NOTE: The MLB team write-ups are based on my preparation for my fantasy season rather than trying to breakdown teams with a focus on actual MLB. The main fantasy format I play is Scoresheet baseball, which is a simulation service, so skills are more important that counting numbers for me. But, a good player is a good player so the info should translate well to any format. I hope you enjoy!
TARGET: Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte (dynasty), Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano
MID-RANGE: Jordy Mercer, Russell Martin, Charlie Morton, Wandy Rodriguez, Jason Grilli
END GAME: Edinson Volquez, Jose Tabata, Other PR (Scoresheet only)
3B Pedro Alvarez is one of the hardest players to figure out in the entire league. His crazy power, clearing 30 HR the last two seasons, is countered by the 33-34% strikeout rate and OBA around 0.300. He’s a keeper especially with age (27) and position scarcity in the equation, but he’s a frustrating player to own. Neil Walker has above league average power (for all players) and a 0.335 career OBA. That’s very valuable at the keystone. PECOTA actually believes he’ll be the 2nd best 2B in the NL. Jordy Mercer is a sleeper, putting up very similar numbers as Walker but at SS. He only has 400-ish MLB at bats, but he performed well at the higher levels of the minors so I have faith he’ll be as good as he was in 2013. I have personally taken him in a few leagues. 1B is a wasteland for the Pirates with Gaby Sanchez and a probably Andrew Lambo platoon.
Andrew McCutchen shook off the MLB The Game “coverboy jinx” by leading the Pirates to their first winning record in 20 years, took them to game 5 of the NLDS, and won the NL MVP. RIP Stan Musial, but Cutch is The Man. He is the preeminent CF in MLB. His counting numbers will not be the best because he’s in the Pirates offense, but he’s a gem in Scoresheet with his 0.400+ OBA and far above league average power and speed. Starling Marte has the chops to play CF, but he’s obviously blocked. He’s raw with just a 5% BB rate and 27% strikeout rate, but he’s REALLY fast. As a result, he has a great BABIP that is sustainable and that with the speed has value especially as a dynasty pick. RF is interesting because Jose Tabata is a once coveted prospect who’s pretty much in a place holder mode. He has talent, but is probably a 4th OF at heart. The reason he’s a place holder is because the Pirates top prospect Gregory Polanco already has AA experience and is knocking on the door. Polanco decimated the Dominican Winter League and looks to be about ready to give the Majors a shot. He also has the chops for center, but with Cutch block and his great arm, he’s headed to RF. When he’s ready, the Pirates will have the best defensive OF in baseball.
A.J. Burnett is not a Pirate…oh well. Lefty Francisco Liriano is coming off a redemption season, and thanks to a masterful contract constructed by GM Neil Huntington, he’s still a Pirate in 2014. I’m not expecting the same level of excellence, but he’s still a fireballer (93 MPH) from the left side who crushes with his secondary pitches. Gerrit Cole…man, this guy is good. The number one pick in the 2011 draft, he is the real deal averaging 95-96 on the fastball/sinker. A power arm to the max, he throws his slider 88! I’m sure there will be bumps in the road, but he’s going to be one of the best in his peak, so get him if you still can. Wandy Rodriguez is a serviceable guy if he’s healthy, but that is still in doubt. He fits the definition of the crafty lefty, so keep him on your radar. Charlie Morton has a skill at the top of all of MLB. Ground Chuck had a GB rate of 63% last year! That’s just nuts. He has bouts with control, so limit your excitement, but man I love that GB rate. Edinson Volquez is the next Ray Searage reclamation project. Can Searage get Volquez back to pre-TJ? If so, he’s an unreal asset, but the likelihood is low.
The Shark Tank earned the moniker in 2013. Jason Gilli is amazing when healthy with a Chapman/Kimbrel like 15+ K/9. He’s 37 now, so the injury potential is real. Mark Melancon was fantastic in the set-up role (near 1.00 ERA with great peripherals including a 60% GB rate), but he rolled up a 4.22 ERA as the closer, and had some iffy performances in the playoffs. Hope Grilli stays healthy if you get him. From a Scoresheet perspective, Tony Watson (LH), Justin Wilson (LH), Bryan Morris, and Vin Mazzaro are all fantastic. Stolmy Pimentel could be a nice sleeper late in drafts is he makes the squad as a reliever.