Hey all! Yahoo is offering to pay me real American dollars to write about fantasy baseball! I don't play fantasy baseball anymore, but I shoooore do like money! And if I did play fantasy baseball, I would play it at Yahoo, which I remember being by far the best platform, and also because Yahoo pays me. So here goes: Which Pirates should you keep an eye on for your fantasy teams this year?
Andrew McCutchen is a good ballplayer. That's just, like, what I think. Call me crazy! Also, I like pizza. I think it is delicious.
Neil Walker doesn't bring the stolen bases you might like from your middle infielders, but if your team is set for speed, Walker brings a good mix of offensive skills. He's been very consistent in the three seasons in which he's logged significant time, but he's also now 27, making him a more interesting breakout candidate than older but similarly-ranked options like Chase Utley, Dan Uggla and Rickie Weeks. The real shame is that the city of Pittsburgh doesn't like Walker better. If he were from Pittsburgh, for example, I bet this place accept him as one of its own, and then you, Pittsburgh-based reader, could draft Neil Walker with pride.
Clint Hurdle isn't yet eligible to be drafted, but I'm working with Yahoo on a new fantasy baseball build that will include categories like UJHFBO (Using Joel Hanrahan like a Fantasy Baseball Owner), SCDS (Spectacular Collapse Down the Stretch), RB1986 (Really Bad in 1986) and WFR (Weird Facial Redness). In this build, Clint Hurdle is a first overall pick. Keep your eye out!
Pedro Alvarez will likely bring down your team batting average, but he'll help if it's fairly late in the draft and you need power. Yahoo's experts rank him No. 18 among third basemen -- if you can get 30 home runs out of the 18th third baseman drafted, you'll take that. This is called analysis! I tell you 30 home runs are good, and then Yahoo gives me monies.
Starling Marte is a sneaky late-round pick. You probably don't want to start him at the beginning of the year, and there's a reasonable chance he provides no fantasy value whatsoever, but he has significant offensive upside, he could steal a ton of bases in a full season, and the Pirates will give him the chance to play every day. His defense, perhaps his greatest strength, won't impact you in a 5x5 league, but neither will his greatest weakness, which is his unwillingness to take a walk. And also bonbons.
Russell Martin has good power for a catcher and, as a bonus, provides a few steals each year. You would probably only draft him in an NL-only league, though, or a very deep mixed league. His real value to the Pirates and to fantasy owners should come from the good he does the Pirates' pitching staff with his defense and pitch-framing. A good defensive catcher! And he's a veteran. Grit-tacular. Scrappilicious. You know you want him on your team. Who are you going to draft instead? Matt Wieters? Nope, you can't. A Pirates fan does not draft Matt Wieters.
Jason Grilli will get saves, which is awesome, because this is fantasy baseball. He also pitched very well last season, but who cares? Saves.
Mark Melancon will likely have the first crack at the closer job if Grilli falters. He's a great bet to bounce back after a poor 2012 in Boston, and also saves. Did you know that, before writing this, I had to look to make sure that the standard Roto categories still included stupid junk like saves? Well, it's true! I did have to look it up, and saves are stupid. Fortunately, with Yahoo, you don't have to use saves. You can be all like, "I think saves should shove it!" And then you can pull down your pants and moon the screen, because fantasy baseball is played on the internet nowadays, and as long as your computer doesn't have a window behind it that overlooks a biker bar, you should be okay. And then you can replace saves with some more useful category, like CI (catcher interference) or RW (relief wins) or RAPP (which allegedly means "relief appearances," but which you actually automatically lose by drafting Trevor Bauer). Cool, Yahoo leagues are customizable! That's awesome.
None of the Pirates' starters rank highly (Yahoo's experts have A.J. Burnett at No. 47 among starting pitchers, with Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald at No. 71 and Gerrit Cole at No. 92). But who cares about experts? These poindexters NEVER PLAYED THE GAME!
Truthfully, none of the Pirates' starters should be on your radar in the first several rounds, but Martin and a full season of Marte should improve the pitching staff's numbers somewhat. McDonald might be an interesting late-round upside pick, based on his stuff, his age and his strong 2012 first half. (Please ignore his disastrous second half. It did not exist. Hey, fantasy owner, look over there! A save just walked by.)
Grabbing Cole is a no-brainer in keeper leagues. For non-keeper owners, watch Cole's Triple-A stats this year as well to see whether he's worth a waiver claim when he's promoted in June. You know what your attitude should be? Cole me maybe. Quick, somebody make a video.
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