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 2012 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2012 Pirates Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke?
1) So 2011 wasn’t the best year for Pedro Alvarez. Okay, might’ve been the worst. Can he fix his insane strikeouts and get his career back on track? Is he even the starter?
Honestly? I have no idea if he can fix himself. I think that a lot of his problem is mental; he really bears down hard on himself when he gets into a slump and overthinks things in the box and that gets him behind in the count and when that happens he’s totally screwed. Clint Hurdle has a pretty good track record as a hitting coach and he’s shown a willingness to work with Pedro in the past, so I’m hopeful that they can do something to get him back on track. At this point, I’m hoping he can turn into a Carlos Pena/Ryan Howard masher who puts up huge homer totals to offset huge strikeout totals and a low average. I’m not at all sure if he’s capable of that, but I haven’t totally given up hope. As for whether or not he’s the starter … I think we can say that it’s his job to lose for now, but that he definitely could lose it out of spring training. The Pirates can petition to get him an extra option year because he moved through the system so quickly (I think), and assuming that’s granted they do still have some leeway with him for now.
Remember all those at-bats that the Pirates threw away on Josh Harrison and Chase d’Arnaud last year? Actually, you probably don’t if you’re not a Pirate fan. Josh Harrison and Chase d’Arnaud are allegedly big league baseball players, though, and they were awful last year as utility men in the absence of Alvarez. McGehee’s role depends mostly on Alvarez, but for right now I’d assume that his job is going to be to play against left-handed pitching on one of the corners. Garrett Jones definitely needs a platoon partner at first base and Alvarez might need one at third, so there should be plenty of at-bats for McGehee in a platoon role. Most of McGehee’s struggles last year were against lefties (.413 OPS), which doesn’t match his career numbers at all, so he should bounce back at least a little bit.
3) I ranked The Dread Pirate as high as humanly possible. My projections for him are 95/25/100/.275/30. Care to make a case that I’m actually being conservative and he’s going to steal 40 bags and hit 30 homers?
Not really, no. If I had to guess, I’d say that 30 homers is more likely out of him than 40 steals but I think that’s probably a stretch, too. PNC Park is really rough on right-handed power and I’m just not sure McCutchen has the brute strength required for 30 homers in the park, but I could be wrong. He does have a pretty short, sweet swing that generates a lot of power and he tailed off quite a bit late in the year last year, so he might be capable of something in the 25-30 range. The reason I kind of doubt that he’ll get to 40 steals is just that he’s not the leadoff guy anymore, but that does depend on the other guys. If he bats in the three-hole with Walker and Alvarez behind him and those two guys hold their own at the plate, he probably won’t steal a ton of bases to maximize their chances at the plate. If he’s batting fourth and Alvarez is a disaster again, they might let him run wild. Still, I’ll stick with 25-30 being the range he ends up in in this category, too.
I sincerely doubt it. The Pirates have been awfully good at getting the right guys playing time and Presley and Tabata definitely enter the year as the starters in left and right. McLouth’s just a depth guy and one that I think the Pirates are hoping will benefit from a return to left-friendly PNC. That said, I’m much less sold on Presley and I’m torn on Tabata. Tabata, I think, could make a solid leadoff guy if he can stay healthy for 140-150 games, so your guess of 30 steals/7ish homers might be a good one. He wasn’t great last year, but he did draw a ton of walks and went on a couple absolute tears, so there’s definitely potential there. The health is a problem though; he’s been hurt pretty much every year he’s been in the Pirates’ system. Presley just strikes me as the kind of guy that looks great in the minors because he can hit .330, but suddenly he’s a starting left fielder with a .270/.320/.400 line and you’re talking yourself into him having defensive value to justify his presence in the lineup everyday while for some reason Clint Hurdle insists on batting him second and just sucking the life out of ever Tabata leadoff walk. That said, if Tabata gets hurt or Presley falters, there’s a pretty good chance that Starling Marte is the one that will replace him in the lineup everyday. Marte’s an interesting prospect; he absolutely tore up Double-A last year and even though his strikeout/walk total is out of whack he’s very, very raw (he didn’t come to America until 2009, when he was already 20). He seems to be getting better every year. He’s supposed to be even faster than the Dread Pirate (to the point that it looks like he’ll play center and McCutchen will play left once he gets called up) and he’s definitely a guy to keep an eye on in Triple-A. If he can get his strikeout total down a bit and still produce in Triple-A, he’ll be in Pittsburgh at some point in 2012.
French-Canadian wheelchair assassins.