Will Carroll
Tuesday March 1st, 2011

If there's anything the Pirates do well, it's sports medicine. The former Dick Martin Award winners consistently have been at the top of almost every chart I keep, whether it's DL dollars, days, or the more accurate "injury cost" which adjusts for player value more accurately than "real" dollars. The Pirates under Brad Henderson have kept up the long tradition of both preventing injuries well and at bringing players back under the expected times. There's some wiggle in these numbers, to be sure. Looking at players such as Zach Duke or Tom Gorzelanny is difficult -- while they didn't miss time, they didn't develop and seemed to have workload issues. That's more on the pitching coaches and front office than it is the medical staff. In fact, one could argue that the medical staff kept it possible for those guys -- and for the current crop of pitchers -- to keep getting chances. Other teams seem to lose guys like this regularly, but even once out of the organization, there's a "health skill" that they seem to have learned. Given the way the Pirates trade players, that's pretty valuable for opposing GMs to know. For fantasy owners, there's players to like. For Pirates fans, the best I can tell you is that Henderson and his staff will have the guys ready and available.

(HEAD TRAINER: Brad Henderson; FIVE YEAR RANK: 3; 2010 RANK: 11)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
GREEN LIGHT
C Chris Snyder
Snyder is green on playing time. He's likely to share the role with Ryan Doumit in something of an offense/defense platoon. Snyder's never been pushed to the 400 AB mark and gets risky up there.

2B Neil Walker
Walker started out the season joking that he was thinking of running for mayor of Indianapolis and ended it locked into the Pittsburgh starting nine. Walker got a chance and ran with it, showing that he was a touted prospect for a reason. He did it enough last year that it's hard to say it's a fluke, but at 25, he's probably WYSIWYG. That's not bad, especially if he can stick at second base ? and there's really no one to challenge him there this year.

SS Ronny Cedeno
If Pedro Ciriaco could take a walk, we wouldn't be talking about Cedeno. He can't, so Cedeno remains a placeholder, though Rule 5 pick Joshua Rodriguez will get a long look.

3B Pedro Alvarez
There's always talk of Alvarez's weight and conditioning. Standing next to him, he might be big for a ball player, but he's not what most would call fat. The bigger question is his commitment and over the course of his time in Indy, there was little question that he was always working to be ready for the inevitable call. His stats in Pittsburgh show he was. He's a special hitter and as long as he can avoid leg and back problems, he could be the best NL third baseman over the next five years.

CF Andrew McCutchen
McCutchen missed a couple days here, a couple days there. Talk that he had a minor knee problem isn't so much a concern as a possibility that he'll be better this year.

RF Garrett Jones
Jones looks like Mike Lowell, but is built like Dave Parker. He'll platoon with Matt Diaz after another year of weak hitting against lefties. Aside from that, what's not to like?

Also Green:
S2 Paul Maholm
KR Evan Meek
YELLOW LIGHT
1B Lyle Overbay
Overbay is a placeholder, at best, but his presence here tells you that the rebuilding of the Pirates is behind schedule. Not being able to find someone in the organization that's as good for cheaper is an indictment of the organization. He's a low risk, though at his age and what The System thinks should be a replaceable level, the risk is real.

LF Jose Tabata
If you didn't know about all the off-field issues, you'd wonder what took so long for the Pirates to call up Tabata. There are, however, some questions about his age. Those could affect his aging curve, not his current level and so unless you're in a dynasty league, it's not a concern. He is a speed player who has had some recurring knee issues. Combined with his odd career pattern, it looks a bit riskier than he actually is, especially in the short-term.

SP Kevin Correia
Correia's innings drop looks like an injury to The System. Mostly, it was the shift to the pen when he couldn't keep his ERA to a reasonable level even in Petco. The risk is more that he'll stay at that level than getting injured.

SP Charlie Morton
If you watch Charlie Morton pitch, you'll think he should be an ace. If you look at his numbers, you wonder how he keeps getting chances. The truth lies in between. The plus is that he's always been healthy, even though The System sees him bouncing back and forth as injury, not the shuttle to Triple-A.

CL Joel Hanrahan
Most of the risk for Hanrahan came from his starter days. Since he's not headed back there, in large part because he couldn't stay healthy as a starter, the rating might be slightly higher than what it should be. Then again, the history he has isn't a figment of our imagination and a full season in high-leverage innings could change things.
RED LIGHT
SP James McDonald
If you were building a house, you probably wouldn't hire a carpenter who'd never done it or a plumber who was just learning to ... plumb? So why do baseball teams count on pitchers that have never served the same kind of apprenticeship? McDonald's done his time in the minors and as a reliever. It's that last part that seems overlooked in the modern game, one more thing we could relearn from Earl Weaver. McDonald is risky because he'll be expected to take on the ace role and a big innings increase. The Pirates are smart enough to avoid that issue, I hope. A big key will be his efficiency. Watch in spring training to see if he's able to locate his curve.

SP Ross Ohlendorf
Ohlendorf lost time to a comebacker and a bum shoulder. When he was healthy, things didn't go much better for him or the Pirates. If the shoulder stays together -- always a risk -- every underlying number says he gets much better this year.

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