This winter is going to be long and hard for Pennsylvania sports fans, as the Pittsburgh Steelers ended a promising season with a Super Bowl loss to the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Pirates begin what will likely be a record setting 19th straight losing season.
Pirate fans are nothing if not loyal. Perhaps hopelessly loyal of a team that has struggled to win since the days of Andy Van Slyke and a steroid-free Barry Bonds. The ghosts of Doug Drabek and Bobby Bonilla can’t help the 2011 Bucs, and the beautiful PNC Park will likely go another season without a winning team.
Although the team does have a few promising players like Andrew McCutchen, Evan Meek, Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker, they lack the pitching required to compete in the highly competitive NL Central. Newly hired Clint Hurdle will likely bring a new fire and determination to Steel Town, yet from a fantasy perspective, there is very little to get excited about.
Who to Target
McCutchen is the only marquee player to target on the Pirates. He is similar to Carlos Gonzalez in that he is a five-tool outfielder. However, he lacks the lineup protection that Gonzalez enjoys in Colorado.
McCutchen had a nice sophomore season for the Bucs, posting a .286 average with 94 runs scored and 33 stolen bases. I look for Andrew to top 20 home runs for the first time in his career while continuing his base stealing prowess under new manager Hurdle.
Although the Pirates lack established fantasy talent to target in the early rounds, the team does have a few sleeper candidates with breakout potential. One such sleeper is left fielder Jose Tabata, a second-year player from Venezuela.
Tabata was originally signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in 2004. He made his major league debut in 2010 for the Pirates after being acquired by the club in the 2008 Xavier Nady trade.
In 441 plate appearances Tabata was able to score 61 runs and steal 19 bases while batting a respectable .299. If he continues his solid play in 2011, he could end up being a nice sleeper candidate in both mixed and NL formats. His biggest knock is his power; however his base stealing skills and high average make up for lack of pop in his bat.
This article was originally published on www.kramericasports.com, the home of free fantasy news, rankings and advice.