Pittsburgh PiratesOur expert from ScoutPRO.com,Shawn Childs, helps you prepare for your big fantasy baseball draft.
Pittsburgh Pirates Team Projection
2013 was a great season for the Pirates as they made the playoffs for the first time since 1992.
1. SP Francisco Liriano
Liriano had his best season in the majors since 2006. His K rate (9.1) was in line with his career resume. While his command (3.5) was much better than his previous 2 seasons, he hasn't been able to match the command of his 2006 season. Francisco was dominant against LH batters (.131 - 2 extra base hits in 130 at bats - .146 SLG %). In addition, Liriano issued 56 of 63 walks to RH batters and allowed 2 runs or less in 19 of his 26 starts. Francisco had 2 disaster starts (17 runs and 23 base runners in 5.3 innings) over the last 2 months of the year to hurt some the gains he achieved during the year. Without those starts, he had a 2.14 ERA and 1.118 WHIP. He continues to be a GB pitcher (50.5%) with a short FB rate (25.3%). His AFB (93.0) was in line with 2012, but he threw it a career low 41.3% of the time. His slider is his #2 pitch, followed by an improving changeup. It's worth noting that Liriano has never pitched well in back to back seasons. His command is still questionable, but his slider is unhittable (.124 with a .180 SLG %). Overall, he has three very good pitches. Francisco may pitch 200 innings for the first time in his career, which gives him 200+ K upside. With better command, he could be even better than 2013.
2. SP Gerrit Cole
Simply put, Cole has an electric arm (evidenced by his 96.1 AFB). He also throws a true swing and miss slider (batter hit .162 against it), plus a solid curveball (.139) and an improving changeup (.175). Gerrit will throw a four seam fastball (.313) and a sinker (.308), but his command in the zone isn't quite there yet. Cole did a nice job of getting ground balls (49.1%), which led to a short FB rate (26.1%). Overall, he allowed 2 runs or less in 11 of his 19 starts and allowed more than 3 runs only once all season. As good as he was, he didn't dominate RH (.255) or LH (.250) batters. His walk rate (2.1) was much better than his short minor league career (3.3), while his K rate (7.7) showed more upside in the minors. Cole was 14-10 during his minor league career with a 2.84 ERA and 183 K's in 200 innings. He has elite upside, especially when his changeup makes another step forward. The key to his success in year two will be his command. He had a solid first pitch strike % (64%) in 2013, but it looked like it was better than his minor league career. Gerrit has the stuff to be an elite ace, but his command may hold him back a bit in 2014. Possible sub 3.00 ERA with 200 K upside. He should be good to go to pitch 200 innings this year.
3. SP Wandy Rodriguez
Wandy was very good in his 12 starts last year, but his season ended in early June when he developed a left forearm injury. He had a cortisone shot in his left elbow in late June. After a couple of setbacks, Rodriguez was shut down for the season. Wandy is expected to be ready for spring training, but the injury could still be a factor down the road. Prior to last season, Rodriguez had pitched 190+ innings in 4 straight seasons. His walk rate (1.7) was the best of his career, while his K rate (6.6) was stronger than 2012 (6.1). However, it has steadily declined over the last 5 seasons. Wandy had more success against RH batters (.236), but only notched 4 K's in 60 at bats against LH batters. Rodriguez was a much better pitcher at home (2.04 ERA - 7.5 K rate >>> 6.26 ERA on the road with 5.1 K rate). His AFB (89.4) was in line with his last 3 years. Furthermore, his curveball is still his #2 pitch, followed by a changeup. Overall, Rodriguez has been a serviceable arm over the last 6 seasons. Possible backend upside if he has a clean spring training.
4. SP Edinson Volquez
The Pirates have saved two veteran pitchers over the last 2 seasons (Burnett and Liriano), but they will have their hands full with Volquez. Since his breakthrough season in 2008, Edinson has made 106 starts in the majors (4.93 ERA during that span). His command (4.8) has been poor in just about every season in the majors. Last year, he allowed the most runs (108) in the NL and allowed the most walks (105) in 2012. However, Volquez did have his lowest walk rate (4.1) since he became a full time starter. On the flip side, his K rate (7.5) was the lowest of his career. In his 6 starts with the Dodgers last year, Edinson had the best command (2.6) of his career with a stronger K rate (8.4), but he struggled with HR's (5 allowed in 28 innings). Volquez struggled with both RH (.269) and LH (.294) batters, and had an ERA over 4.02 in every month of the season. Additionally, his AFB (92.5) was the lowest of his career. His curveball is his #2 pitch, followed closely by a changeup. Volquez has been a GB pitcher (47.6%), but he has struggled with a high HR/FB rate (12.0%) during his career. There is a whole lot of ugly in Volquez's resume and he is a pitcher that can crush a fantasy team's ERA and WHIP. He has always had three plus pitches, but his lack of command has killed any chance of success. If you draft him, it's almost like you are trapped by his short term success. Over the long haul, his bad starts will eat away at your numbers. Possible breakthrough year if you believe in his late command with LA and if you believe the Pirates have the keys to saving washed up pitchers' careers.
