As we get closer to the 2020 Major League Baseball season, you are no doubt starting to think about your fantasy baseball draft. The Pittsburgh Pirates have an interesting roster from a fantasy perspective. So, if you're not that familiar with the Bucco roster, I'll try to help you out.
I'm going to put these players into categories for you for easy reading.
A Player who will out-perform his ADP
Kevin Newman (2B/SS) - I'm pretty bullish on Newman for this season. He's not going to be a guy who will carry your team, but he's certainly the type who can allow you to neglect the middle infield spots early in drafts and still turn out just fine there. I've seen him ranked anywhere from 18th to 30th as a 2B, and about the same as a SS.
He's a solid player. He's not going to hurt you with strikeouts, he was 19th (above his ADP) among 2B (22nd among SSs) in TB last season, he was 5th among 2Bs in SB (11th among SSs), and he can hold his own in the other scoring categories as well. He did that while starting the year in AAA and having to work his way into the every day starter role. I'd expect a full season, plus a year of development to spell an improvement for Newman.
Like I said, he's not going win you the league, but he will tick the box in almost every category. Between he and Adam Frazier, Kevin Newman is the guy to draft. The secondary benefit to drafting him is that he would provide a pretty good fallback plan for a Seinfeld-related team name if you don't have anything more clever.
Low-risk, high-reward players
Keone Kela - After Felipe Vazquez turned out to be the "Nightmare" his nickname always said he was, Kela was the next man in line to take over his spot as closer. Kela isn't the player Vazquez was, but he's still going to get saves, how many opportunities is the question. In terms of reliability, I think Kela will acquit himself just fine in his new role and the only other Pirates who would push him for it right now are long shots. If the Pirates are in a lot of close games, Kela could turn out to be a lesser version of Vazquez, and a bargain against his mid-30 RP ranking.
Bryan Reynolds - Think of Reynolds right now as a poor man's Andrew McCutchen, he's going to do a lot of things well, but maybe nothing at an elite level. He's shown a level of consistency that has me confident he will be around .300/20/70. That's the low risk part. How far he launches off that point is dependent upon his development. The Pirates will be counting on him more this year with Starling Marte no longer in town. If he rises to the occasion, he could be a steal.
High-risk, high-reward players
Chris Archer - He's on here for two reasons. The first is that his strikeout numbers are coming back after tailing off in 2018. He has the stuff to wipe batters out and rack up some nice numbers for you, and he's done that before, but they're often counteracted by poor numbers everywhere else. He's got a new pitching coach and manager now, and he showed some promise at times last season. If he puts it all together for once, he will be a real asset for you.
The second reason is that, if he has a strong first half and the Pirates aren't in contention, which we don't expect them to be, he may be moved to a contender. He's a likely choice for a trade deadline sell.
Mitch Keller - Mitch Keller is a similar case to Archer right now, but for different reasons. Archer's problems have followed him throughout his career to varying degrees, Keller is just starting out. Mitch has more upside than Archer, but, as his 2019 shows, also a lower floor. His 12.2 K/9 in 2019 should grab your attention. I don't expect him to replicate his awful ERA (7.13) and WHIP (1.833) from last season, but I'm also not certain he improves upon those enough to be rosterable. Like Archer, he's also going to be getting a new perspective from a new coaching staff. So, if he can miss more barrels this year, he could be your ringer, otherwise he's a wasted pick.
Josh Bell - I'm not telling you not to draft Josh Bell, just do it with eyes wide open. If you look at his 2019 numbers as a whole, it's a no-brainer to take him as a top-5 1B, but last year was a tale of two halves for Bell and there's no telling which one you will get in 2020.
After an MVP-caliber first half where he hit .302/27/84, his numbers dropped drastically in every category. He still hit some home runs, but that was about it. I don't think Bell will lay an egg this year. So, it's pretty safe to draft him, but there's a risk that he won't give you the value you're looking for from the spot you pick him.
On the other hand, he could have a full season like his first half and help you win your league.
Better actual players than fantasy players
Joe Musgrove - Big Joe is a good, strong pitcher, but is unlikely to move the needle in any one area for you to get excited about. I could see him being an innings eater in 2020, but not much more from a fantasy perspective. He's probably still worth a roster spot in case of injury.
Adam Frazier - Frazier is another solid all-around player, but what he does on the field doesn't really translate to fantasy. He's going to bat first or second, so you're not going to get strong RBI numbers from him. He's not going to steal bases or rack up doubles. In fact, the strength of his game is defense. So, unless errors are factored into your scoring, I don't think his fantasy value matches his real life value.
Players to watch throughout the year
These are all guys I would ignore in your drafts, but would keep an eye on because they could surge and become viable fantasy assets at one point or another.
Chad Kuhl - Chad is coming off an injury, and there's no guarantee how he will perform or even what his role on the team will be, but he's got a lot to work with. Before his injury, he boasted a triple digit fastball and a knee-buckling curve. There's a good chance he will start the year in the bullpen, but will get bigger opportunities if he touches his potential.
Nick Burdi - Burdi is also coming off an injury, and is another guy with scary potential. Before his 2019 ended, he had a ridiculous 17 Ks through 8.2 innings. He also gave up 9 ER. So, he has some improvements to make, but his ability to sit batters down is worth your attention. When I said that there was a long shot in line to take Kela's spot, Burdi is the guy I had in mind.
Ke'Bryan Hayes - Hayes would be a mid-season call up. He's probably not going to show a bat worth playing at 3B right away, but he could surprise. I see him more as a stash if you're in a keeper/dynasty league.
Will Craig - Craig would be another mid-season call up, but he would have more utility in 2020 than Hayes. His bat is a little further along and could provide some pop at 1B.
That about does it for the fantasy-relevant Pirates. We will be providing more fantasy news as the year progresses. So check back in.
Follow Jared on Twitter: @a_piratelife