We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2010 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2010 Pirates Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke?
1) Garrett Jones’s 2009, small sample talking or sign of things to come in 2010?
Can it be somewhere in between? On one hand, he hit 21 homers in 82 games and besides an early surge, he was fairly consistent over that time. Things like that don’t happen by complete accident. On the flip side, he’s played almost 600 games in Triple-A and his OPS there is below .800. That’s also not an accident. Which is to say, I’m willing to concede that Jones made some kind of step forward in 2009 and that he’s a better player than I ever expected, but he’s also not going to hit 40 homers in a season either. At least, I don’t think he is.
First off, I love that nickname and may, erm, pirate it for my own uses. Secondly, I’d expect maybe a little bit of a sophomore slump for ‘Cutch, if only because his .471 slugging percentage in 108 games with the Pirates was higher than his SLG in any full season in the minor leagues. There’s always the chance that 2009 represented a big step forward for McCutchen (his numbers at Triple-A were actually a little better than his numbers in Pittsburgh before his promotion), but if he tapers off to about a .400-.430 SLG with 12-15 homers for the full season, I wouldn’t be surprised. Like with Garrett Jones, it’s one of those things that we’re just going to have to watch and see.
Maybe I’m crazy, but I do still have hope for LaRoche. He thumped the ball in May (.330/.411/.457) and September (.313/.359/.552) and while his final line wasn’t all that great, it was a big improvement over his struggles with the Dodgers and Pirates prior to 2009. He’s also got a good glove at third base, and the club seems hopeful that if Alvarez is able to stay at third base for a while, that LaRoche will be able to move to second, where his bat should play much better than it does at a corner.
4) Steve Pearce has 8 homers and a .304 OBP through 342 major league ABs over the course of 3 years. Will he ever breakout or will Jones play first to make room for Church vs. righties?
The Pirates’ right field/first base situation is a pretty complicated one heading into this season. I think the team’s default position is to let Jones play right and give Jeff Clement the first shot at first base, then adjust based on how Clement performs, how Andy LaRoche is hitting at third base, where Pedro Alvarez is, whether Akinori Iwamura is still in a Pirate uniform by mid-season, and how Jose Tabata develops. Pearce seemingly gets lost in the shuffle there, except he’s the only right-handed player (besides Tabata, who I think probably needs a full season at Triple-A) in the mix. He has a pretty big platoon split in the minors (.991 OPS vs. lefties, .831 vs. righties) and so I think there’s some value in him spelling Jones, Clement, Church, Alvarez, or whoever at one of those position against tough lefties. I think his chances at playing every day are pretty much done, though (remember that he was only really a prospect because he was in the Pirates’ system in the first place, his one great year came because he was sort of bafflingly asked to repeat High-A after a good showing there the year before, and when he hit his way up to a September call-up that season McCutchen and the shell of Neil Walker were the Bucs’ only real prospects at that time, which caused people to get excited about him). And now my longest answer is about Steve Pearce. Great. This is life as a Pirate fan.
5) Back in the 80s, many Pirate players found themselves embroiled in baseball’s cocaine scandal of 1985. It turned out that the players came upon the Devil’s Dandruff from a connection of their mascot, the Parrot. Then when the trial came, the Parrot talked, turning state’s evidence and snitching out many Pirate players. Nothing would ever happen like this now because: A) The Parrot knows his place. B) Since the 80s better, undetectable drugs have been designed to replace cocaine, like Red Bull. C) Lastings Milledge can’t stand snitches.
The answer has several components. One is that the Pirates have brought a cartoonish Pirate mascot (the Jolly Roger) into the fold, and he presumably has guns to keep the Parrot in line. The second is that no one on the team makes enough money to support a drug habit at the moment. The third is that it’s not so much that Lastings Milledge hates snitches, as I think he and Andrew McCutchen should film a low-budget cable access buddy-cop show that shows on local TV at 1 AM. I would watch this show.