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Pittsburgh Pirates 2019 Fantasy Projections – Trying to Terminate Terminal Disappointment
Disappointment has been the story of the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise for over two decades. They endured 20 consecutive losing seasons before they finally finished second in the NL Central division each of three years beginning in 2013. They made early playoff exits all three of those opportunities.
Actually, they have never won an NL Central title, taking home their last division crown in 1992, when they were still part of the NL East. That last division championship was a third straight, each of those years marked by playoff failure. Terminal disappointment has grown to be synonymous with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Pittsburgh Pirates 2018 Recap
As the team began to shed salary and work to rebuild a once fabulously successful franchise, a funny thing happened in 2018. The Pirates actually won more games than they lost for only the fourth time in the last quarter century.
What might have been a cause for celebration, was just another disappointment. Their 82 wins were only good enough for fourth place in a tough NL Central Division. Before the first pitch of 2018, the traded away Andrew McCutcheon and Gerrit Cole, their face of the franchise center fielder, and Cole, their best pitcher.
Winning more games in 2018 than they lost was actually a pleasant surprise. They finished with a respectable year offensively, but the pitching staff, minus Cole, fell to sixth worst for ERA in baseball.
Part of the Pirates problems had a direct association with an equally poor fielding season. They were sixth worst in that department as well. When you pitch and field that poorly, it had to be a surprise when an average hitting team won 82 games.
2019 Fantasy Pitchers Projections – The Best of the Pirate Pitchers
The Pirates made a strange trade later in the 2018 season. They unloaded one of their promising prospects, Tyler Glasnow, for Tampa Bay Ray pitcher Chris Archer. While Archer is older than Glasnow, it seemed an odd move by a franchise looking to trim salary and shift to a youth movement ideology.
Archer finished his first stretch in the National League with modest success, and begins 2019 as the only pitcher on the Pirates staff worthy of fantasy consideration. He may win some games because he does manage base runners well, and he strikes out over a batter per inning, but he a third-tier fantasy starter in a Pirate's uniform.
Jameson Taillon is the other of what were supposed to be bookend young guns out of the Pirate rotation. Glasnow is now in Florida, so Pittsburgh seems to have put their confidence in Taillon. He won 14 games in 2018 and has moderate strikeout capability. However, his 1.09 WHIP was uncharacteristically low for his norm.
Taillon is either beginning to come into his own as a professional baseball pitcher, or he is due for regression. After Archer and Taillon come three question marks. Trevor Williams looked very good at times last season, but seemed to level back off as the season wore on. His peripheral career numbers do not have a rotation ace feel to them.
Joe Musgrove and Jordan Lyles might not even make most staffs in baseball, but they will start every fourth and fifth day for Pittsburgh. Nick Kingham is slated to begin the season in the Pirate's bullpen, but he may be called upon sooner than later to take over a rotation spot.
2019 Fantasy Hitter Projections – The Best Bats on the Buccos
Pittsburgh struggled at times to score runs in 2018. Unless some things change this season, they may struggle even more. A lot hinges on leadoff hitter Adam Frazier. Frazier has the tools to be a good hitter, but the jury is still out on how good. Until he proves his worthiness at the top of the order, he isn't going to scare many pitchers from the leadoff spot.
Behind him are two middle-tier fantasy outfielders. Starling Marte will hit number two, followed by another former Ray, Corey Dickerson. Both have the skills and production to be on fantasy rosters, but the problem with their productivity is what is slated to hit behind them.
After Dickerson, the Pirates offensive prowess drops off fast. Catcher Francisco Cervelli is no one's prototype cleanup hitter. He's hit double-digit home runs once in his career, and his 57 RBIs in 2018 are a career best.
Behind Cervelli is third baseman Colin Moran. Moran hit one less home run than Cervelli, 11, and one more RBI. In fact, the Pirates second and third batters both hit more home runs than their cleanup and five-hole hitter.
That isn't usually the prescription for scoring a bunch of runs in major league baseball. When you fill out a batting card with Josh Bell, Lonnie Chisenhall and Erik Gonzalez, ending with the pitchers sopot, you're simply not going to intimidate many big league pitchers.
There could be a lot of one, two, three innings by the Pirates in 2019, which does not bode well for the fantasy prospects of most of their hitters. Marte and Dickerson are fantasy-worthy outfielders because of talent, and Frazier as a flier, maybe. But the rest of the Pirate hitters should be no more than fantasy free agent fodder.
Fantasy Rank for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Chris Archer and James Taillon should both be on fantasy pitching rotations. But, how successful they are with a Pirate's team that might struggle to score runs remains to be seen. When your two best hitters are dependent on average contact hitters behind them in the lineup to score runs, you may not score many runs.
The Bottom Line for the Pittsburgh Pirates
If anyone underachieves in Pittsburgh, last season's 82 wins could be a high water mark for this team. Sure, a few overachieving efforts could make the Pirates competitive. However, this is also a team that may find it difficult to compete in a very tough division, let alone a competitive National League. As callous as it might sound, 2019 may not be the year that the Pirates terminate terminal disappointment.