Early 2009 Pirates fantasy outlook

As most of you know, my day job is a sports writer/analyst at AccuScore.com, where I basically do what I’m doing here for fun, only I get paid for it, and don’t write about the Pirates nearly as often. I just arrived in Tampa for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Winter conference, part of my job duties at AccuScore, which will feature a few days of golf, karaoke bars, networking, and listening to panels discuss the state of the fantasy industry. When I left this morning, it was starting to snow the whole way from Virginia to Dulles Airport. I get down here to Tampa and it’s in the 70s and sunny. This is how winter should be, and I dare any of you anti-global warming people to tell me differently.

Tonight I’ve got my first fantasy draft of the year, the FSTA Experts league, which will be the biggest league I’ve ever been in. We’ve got 15 teams, and 29 players per team, which means two things:

1. There will be 435 players drafted.
2. There will actually be some Pirates drafted.

I’ll also be drafting against Ron Shandler (at least I think so…he also got the e-mail for the draft, so I assume he will be drafting). That’s going to be a big challenge in its self.

Since this draft will require the use of a lot of sleepers, I thought I’d take this moment to go over some sleepers I’ll be targeting from the Buccos. All mock draft projections comes from Mock Draft Central. Check them out. It’s a great fantasy resource, and they’re good guys.

1. Adam LaRoche: LaRoche is going with the 252nd pick on average, which is the end of the 21st round in most drafts. This is a guy who has combined to hit .275 over the last three years, with a homer every 19.83 ABs (which is 25 in a 500 AB season). He will most likely have his tough April, but if I take him in the 20th round, I’ll most likely have a first baseman, making LaRoche a good corner infielder from May until the end of the season.

2. Paul Maholm: The Pirates just aren’t getting any love, although it’s not hard to see why. After posting a decent year in 2008, Paul Maholm is going on average with the 340th pick. That’s almost the 30th round in 12 team leagues. I usually skip pitchers in the first six rounds, and load up on guys later in the draft, so I’ll be targeting Maholm in tonight’s 15 team draft when the 23rd round comes around.

3. Andy LaRoche: Maybe I have too much faith in the LaRoche brothers, or maybe they’re both set for a big year. LaRoche got his first chance to start regularly at the major league level last year when coming over to the Pirates…and was horrible. However, based on comments by everyone, the bulk of his problems were due to the thumb injury. He’s got the job to lose starting the season, and I have a feeling he’ll do much better the second time around. A quick line on LaRoche, comparing his first go-round in every level, and his second season in that level:

First Season in A+/AA/AAA: .276/.353/.474, 22.34 AB/HR
Second Season in A+/AA/AAA: .317/.399/.577, 15.50 AB/HR

That’s a huge improvement in his second time around. He’s struggled at almost every level in his first attempt, only to do a complete 180 the next year. The Pirates need it from him this year. He’s going with the 429th pick, so if I take him, it will be towards the end of the draft.

4. Brandon Moss: He’s already being labeled as the breakout player of 2009 by last year’s breakout player, Nate McLouth. In 158 at bats with the Pirates, Moss hit .222 with six homers. The .222 isn’t good, but the six homers, or a homer every 26.33 at bats, shows potential for a 20 home run season. I just have a gut feeling we will see a .280/20 HR year from Moss. He’s not being drafted in the majority of mock drafts.

5. Tom Gorzelanny: Like Moss, Gorzy is not being drafted in most drafts. I’m putting him down as my backup plan for Maholm, and hoping for a come back season. Early reports have Gorzy showing up to camp in great shape, which helped guys like Doumit and Maholm last year. Gorzy combined for a 3.88 ERA in his time in 06/07, and his ratios during that time (6.00 K/9, 3.40 BB/9, 0.72 HR/9) suggest to me that this performance wasn’t a fluke.

As for other guys, I think Nate McLouth’s value is about right (4th-5th round), I think Ryan Doumit is ranked a little low, especially if you start two catchers (almost 10th round), and I’m not taking Andrew McCutchen, because I don’t think he’ll see the majors until May at the earliest.

I’ll have the results of my team later.

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

Share This Post On