5. SP Jeff Locke
Locke gave the Pirates almost 4 and 1/2 months of quality pitching before blowing up on August 17th. After 23 starts, he had a 2.43 ERA. Over his last 8 outings of the season, Jeff had a 8.59 ERA. Locke had success despite his inability to throw strikes (4.5 walk rate). Not surprisingly, he led the NL in walks (84). His K rate (6.8) was also much lower than during his minor league career (8.3). However, Jeff did have solid command (2.5) in the minors. In the minors, he went 51-44 with a 3.60 ERA and 733 K's in 799 innings. Locke had more success against RH batters (.229), but he allowed 10 of his 11 HR's to righties. Furthermore, Jeff allowed 67 of his 84 walks to RH batters and struggled to strikeout LH batters (19 K's in 140 at bats). His AFB was 90.4 and Locke threw a curveball as his #2 pitch, followed by a changeup. Overall, he is a GB pitcher (53.2%). Jeff isn't an elite arm, but he proved he had enough in his arsenal to have success in the majors, even with poor command. His minor league resume suggests his command should be better. Many will overlook him due to his high walk total. I don't love him, but I do think he has more in the tank than meets the eye. With more strikes, he could push his K total over 150.
6. SP Jamerson Taillon
Taillon is also on the fast track to the majors. He has a plus fastball that can reach the upper 90's with a deadly swing and miss curveball. His changeup hasn't made an impact at this point of his career. Jamerson is 16-21 during his minor league career with a 3.72 ERA with 356 K's in 382 innings. Overall, his command (2.6) has been very good in the minors, but it did take a step back at AAA (3.9). His K rate (8.4) will have more upside down the road if his changeup develops. Last year, he made 6 starts at AAA, so he is really close to making his major league debut. Upside pitcher that won't be elite in the majors until his 3rd pitch makes a step forward. He has enough talent to win the 5th starting job out of spring training.
7. SP Charlie Morton
I guess I'm still holding a grudge against Morton after he crushed me in 2010 when I drafted him in an NL only league. Last year, he missed the first 2 and 1/2 months of the season after having Tommy John surgery in June of 2012. He allowed 2 runs or less in 11 of his 20 starts, and his command (2.8) was much better than his career average (3.5). His K rate (6.6) was also just off of his career high. Charlie handled himself well against RH batters (.222). Lefties hit .314 against him with a high walk rate (25 walks in 185 at bats). In addition, his AFB (92.8) was just off of his career high. Morton throws a curveball as his #2 pitch, followed by a show me changeup. Last year, he had the highest GB rate (62.9%) of his career. Charlie isn't a high upside pitcher and has issues with LH batters. His arm may make more sense in the bullpen, but he could have value over the short term as a starter.
8. CL Jason Grilli
Grilli had no real experience closing games (7 career saves) with poor command (3.8). Over the first 2 months of the season, Jason was one of the best closers in the game (22 SV's and 1.09 ERA). His K rate (13.3) was elite and it was almost the same as his breakthrough season in 2012 (13.8). Furthermore, his walk rate (2.3) was a career low and it made a huge step forward. Grilli threw the most overall strikes of his career (68%) and his first pitch strike % had some growth as well. Over the first 3 months of the year, he had 59 K's in 36.7 innings with only 7 walks. Jason had 2 bad outings in July, with the last one resulting in a forearm injury that ended up costing him 5 weeks of the season. Grilli was dominant against RH batters (.188 with a .277 SLG %). His AFB (93.4) has been above his career average over the last 2 seasons, but he really only throws a slider as his second pitch. His velocity was down in September when he returned from his injury, but it returned in October for the playoffs. Overall, Grilli proved he was more than capable of pitching in the 9th inning. His improved command gives him elite upside in K's. The Pirates don't have an explosive offense, so he should get plenty of save chances. His two negatives are his age and his short resume.
9. RP Mark Melancon
Melancon had an incredible season in the Pirates bullpen. He had plus, plus command (1.0) with a rising K rate (8.9). Mark converted 14 of his 15 saves filling in for Grill before struggling over a 3-game stretch in late September (17 hits in 10.7 innings). As attractive as his season looks, Mark did struggle with RH batters (.286). He dominated LH batters (.148) with a excellent BB:K ratio (3:34). His AFB (92.9) was in line with his career average and threw a cutter as his #1 pitch, followed by a curveball. Melancon had a huge GB rate (60.3%), which led to a minuscule FB rate (15.6%). Mark has closer ability and his stuff has more value with his improved command. If Grilli trips up, Melancon will be there to steal the job.
10. RP Bryan Morris
Morris had a tough time striking out batters in 2013 in the majors (5.1 K rate) and minors (5.7 K rate). His command (3.5) has been short during his whole career. However, he had more success against RH batters (.226). Over the last 3 months, he only had 14 K's in 30 innings while allowing 50 base runners and 14 runs. His AFB was 94.1, but he throws a cutter as his #1 pitch, followed by a show me slider. He has a career 3.67 ERA in the minors with 465 K's in 527.3 innings. Without better command, he has no upside. Pittsburgh moved him to the bullpen in 2011 and his command showed growth at AAA over the past 2 seasons.