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2020 Fantasy Baseball: Pittsburgh Pirates Team Preview

Enjoy this preview of the 2020 Pittsburgh Pirates brought to you by the folks over at FullTime Fantasy. Subscribe there for the full article with every need-to-know player!

Pittsburgh Pirates

Pittsburgh missed the playoffs in each of the past four years, which came after three straight trips to the postseason. In 138 years, Pittsburgh has five World Series titles (1909, 1925, 1960, 1971, and 1979) while reaching the playoffs in 17 different years.

Last season, Pittsburgh ranked 26th (5.18 ERA) with 31 saves. They finished 21st in runs (758), 27th in home runs (163), and 20th in RBI (722).

In the offseason, the Pirates signed three bench players (C Luke Maile, IF J.T. Riddle, and OF Guillermo Heredia). Their most significant move came with the trading of OF Starling Marte to the Diamondbacks for SS Liover Peguero and SP Brennan Malone. They added three pitchers (Derek Holland, Robbie Erlin, and Hector Noesi) via minor league deals.

The bullpen is in rebuild mode after losing RP Felipe Vazquez for his off the field issues. The starting rotation has some talent and upside, but there is plenty of inconsistency. Their offense has had a couple of nice bats while lacking overall depth to be competitive in 2020. Pittsburgh has an over/under of 70.5 wins in 2020. Pittsburgh has no chance of reaching the postseason this year.

Starting Lineup

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1. SS Kevin Newman

The Pirates drafted Newman in the first round in 2015 with the 19th pick. Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .287 with 15 home runs, 146 RBI, and 62 steals over 1,630 at-bats. Newman was tough to strike out (10.3 percent) with some weakness in his walk rate (7.0) in his minor league career. After playing well in 2018 at AAA (.302 with four HRs, 35 RBI, and 28 SBs over 437 at-bats), he proved to be a better player in his first full seasons with Pittsburgh (.308 with 61 runs, 12 HRs, 64 RBI, and 16 SBs over 493 at-bats). 

Newman maintained his low strikeout rate (11.7) while losing some value in his walk rate (5.3). Most of his production came against right-handed pitching (.316 with 11 HRs and 59 RBI over 367 at-bats). He played much better on the road (.350 with nine HRs and 34 RBI over 240 at-bats). Newman offered the most value in June (.316 with four HRs, 16 RBI, and four SBs over 114 at-bats) and August (.317 with four HRs, 16 RBI, and four SBs over 104 at-bats). His hard-hit rate (24.4) ranked 438th. He has a high ground ball rate (49.4) while improving his HR/FB rate (9.8). 

Not quite a leadoff type bat, and his power invites more regression than upside. Overpriced for me based on his ADP (197). Possible help in batting average with only a 70/10/50/25 skill set.

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2. OF Bryan Reynolds

Reynolds made a slow push through the Pirates system due to boring power and minimal speed. Over four seasons in the minors, he hit .312 with 177 runs, 28 home runs, 158 RBI, and 15 steals over 1,088 at-bats. His bats flashed over 49 at-bats at AAA (.367 with five HRs and 11 RBI) in 2019, leading to a call-up to the majors. With Pittsburgh, Reynolds performed better than expected over his first 446 at-bats (.330 with 80 runs, 16 HRs, 66 RBI, and two SBs) before fading over his final 45 at-bats (.156 with no HRs and two RBI). 

His CTBA (.416) has been high at every level while showing growth in his AVH (1.604). He played well against righties (.334 with 63 runs, 11 HRs, and 51 RBI over 347 at-bats). Reynolds placed 123rd in his hard-hit rate (41.7). His walk rate (8.4) came in at the league average with a slight risk in his strikeout rate (22.2). He had a low fly-ball rate (29.8) with a push in his HR/FB rate (14.4). 

Reynolds is an excellent option in batting average with developing power. Look for him to accumulate more steals than are on his minor league resume. Trending toward an 80/20/80 player with an edge in batting average with an OF3 ADP (196).

Fantasy Baseball, Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh Pirates
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3. 1B Josh Bell

Bell turned into a complete beast in 2019 while leaving some stats on the table after missing the final two weeks with a groin injury. His AVH (2.055) moved into an elite area with a step up in his CTBA (.357). He continues to have a high walk rate (12.1) while setting a career-high in strikeout rate (19.3). Bell jumped out of the gate with success in April (.286 with 16 runs, six HRs, and 21 RBI over 98 at-bats) while dominating in May (.390 with 26 runs, 12 home runs and 31 RBI over 118 at-bats). 

