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 2011 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2011 Pirates Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke.
1. Not sure how it happened but I’m actually excited about quite a few Pirate hitters this year. Let’s do some over/under’s. 1) Andrew “The Dread Pirate” McCutchen: 20 homers, 40 steals. 3) Jose “Does My Last Name Rhyme With Ciabatta Or What?!” Tabata: 35 steals. 4) Pedro “The Arghuably Great Pirate Prospect” Alvarez: 25 homers. 5) Ronny “Hey, At Least I’m Not Jack Wilson” Cedeno: .220 average, .221 OBP.
I hope you’re ready for some weasley politician-like equivocating, because that’s what I’m about to give you. I certainly think that Andrew McCutchen is capable of hitting both those numbers, but I think they’re probably the upper echelon of what he’ll do in 2011. He struggled a ton in July and some in August with a shoulder injury and that put a bit of a damper on his numbers last year, but 20 homers for a righty in PNC Park? Maybe, but I think he’s still a year away from where I’d feel comfortable guaranteeing that. I’m looking for more in the 15-17 range. And we all know the guy can fly, but he kind of put the breaks on last year after swiping 10 in April. What was that all about? Will it continue with Clint Hurdle? Honestly, I have no idea. I’d guess he’ll probably end up somewhere between 35-40 steals this year.
Likewise, Tabata can fly, but how often does he get the green light if he bats leadoff with McCutchen behind him? Or second with ‘Cutch already on base and Walker and Alvarez coming up? Tough question. I’d guess he comes up just a bit short of 35, but again, he’s definitely capable of it.
I feel better about saying Alvarez will go over 25 homers. They call the guy “El Toro” for a reason. He can absolutely crush the ball and when he’s on, he’s out of his mind. He’ll still strike out a ton this this year, but I’m hoping for just a bit more consistency and over a full season, I’ll say he clears 25.
For Ronny Cedeno, I’m creating a new statistic. I’m calling it, “Number of Roger Dorn Style Olés That Make Me Wonder if Ronny Cedeno Is Awake and Ask ‘How Bad Could Pedro Ciriaco Be?'” I’m putting the O/U at 12 NoRDSOTMWiRCIAaASHBCPCBs. I’m taking the over.
2. People look at James McDonald’s September (2.31 ERA, 30 Ks in 35 IP) and they get excited. What do you expect of him this year?
Let’s be honest here; I’m a Pirate fan and I don’t get my hopes up for pitching. Kris Benson, Oliver Perez, Kip Wells, Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny, etc. etc. etc. I also want to point out that his HR/FB rate was awfully low with the Pirates for a guy that’s a generally a flyball pitcher and he’ll probably give up a few more longballs in 2011. That being said, it’s hard not to like the guy. His fastball/curveball is an excellent 1-2 punch and he had some success with his changeup in a few starts with the Pirates. Control is an issue worth keeping an eye on, but I think the strikeouts are real and I think the Pirates are on to something here.
3. Garrett Jones set the world aflame in 2009 with 21 homers and 10 steals in 2009. Even garnered himself a nickname, Robot Jones. Then 2010 happened and he hit .247 with 21 homers and 7 steals in almost twice the number of ABs and people scurried. Or got scurred, if Chingy is reading this to you. Can Robot, um, reboot in 2011 or is he not going to see any time vs. lefties, ceding to Matt Diaz?
Oh man, you guys call him Robot Jones? We call him Garrett F—-n’ Jones, or GFJ for short, which works both ways. When he was on his unreal tear in 2009 it was “Garrett F—-n’ Jones does it again!” and when he fell apart in the second half last year it was, “Oh man, Garrett F—-n’ Jones is up. We’re screwed.” But can he rebound in 2011? I don’t honestly think he’ll get a chance to and I’m OK with that. Even during his unreal 2009, his OPS against lefties was .698. Last year it was an abysmal .621. He’s going to platoon with Matt Diaz and I think that’s the way it should be. Jones isn’t awful, but he just shouldn’t be playing every day.
4. I purposely left Neil Walker off the over/under’s because I have other bones to pick with this young brother. Let’s go into what I said in the top 20 2nd basemen for 2011 fantasy baseball post. “…I don’t fully trust Walker and his BABIP was on the lucky side and his walks weren’t great and his Ks weren’t either…” Run-on sentence aside, what’s your take on what I had to say? Are you nervous Neil Walker’s 2011 is going to be a disappointment like Jones’ 2010?
I’m actually kind of optimistic that Walker will be able to avoid Jones’s slide, if only because he’s quite a bit younger at 25. He seemed to be figuring out Triple-A and generating a good walk rate and having good at-bats early in 2010 and he matured quite a bit as a hitter over the course of the season with the Pirates. Matt Bandi at Pittsburgh Lumber Company wrote quite a bit about this after the season. I’m not going to go out and predict that he won’t struggle at all in 2011, because I think he probably will at points, but I do think that the power that he flashed with the Pirates last year (29 doubles and 12 homers in 110 games) is legitimate. I don’t know that he’ll ever be a “walk ever 10 plate appearances” kind of guy, but I do think he has a chance to be a pretty good hitter, especially for a second baseman.
5. When you Google “Last Pirates Winning Season,” it asks you, “Did you mean Pirates Losing Seasons?” Last year, they lost the third most games in a season for a Pirate club, trailing only the teams of 1952 and 1890, when I believe there were actual pirates playing on the Pirates. So that brings me to my question, why not let the American League fans run the team? The American League fans have managed a 12-1 record in the last thirteen All-Star games. That’s better than the Pirates management!
Well, as you’ve mentioned, the Pirates do have a pretty interesting crop of young hitters right now and they have a lot of pitching talent in the minors, though much of it is on the lowest rungs. It seems weird to say since they’re coming off of a 105-loss season, but I think the Pirates are in a better place right now than they have been in quite some time. That said, it certainly looks like GM Neal Huntington is on the hot seat this year and for all I know ownership will fire him and bring someone in to enact an “Ed Wade Win Now” run and ruin everything. If that happens, I’ll probably start a Durham Bulls blog, or something.