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2018 MLB Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

Plenty of undervalued offense on the Pirates for 2018

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Basic Stats

Final Record: 75-87



The Superstar: Andrew McCutchen

Just as I thought McCutchen’s run at fantasy stardom was over, he turned out a Top 50 season in 2017. 2016 saw career lows across-the-board for McCutchen in the same year he turned 30 years old and it was fair to wonder if .256/.336/.430 was going to be the new standard Cutch. Instead 2017 saw McCutchen’s return to fantasy dominance with 28 HRs and 11 SBs and now McCutchen is looking like one of the steadier picks heading into 2018.

I have McCutchen ranked 68th heading into next year and the only Pirate in the Top 100. I project the SBs to continue to fall and settle somewhere just short of double digits and the HR count to settle around 25. He’s been a model of health in his career, which gives him some additional security in re-draft leagues and I would be more than happy taking him in Round 6 or 7 of a standard 12-teamer.

The Sleeper: Josh Bell

Not a prototypical sleeper pick, but Bell is my pick to have a breakout season in Pittsburgh. The rap on Bell heading into last year was the questionable power profile he showed in his minor league career. Bell never topped 14 HRs at a single level across four minor league seasons, so there was little reason to see 26 HR production in 2017. With enough power to stick at 1B, Bell becomes a really interesting under the radar pick for 2018.

Bell has a career .299 BABIP while putting up a career low .278 BABIP last season in Pittsburgh. I believe there is some upside in Bell’s .255 from 2017 and considering he’s just 25 years old there is natural development that will come as he approaches his prime. Per Fantrax, Josh Bell’s ADP is pick 163, which is around even value if he just duplicates his performance from last year. Given the expected improvements and positive regression, Bell represents one of the best picks in the draft at 163.

The Guy To Avoid: Ivan Nova

Ivan Nova slowly reverted back to the pitcher he was during his days as a New York Yankee. His career high in GB% last year (53.6%) dropped to below his career average (45.7%) in 2017 while his strikeout rate saw a similar tumble (from 18.6% to 16.7%). It’s interesting to see the evolution of Nova’s pitch selection, particularly his Sinker.

Remember Nova was dealt to the Pirates in August 2016, and it looks like Ray Searage recommended an increased usage of the sinker once he arrived in Pittsburgh.

All of this is to say, I have no idea what to expect from Nova in 2018. He is coming off a career high in innings pitched, and he had his second worst full season in terms of WAR and FIP. I believe in the Ray Searage magic, but Nova has some brand name value as a late round starter pick, and I just don’t have enough confidence to invest in him.

The Prospect To Watch: Cole Tucker

Going a little further down the Top 10 list here, but Cole Tucker is the prospect I want in dynasty formats. A 6’3” SS, Tucker has the opportunity to stick at the position while growing into above-average power for the position. What makes this most interesting - Tucker is a burner who stole 47 bases across A+ and AA last year. He hasn’t shown the power yet, but the frame suggests it could come around and if it does, Tucker is an across-the-board fantasy asset.

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