Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Team Outlook
The 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates will be out to prove that last season was no fluke. They should carry over the momentum of their first winning season and playoff appearance in 21 years and doing so will most likely put them back in the playoffs.
The Buccos are a team loaded with young talent, both on the major league roster and in the farm system. Everyone is anxiously awaiting the arrival of Jameson Taillon and his arrival could not come at a better time, especially if AJ Burnett does not come back.
The outfield is already stacked with reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte, who had a breakout year last year. Once you add highly touted prospect Gregory Polanco, you might be looking at the best outfield in the majors. Jose Tabata should fill out the remaining outfield spot. Filling in for a hurt Marte last season, the club should have seen enough to warrant that position for him. Andrew Lambo is also someone you want to keep your eye out for, as he hit 33 home runs last year across all three minor league levels.
The bullpen should be solid again, preserving leads and closing out tight games. If Pedro Alvarez can have a season like he did in 2013, the Pirates will be a force in the National League.
The Fantasy Stock of The Pirates is Rising
The fantasy relevance of the Pirates this upcoming season will definitely be the highest it’s been in a long time. I can’t remember the last time I wanted one or more than one Pittsburgh Pirate on my fantasy team. This year, I can see myself hopefully ending up with a few.
The guy everyone will want on their team is McCutchen (.317 AVG, 21 HR, 84 RBI, .404 OBP, 27 SB) who should be taken no later than third overall behind Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera. ‘Cutch actually had worse numbers in 2013 than he did in 2012, so I believe he should be closer to 30 HR’s and 100 RBI’s this year. The next Pirates player with the most overall fantasy appeal would be Marte (.280 AVG, 12 HR, 35 RBI, .343 OBP, 41 SB), who can hopefully improve on his impressive numbers from last year. Everyone is expecting big things from Gerrit Cole (117.1 IP, 3.22 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 100 K’s, 10 wins) this season. Although it is a small sample size from his first stint in the majors, there is no reason to believe Cole can’t win at least 15 games this year.
Hopefully Francisco Liriano (161 IP, 3.02 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 163 K’s, 16 wins) can put together back to back good seasons for the first time in a long time. If Burnett ops to retire, Liriano would then become the ace of the staff and likely opening day starter. We all know how bad Liriano can be, so for the sake of the Pirates, hopefully he doesn’t revert back to his old self.
Other Pirates who can majorly contribute to you fantasy team are: Pedro Alvarez (.233 AVG, 36 HR, .296 OBP), Jason Grilli (2.70 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 33/35 save opp.), Neil Walker and Burnett (if he comes back). Of course we don’t know when prospects like Tallion and Polanco will be called up but there is always the possibility of the Pirates making a move between now and opening day that could alter the fantasy impact.
2014 Preview - Offseason Moves
The Pirates have been pretty quiet thus far during the offseason, not making any major moves. There is still time for the Bucs to make something else happen before spring training to improve the roster and hopefully, it addresses the situation at first base. Right now, Gabby Sanchez is first on the depth chart at first but clearly an upgrade would be useful.
The biggest fantasy relevant departure from last season is not an official departure as of yet but it would be losing AJ Burnett if he decides to call it a career. He was the ace and bulldog of the staff and was that quiet, fiery leader type. Not only will his presence be missed on the mound this year, but it will also be missed in the locker room.
Because of Burnett’s eminent departure, the signing of Edinson Volquez becomes that much more important. All Pirate fans are hoping Volquez can regain the form he had as a Cincinnati Red’s player when he used to beat Pittsburgh often.
Volquez is not expected to replace Burnett but rather help fill the gap. Volquez will be able to relax this year and not have pressure of being in the top tier of the rotation and this should help him pitch better. The Pirates and fans of the team are also hoping Wandy Rodriguez can stay healthy this year. When he is 100 percent healthy, he can be a solid contributor.
The void left by Burnett should also allow Jeff Locke to continue his progression and he should also be on fantasy manager’s radars in deeper leagues. Locke came out of nowhere last year and found himself on almost every fantasy team after his hot first half of the season. Hopefully he has been improving this offseason and will be more consistent this year. The biggest key to his success will be limiting the number of walks he gives up.
The Pirates biggest gap right now would be first base and hopefully they can somehow get a left-handed power hitter to fill that spot. Knowing the Pirates and how they operate it would be unlikely if they were to make a move for a better-named player such as Ike Davis for example. Look for the Buccos to try and fill that gap internally to start the season. If it is an issue during the season, perhaps they will make a move around the trade deadline.
Be on the lookout for the in-depth team previews, which will be coming soon!