Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions: Pittsburgh Pirates

by Tim Heaney on January 26, 2012 @ 12:00:14 PDT


KFFL answers important fantasy baseball questions for each Major League Baseball team as spring training approaches. What must fantasy baseball players know about the Pittsburgh Pirates?

What happened to Pedro Alvarez's impending breakout?

Apparent preseason lethargy, nagging injuries and the dark side of his profile helped Alvarez crush countless fantasy owners that paid mixed middle-rounds prices while taking on a glaring batting-average risk.

Alvarez's tantalizing late-2010 stint failed to carry over; in more extensive action, he looked supremely overwhelmed, despite hints that he was harnessing his plate timing. A pair of farm demotions limited his fantasy impact. He has made his living on fastballs: Off-speed pitches, unsurprisingly, baffled him last season, when pitchers developed a better approach against him.

Pittsburgh Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez
Alvarez receiving little attention?

At least Alvarez's walk-taking and fleetingly high liner rate could eventually ... well, keep him from murdering your BA. A starkly high K percentage, an ugly split versus southpaws and a subterranean contact rate, however, are stalling progress. His build doesn't lend itself to improving his clip off his high grounder rates. Alvarez's in-play profile needs more lift.

The Buccos didn't give away much to acquire corner contingency plan Casey McGehee, but the fact they went outside the organization for one means Alvarez's leash, at least for 2012, has tightened. The former Vanderbilt star, who turns 25 in a few weeks, rode a rapid ascension to the bigs, so Pittsburgh must've expected some sort of speed bump. Maybe analysts needed to tone down his developmental pace.

There's still time to turn this around, to some degree, while most of the fantasy world is looking the other way. He didn't play winter ball (discouraging considering the work he needs), but he has his own BSOML story. Per offseason reports, his physique looks slenderer, partly the result of agility training.

More important regarding his anatomy: Alvarez tried playing through a quadriceps strain for most of May. That's one way to suppress your yard-departing and throw off your rhythm.

Third base, as many will pontificate, stands as a curious player pool this year. After the top few names go, there are a slew of flawed mashers with slightly inflated values. You can find plenty of low-end - i.e. risky - candidates for an explosion that the market has cast aside and allowed you to grab at a mixed CI tag.

Count Alvarez among them. His line separating "difference-making masher" from "roster clogger" is quite thin, but luckily for you, so is the investment, even relatively so in NL-only setups, where he'll probably be pegged as a low-end starter. Sneak him onto your roster for the 30-homer potential (heck, 20 would justify the purchase) and cross your toes for a plate epiphany. Another letdown won't be as costly in 2012.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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