He continued to drive in runs (64) and with value in home runs (19) over 311 at-bats, but Bell only hit .232. His failure in batting average came against left-handed pitching (.224 with nine HRs and 25 RBI over 143 at-bats) while pounding righties (.297 with 28 HRs and 91 RBI over 384 at-bats). Bell had a massive RBI rate (21), which was 50 percent higher than in 2018 (14). He finished 33rd in hard-hit rate (47.1). His swing path led to a career-high in his fly-ball rate (37.3) and HR/FB rate (23.9 – 9.2 in 2018). 

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The top of the lineup in Pittsburgh takes a hit without Starling Marte on the roster, and I can't expect repeated success in his RBIs. I'll set the bar at .280 with 90 runs, 35 HRs, and 90 RBI with a midlevel ADP (93).

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4. OF Gregory Polanco

For the third straight year, Polanco had his season cut short due to an injury. He started the year on the injured list with as slow recovery from left shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. Over his first 42 games, he hit .242 with six home runs and 17 RBI over 153 at-bats. Polanco saw his season ended in mid-June with more issues with his left shoulder. 

After a platelet-rich-plasma injection in early September, he felt better when throwing in December. In 2019, he had a massive strikeout rate (29.3) compared to his career resume (19.7). Polanco showed power and speed in 2016 (22/86/17) and 2018 (23/81/12). 

His ADP (334) won't require much fight for a fantasy owner to own him. The pieces are there for an 80/25/80/15 season, but I would avoid if there is any more negative news about his shoulder.

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5. 3B Colin Moran

Moran had almost the same season in 2018 except for more at-bats. His approach moved backward, leading to a higher strikeout rate (23.3) and a lower walk rate (6.0). Over the first three months, he hit .294 with 31 runs, ten home runs, and 49 RBI over 252 at-bats while receiving short playing time in April (56 at-bats). Despite 32 combined RBI and a .314 batting average in July and August, Moran scored only scored 17 runs with three home runs. 

His season ended with some missed time due to a hip injury and no success (.206 over 68 at-bats with three runs, no HRs, and four RBI). Moran had most of his production against right-handed pitching (.278 with 11 HRs and 69 RBI). His hard-hit rate (34.8) came in low with weakness in his AVH (1.550). His CTBA (.370) pushed toward his minor league resume. He still has a short HR/FB rate (11.5). 

Slightly better than a platoon player, but he doesn't drive the ball enough to repeat his RBI rate (19) or make a push in home runs. At best, a neutral hitter with short runs and chance at 15 home runs and 75 RBI with a free agent pool ADP (527).

To view the full starting lineup, which also includes player analysis for Jose Osuna, Adam Frazier, Jacob Stallings, Cole Tucker, Kevin Kramer, Ke'Bryan Hayes, Luke Maile, Erik Gonzalez, JT Riddle and Guillermo Heredia, subscribe now to FullTime Fantasy.

Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Pittsburgh Pirates Team Outlook

Pitching Staff

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SP1 Joe Musgrove

Musgrove had the best season of his career in 2019 as far as innings pitched (170.1). Even with more length to his year, he underachieved again in ERA (4.44) despite strength in his command (strikeout rate – 8.3 and walk rate – 2.1). After pitching well in April (1.54 ERA and 31 Ks over 35 innings), Musgrove had five disaster starts over his next nine games (7.59 ERA, 1.593 WHIP, and .298 BAA over 42.2 innings with 30 Ks). He bounced back over his next eight starts (3.09 ERA) while allowing nine home runs over 43.2 innings. Two more ugly games ruined his August (6.27 ERA and 1.394 WHIP) while looking sharp over his final three starts (2.245 ERA and 21 Ks over 16 innings). 

Musgrove struggled against left-handed batters (.270 with 11 HRs over 319 at-bats). His AFB (92.9) was more than one MPH lower than in 2018 (94.1). Both his slider (.182 BAA) and curveball (.180 BAA) had exceptional results while his changeup (.244 BAA) was an advantage. Musgrove lost his value due to regression in his fastball (four-seam – .300 with eight HRs over 207 at-bats and sinker – .366 with two HRs over 82 at-bats). He comes off the board as a mid-tier starter with an ADP of 217 in early February. I like his command and minor league resume (30-13 with 2.86 ERA and 344 Ks over 362 innings), but trusting him for a full season of starts only came in 2019. 

The Pirates will win only three out of every seven games in 2020 while having a questionable bullpen. Enough upside to post a sub 3.75 ERA with serviceable strikeouts if his price fits your plan.

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SP2 Chris Archer

(Update: Archer underwent surgery to help with symptoms of neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome. He is out for the 2020 season.)  

The Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows for Chris Archer will go down as one of the worst trades in the history of the Pirates. Since the deal, Archer is 6-12 with 4.92 ERA and 203 strikeouts over 172 innings while Glasnow went 7-6 with a 2.94 ERA and 140 strikeouts over 116.1 innings. In 2019, Archer looked fine over his first four starts (2.74 ERA, .205 BAA, and 26 Ks over 23 innings), but he crushed fantasy teams over his next eight starts (7.56 ERA, 1.728 WHIP, .289 BAA, and 14 HRs over 41.2 innings). Over this stretch, Archer missed 19 days due to a thumb injury. 

Over his final 11 games, he had 4.42 ERA and 74 strikeouts over 55 innings while trending forward in August (3.00 ERA and 27 Ks over 18 innings). His season ended with a bum right shoulder while having a slight hip issue in June. Archer had a high strikeout rate (10.8), but he walked the most batters (4.1 per nine) of his career with massive damage in home runs allowed (25 over 119.2 innings – 1.9 per nine innings). Over his last 117 starts, he went 28-48 with a 4.31 ERA and 787 strikeouts over 670.1 innings. His more significant risk in 2019 came against righties (.260 with 13 HRs over 254 at-bats). His AFB (94.2) fell more than one MPH from 2018 (95.3). Batters struggled to hit his slider (.232 with 87 Ks over 207 at-bats) and changeup (.214 BAA). 

Pretty much a dirt devil in the 2020 draft season based on his ADP (270). Archer wasn’t healthy last year, and he will get strikeouts. His sliding fastball, paired with a spike in home runs allowed, and an increase in walks is a lousy combination. I won’t write him off, but I won’t fight for him either. In the end, Archer’s risk in WHIP should be the deciding factor in Roto formats.

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SP3 Trevor Williams

Williams went from a trusted inning eater with a low value in strikeouts to a train wreck in one easy season. His walk rate (2.7) was career-best while improving each year in the majors. He had a better strikeout rate (7.0) than his successful 2018 season (6.6). Williams saw his ERA rise from 3.11 to 5.38 after being much earlier to hit (.284 – .231 in 2018) with massive damage in his HR/9 rate (1.7 – 0.8 in 2018). His arm looked serviceable over his first nine starts (3.33 ERA and 42 Ks over 54 innings). 

After a month on the injured list with an oblique injury, he came up empty too many times over his next ten starts (8.03 ERA, 1.785 WHIP, and .327 BAA, and 16 HRs over 52.2 innings). Pittsburgh still kept in the rotation, which led to some improvement down the stretch (4.62 ERA and 1.308 WHIP). Williams lost his way against left-handed batters (.335 with ten HRs over 239 at-bats). His AFB (92.1) had a slight uptick in velocity along with all of his secondary options. Not one of his pitches graded above the league average after having success with his slider (.218 BAA) and four-seamer (.214 BAA) in 2018. His fly-ball rate (40.1) is rising, along with a jump in his HR/FB rate (14.5). Williams lost his confidence in 2019, and his tentativeness led to disaster innings and home runs. 

He's a better pitcher, but one that doesn't come with excitement. More of follow this year with possible value in a double-start week with favorable matchups. His ADP is 595 in the early draft season.

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CL/RP Keone Kela

Kela pitched well over the first four months of the season as the closer for Texas in 2018. He posted a 3.44 ERA and 44 strikeouts over 36.2 innings while converting 24 of 25 saves. Over his first 14 games with Pittsburgh, Keone allowed one run over 14 innings with 21 strikeouts. The Pirates decided to shut him down in early September with arm fatigue. Last year he struggled over his first 14 games (4.63 ERA, 1.286 WHIP, and three HRs over 11.2 innings), which led to two and half months on the injured list with a right shoulder injury. 

Other than seven walks over his final 18 innings, Kela looked sharp over the last three months (0.50 ERA, .131 BAA, and 22 Ks). He pitched well against right-handed (.164) and left-handed (.200) batters, but Kela had a bad BB:K ratio (8:8) to lefties. His AFB (96.6) was a step down from 2018 (97.4) while featuring an elite curveball (.130 BAA). Over five years in the majors, Kela went 21-11 with a 3.23 ERA, 263 strikeouts, and 28 SVs over 214.2 innings. 

His ADP (202) seems fair, but he’s pitched under 55 innings in each of the past four seasons. Kela will start the year as the closer for Pittsburgh while his final results will be tied to the health of his right shoulder.

To view the full pitching staff, which also includes player analysis for Mitch Keller, Steven Brault, Chad Kuhl, Derek Holland, Kyle Crick and Luis Escobar, subscribe now to FullTime Fantasy.

Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Pittsburgh Pirates Team Outlook