 5, 2014
Fantasy Team Preview
The pitching got most of the publicity last year, but while the staff deserved plenty, it’s not like the offense didn’t bring something to the table. They finished 13th in TAv and wRC+. Housing the NL’s MVP certainly helped that, but they also got average-or-plus production at several other spots around the diamond. Additionally, they shored up their biggest holes as the season went on as Mercer began to take time from Clint Barmes and Marlon Byrd was a tremendous acquisition in late-August to cover the right-field deficiency.
Barmes and his hot 58 OPS+ are likely to take an even bigger step back in playing time after Mercer’s impressive 2013 campaign. There is a desire to regress an MVP of his big season, but McCutchen’s 2013 was actually a dip from his 2012, and it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him maintain that production level. Overall, the offense has more than a fair shot to remain at their 2013 level despite some different pieces shuffling in. They aren’t afraid of platoons to get the most out of a position and they have reinforcements on the way.
There is some upside on this bench, but it’s mostly confined to the ever-disappointing bat of Snider. He’s still just 26 years old, though, so let’s stay excited for ooonnneee more year. Lambo should be used as the long-end platoon man at first base with Sanchez if they aren’t able to find a more stable left-handed option. Lambo smashed righties to tune of a .944 OPS across three levels, including a tiny taste in the majors (although he had just 32 PA against righties in the Show and they weren’t special). Barmes should primarily be a defensive replacement at this point, but his defense has to remain amazing to keep his head just above water in wins above replacement.
It is difficult to judge the rotation in early-February, with A.J. Burnett hanging out there, because if he returns to the Pirates, they are obviously markedly better. Of course, they can make up Burnett’s departure with full seasons of Cole and Rodriguez, plus the reasonable expectation of a contribution from top prospect Jameson Taillon. Under no circumstance is it an expectation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Volquez proved useful in some fashion as fifth starter.
The Pirates relief corps had the third-best ERA in the fourth-most innings, as the bullpen delivered a ton of value all year long. There will be some regression, but I’d be surprised at a complete collapse. Grilli has been excellent each of the last three years while Melancon took a couple of steps forward with his tremendous performance. He wasn’t nearly as bad as the 6.20 ERA in 2012, but he also isn’t as good as the 1.39 from last season. However, even a dip back to 2011’s 2.78 ERA would be more than a useful bridge to Grilli.
The 2014 success will hinge on how well Watson, Wilson, and Mazzaro can follow up their breakout efforts. All three went at last 71 2/3 innings, with ERAs ranging from 2.08 to 2.81, combining with Melancon and Grilli to alleviate a lot of pressure on the rotation, especially at the back end.
Right Field: Jose Tabata vs. Gregory Polanco
Fifth Starter: Charlie Morton v. Edinson Volquez if A.J. Burnett re-signs with the team
Player to Target: Gerrit Cole
Player to Avoid: Pedro Alvarez
Deep Sleeper: Edinson Volquez