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February 11, 2009

Team Health Reports

Pittsburgh Pirates

by Brad Wochomurka

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PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart

Head Trainer: Brad Henderson
Player Days Lost: 385
Dollars Lost: $3.1 million
Injury Cost: $10.7 million

Trend: Positive. Aside from the disasters visited upon Tom Gorzelanny, it was a solid year for Henderson and his staff. Both Matt Capps and Ryan Doumit returned from significant mid-season injuries to produce at high levels; Doumit had his healthiest season in years, and was rewarded with a long-term contract. Ian Snell survived a heavy workload better than most expected. If they can avoid major set-backs for those three players, and if Gorzelanny can turn things around in 2009, the positive trend should continue.

The Shape of the Season:

graph

The Big Question: John Perrotto of PiratesReport.com and Baseball Prospectus asks: "Tom Gorzelanny has admitted this winter that he reported to spring training in 2008 with a sore elbow and hid the injury all season. Will it still affect him in 2009?"

That sore elbow in 2008 had a lot to do with Gorzelanny's heavy workload at the tail end of the 2007 season. It's hard to blame him for trying to pitch through the injury last spring after such a promising campaign the year before. It looked as if he was going to be one of the Pirates' top two starters in '08, but instead the season was a disaster that ultimately saw Gorzelanny demoted to Triple-A Indianapolis. This year will be pivotal for him, and though he's going to have to push himself again, it appears that he's doing it in a different manner this time around. He's in better shape, having reportedly lost 15 pounds during the offseason, and he's coming off of a lighter workload in 2008. These aren't guarantees, but they are reasons to think that Gorzelanny could be a good bounce-back candidate in 2009.

Fantasy Tip: There's not a lot of fantasy value here, and where Nate McLouth's big year will have people looking to find the next breakout Buc, I'm not seeing it. McLouth projects to put up similar numbers, and if he doesn't get a long-term deal before the season begins, that may be a plus for fantasy owners. Doumit's injury history makes him a little more tough to bet on. I do see value in targeting Ian Snell within the final round or two of most drafts, but the best value here could be Matt Capps. Last year's injury may scare some off, and those looking for big-name closers will likely be turned away by his only having 21 saves and 39 strikeouts for a bad team. Those looking for much cheaper saves, however, should be aware of Capps' successful return from last summer's injury and his outstanding WHIP.

2B Freddy Sanchez: Red light Sanchez has complained of vision problems ever since a sliver of metal was found in his right eye nearly two years ago. He's been able to play through it, but in January he admitted that his vision has become worse, and doctors continue to look for a solution. On the more conventional injury front, he was bothered most of last season by an inflamed rotator cuff that limited his throwing range. Minor knee and back injuries also forced him out of a few games, though he did manage to hit .346 in the second half.

SS Jack Wilson: Red light Wilson has dealt with a host of ailments over the last three years, and he played in a career-low 87 games last season. There have been questions about how quickly he comes back from injuries, such as the calf strain that kept him out for the first two months of '08. Now that he's entering the final year of his contract, he may make an effort to play through any injuries, and this could finally be the year that he gets traded. The motivation is there, so we'll see if Wilson's body can hold up.

C Ryan Doumit: Red light Doumit had his healthiest season by far in 2008, and he was rewarded with a three-year contract in December. His health may have been the result of finally being handed a regular job behind the plate by first-year manager John Russell, or it could have been just luck. It's hard to look past what has largely been an injury-plagued career; even his "healthy" season last year included a DL stint for a broken hand. PECOTA projects a similar workload in '09, so perhaps this is the start of something new.

OF Brandon Moss: Red light Despite a trade to Pittsburgh that gave him regular playing time, Moss dealt with a pair of injuries that included an emergency appendectomy while with Boston, and then a September knee injury that required off-season surgery. I think the system is putting too much emphasis on these inconveniently timed injuries, because it doesn't see Moss holding up for an entire season, but he did have over 500 at-bats in each of his pro seasons prior to last year. He hopes to be fully recovered in time for spring training, but he remains a risk at the big-league level.

SP Jeff Karstens: Red light Karstens is a light red, primarily due to the expectations of his first full season of major league work. Karstens had to be shut down during the team's minicamp in January due to lingering elbow soreness, and the Pirates claim he'll only be a week or so behind the rest of the team's pitchers, but it's still a red flag for a guy that's looking at a big uptick in his number of innings pitched.

3B Andy LaRoche: Yellow light LaRoche finally had a chance to grab the Dodgers' everyday third-base job, but he tore a ligament in his right thumb early in spring training, and it was June before he was able to rejoin the club. During his brief big-league stints his numbers have been atrocious, and PECOTA worries about his injury history. With Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez in the system, LaRoche needs to stay on the field and produce. On a positive note, he does compare favorably at this age to another player who found himself at an early-career crossroads due to injuries and inconsistent production: Kevin Youkilis.

SP Tom Gorzelanny: Yellow light See today's Big Question.

CL Matt Capps: Yellow light Capps had a terrific year despite missing almost two months with shoulder bursitis. When he returned in August, he held opposing hitters to a .184 batting average. He lost 15 pounds during his rehab, admitting that the extra weight he was carrying last year may have contributed to hitches in his delivery that led to both the injury and the loss of several miles per hour off of his fastball. Capps is an interesting test case for relievers; he's already appeared in over 200 games at age 25. His workload projects to be a bit lighter after his first major injury and the assumption that he'll be the team's primary closer.

1B Adam LaRoche: Green light At this point it must just be in his genes. He always seems to start slow while dealing with a minor but lingering issue before exploding for a hot streak or two.

OF Nyjer Morgan: Green light He's a straightforward green, but it's fun that he's a former hockey player, yet one of the fastest guys in the game.

CF Nate McLouth: Green light He seems like the kind of undersized hustling player that often breaks down, but PECOTA doesn't see it that way. In fact, at age 27, he compares favorably to former Pittsburgh standout Andy Van Slyke at the same age.

RF Steven Pearce Green light

SP Paul Maholm Green light

SP Zach Duke Green light

SP Ian Snell: Green light The system is impressed by the fact that he's survived a big workload better than most, but there was a significant performance drop-off last season, and PECOTA thinks this may be the year when Snell finally breaks down (23 games, 130 IP).

RP John Grabow Green light

Brad Wochomurka is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Brad's other articles. You can contact Brad by clicking here

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