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Fantasy Top 5 for 2014: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates made the playoffs for the first time in 20 years in 2013, and have some players that you want to target on draft day. Here is a rundown of their top 5 fantasy targets for 2014.

John Sommers II

Pirates fans waiting a loooong time in between playoff appearances, but I think it was worth the wait. This team made the playoffs for the first time in twenty years in 2013, and GM Neil Huntington has built a team that could have multiple playoff appearances if even half of their stocked farm system lives up to the potential. The Pirates have shown that patience, investing in your farm system, and being shrewd in free agent signings and trades, is one way to build a winner.

For fantasy purposes, here are my top 5 Pittsburgh Pirates for 2014:

1. Andrew McCutchen, OF

If you want to know how good Andrew McCutchen is, just go to the hitters' leader board over at FanGraphs and see who is listed under Mike Trout. Yes, it is Andrew McCutchen, as his 8.2 WAR in 2013 was the second highest in the game. McCutchen was one of like 10 or so hitters to put up a 20 home run, 20 stolen base season in 2013, which was his third straight 20-20 season. McCutchen hit .317-.404-.508 with 21 HRs, 97 runs, 84 RBI and 27 stolen bases in 37 attempts. He hit 31 home runs in 2012, but I think that will be seen as a career high for him as the years go by, because he plays in one of the best pitchers parks in baseball, a park that suppressed home runs by 32% last season. He should put up yet another 20-20 season in 2014, and be one of the top 5 picks in most fantasy drafts.

2. Starling Marte, OF

I almost ranked Gerrit Cole at two here, but Marte is a valuable fantasy outfielder, as he just turned 25 years of age, and his best years are ahead of him. Marte doesn't hit for much power (.441 SLG), but what he does do well is score runs (83 in 2013), steal bases ( 41 in 2013) and hit for a solid average (.280 in 2013). He doesn't walk much at all, so his batting average will be propped up by his high batting average of balls in play (BABIP), which, at .363 last season, is a sign his speed could keep it higher than one would expect. He will beat out plenty of infield grounders, and he could show more pop as his body grows and he matures at the plate.

3. Gerrit Cole, SP

Cole is an ace. There I said it. Actually, I said it quite a few times in September. Cole was completely dominant in the majority of his 19 starts this season. After putting up a 3.89 ERA in his first 41.2 innings, he struck out almost a batter per inning over his last 75.2 innings, with a 2.89 ERA. He was especially dominant in September, with a 39-10 strikeout to walk rate and a 1.69 ERA. I ranked him in my top 25 starting pitchers earlier this offseason, and maybe that is too high. He should strike out close to nine batters per nine, walk less than three batters per nine, and keep the ball on the ground at a high clip in 2014. He could win 15-16 games in 2014.

4. Pedro Alvarez, 3B

What you see is what you get with Pedro Alvarez. He established himself as one of the top power hitters in the game in 2013, hitting 36 home runs and driving in 100 runs. With that, comes a .233 average and a 30% strikeout rate which was the sixth worse in baseball. Alvarez will go into long slumps then rip off a month with double digit homers and a .300 average. Problem is, he didn't hit higher than .243 in any other month except June last season.

5. A.J. Burnett, SP

I am making a big assumption that he won't retire here, but since coming over to the Pirates, he has put up two consecutive mid to low 3s ERAs, and struck out almost a batter per inning. He improved his strikeout rate to just under 10 K/9 last season, walks around three batters per nine, and is an elite ground ball pitcher. Should he return in 2014, and I don't see why he wouldn't after making the playoffs, he should be a top 30-35 starter once again.

Honorable mention: Francisco Liriano - if Burnett retires, i think Liriano can repeat his great 2013 season, as he is in one of the best pitchers parks in the game, strikes out more than nine batters per nine, and keeps the ball on the ground at a 50% clip. He lowered his walk rate in 2013, and showed signs of being a dominant pitcher again.