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Pirates Fantasy Baseball Players To Watch

Paying the bills ...

The Pirates really aren't the sort of team that has a bunch of fantasy sleepers. Its pitchers don't throw a lot of strikeouts, and because they don't tend to pitch particularly long outings and they pitch for the Pirates, they don't pick up a lot of wins, either. There's no closer controversy, and so unless Joel Hanrahan gets hurt or traded (and the latter is certainly a possibility, although probably not until the summer), there's no one worth taking from the bullpen. And the Bucs' offense finished 27th in the majors in runs scored last year.

With all that said, here's a look at the players you should consider.

OF Andrew McCutchen is the obvious choice. McCutchen slumped down the stretch last season as he spent too many at-bats swinging for the fences, but he still posted 20/20 numbers. He's also a former top prospect entering his age-25 season, and he's a decent bet to break out in the average and power departments. Plan on grabbing him in the early rounds.

CL Joel Hanrahan is a great middle-round pick. Fantasy owners never seem to believe that closers on bad teams can rack up saves, but Hanrahan had 40 last year. A few years ago, fantasy owners would let Joakim Soria slip way further down than he should have, mostly because he pitched for the Royals. Don't make the same mistake with Hanrahan.

2B Neil Walker doesn't provide the stolen bases you typically like to get out of your middle infielders, but as a good hitter who will get plenty of RBI opportunities batting in the middle of the Pirates' order, he's worth a late-round pick.

SP Erik Bedard worth a flyer in the last few rounds of standard mixed leagues. He's still a very good pitcher when healthy, and unlike most of the Pirates' other starters, he gets strikeouts. He's constantly hurt, but right now, he's not, so take advantage of that, and watch the free agency pool for potential alternatives to grab when he goes down.

OF Jose Tabata is a potential late-round pick if your team is low on stolen bases. Tabata had 16 in 91 games last year. He'll have to hit for more average and power to be much of a fantasy contributor beyond that, however, and he's hit an extreme number of ground balls so far in his career, which could make the latter a tall order.

SP James McDonald still has a bit of breakout potential as a young-ish starting pitcher with stuff that sometimes produces swings and misses.

Finally, the Pirates appear likely to soon trade for Yankees SP A.J. Burnett. Burnett could be a good late-round pickup, in that he should benefit from the relatively pitcher-friendly confines of PNC Park, and he's a good bet to pitch 180 good innings with above-average strikeout rates. As with all Pirates starting pitchers, however, wins are an issue.

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