Wednesday, April 3, 2013

MAKING THE PITCH: Pittsburgh Pirates

Felipe M

Even though the season has started, it's still early enough to take a quick look at the rest of the pitching staffs.

Take a quick look at the Seattle Mariners

Want to start off with the #4 and #5 starters on the team as they were named very late in spring training.  

Jonathan Sanchez is the left-handed pitcher that struggled mightily with the San Francisco Giants because he just couldn't keep his walks in checks.  He is now 30 years-old and the bright future that he possessed with the Giants is a thing of the past.  So what is the reason he made this club when it looked like he was lucky to make the team as relief pitcher in the offseason?  "Mental adjustments," according to manager Clint Hurdle--whatever, I'm just glad he's no longer in front of my TV.  

Well, this spring, Sanchez still pitched the only way he knows how: with a high ERA and plenty of free passes to opposing batters.  He did strikeout almost as many hitters as innings pitched, but the walks have and will always be his downfall.  Steer clear.  

Jeff Locke, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of Sanchez as he had a solid spring and displayed the control that made him an intriguing option in the Minors.  Unfortunately, unlike Sanchez, Locke struggled to tally up the K's.  However, I would keep an eye on him as he posted a strikeout per innings pitched in 2012.  Just know that control and finesse is the game that Locke likes to play.  

2013 Pitching Projections
A.J. Burnett
Wandy Rodriguez
James McDonald

I've always liked the three pitchers listed, but for some reason or another, their stock have taken a hit.  For some reason, I feel that many "experts" are more optimistic about these guys than ever before.  Let's take a closer look:

James McDonald has been given plenty of chances throughout his career as a Pirate to develop into the pitcher that they thought he could be when they acquired him from the Dodgers.  Unfortunately, he's always struggled to keep the walks in check as he's never had a BB/9 below 3.5 since he was turned into a starter in 2010.  The hope for this year comes by his hot start in 2012, but he still finished the season with only a serviceable K/BB of 2.2.  McDonald can still earn a healthy amount of strikeouts, but the walks' issue will always be lurking with him.  Put it another way: if McDonald breaks out, the projected numbers might be the best he can do in 2013.  Keep an eye on him (still available in 43% of CBS leagues), but don't be too hopeful of him.  

Wandy Rodriguez had himself a very impressive run with the Dominican team in this year's WBC.  He did struggle in the 1st half of 2012, but was able to bounce back once the Pirates acquired him.  The only concern with Rodriguez is his age (34) and his slow start to 2012, but based on his spring performance, the projections, and his body of work in the last 3 seasons, Rodriguez has a chance to rebound and be a good fantasy pitcher.  Yes, his projected WHIP of 1.39 is really high, but the data collected probably had more to do with his age than ability as he's never had a WHIP higher than 1.32.  He's still available in 33% of CBS leagues.

A.J. Burnett is 36 this season.  It seemed like only yesterday that he was being heralded as the Marlins' ace of the future.  He's also was nearly irrelevant in fantasy circles, but out of nowhere, Burnett was able to have a great year in 2012 because he posted a BB/9 of 2.76 after averaging a BB/9 of 3.8 the two seasons prior.  He also posted his lowest WHIP since 2007.  So he might be old, but maybe he's finally learning how to pitch and not solely depend on overpowering hitters.  

Finally, Jason Grilli will be closing games for this club.  In terms of K/BB, he ranks in the middle of the pack, but only 4 slots away from him is Joel Hanrahan.  Both pitchers have similar projections as well with Hanrahan expected to have more strikeouts and give up less homeruns.  The Pirates style of winning ugly turned Hanrahan into a household age so Grilli has an opportunity to shine this season.  

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