The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't had a winning season since 1992. Imagine how the fans must feel in Pittsburgh. It's probably worse than the pain that Orioles fans have endured since 1997. They haven't made the playoffs since Barry Bonds was playing for them.
If you've suffered through 15 seasons of failure, don't you think it would be a good idea to make some moves to try to change your luck? Apparently, the Pirates think it would be better to rely on their young players to continue to develop.
Pittsburgh made no significant additions during the offseason. Instead, it'll need outfielder Jason Bay and first baseman Adam LaRoche to provide leadership for a relatively inexperienced team.
The key to Pittsburgh's success is the progression of its young pitchers. At least three of the four young starters (Tom Gorzelanny, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm and Zach Duke) must improve in 2008.
Gorzellany pitched well in 2007, but he'll need to become a leader this season. Snell, Maholm and Duke must show that they're capable of pitching consistently in the major leagues. The Pirates will suffer for a 16th consecutive year unless their starting pitchers are able to make significant strides this season.
2007 record: 68-94 (6th in NL Central)
Key additions: None
Key losses: RHP Shawn Chacon, 2B/3B Jose Castillo
Most valuable fantasy performers:
1. Jason Bay, LF – Bay struggled in 2007, so he might be available in the middle rounds of your draft. He has a .281 career batting average, but Bay only hit .247 last season. He also suffered a pretty significant drop in home runs, RBIs, runs scored and stolen bases. However, Bay should be able to recover in 2008, so it would be good to grab him around the eighth round. He'll be extremely valuable if he can hit .280 with 25-30 home runs and 100-110 RBIs, which would put him around his career averages.
2. Tom Gorzelanny, LHP – After going 14-10 with a 3.88 ERA last season, Gorzelanny needs to prove that it wasn't a fluke. He's a young starter who could improve in 2008, but he won't be a superstar yet. Gorzelanny would have more fantasy value if he played on a better team. He'll probably post similar numbers to last season, so grab Gorzelanny in the later rounds of your draft and you'll be satisfied with his performance.
3. Adam LaRoche, 1B – There are more attractive options at first base, but LaRoche will hit around .275 with 20-25 home runs and 80-90 RBIs. LaRoche shouldn't be the top first baseman for your team, but he'll put up solid numbers as a backup. He should be drafted in the middle rounds of the draft.
1. Ian Snell, RHP – Snell could possibly be the second Pittsburgh player to be drafted – behind Bay – but he's listed in this category because he's headed for a big season in 2008. Although he only won nine games last season, Snell had a 3.76 ERA and 177 strikeouts in 208 innings pitched. If he has some better luck this season, Snell could win 15 games. He'll likely have 160-170 strikeouts, so grab him around the 11th round.
2. Matt Capps, RHP – Capps has a lot of potential for a young closer. He had a 2.28 ERA and 18 saves last season. Although he would do much better pitching for a contender, Capps could still pick up 25-30 saves in 2008. You would probably be satisfied if you drafted him with your ninth pick, but he'll likely still be around in the 12th round, so wait until then to grab him.