Pittsburgh Pirates 2019 Season Preview: Fantasy Analysis

2018 Record: 82-79

Projected 2019 Record: 78-84

2018 Recap & 2019 Team Outlook

Pittsburgh was a competitive bunch, but still fell to fourth in a very tough division. With Cincinnati improving, and the Cardinals adding a few more pieces, this remains one of the tougher divisions in baseball. The Pirates have potential to have a league average offense and an above average rotation to keep them around the 80 win mark, but anything more seems like a stretch. With the improvements of Jameson Taillon and a few other enticing rotational arms, there is a build to add to for the future. The offense is going to be pesky, but won’t compete with the top half of the league given the lack of power they have.

2019 Storylines

There are some big question marks heading into the 2019 season, as Pittsburgh failed to spend yet again. They have been documented as a shrewd team with their cash, which has been a turn off for fans after falling short in the postseason a few years ago. Can some of these Pirates bats breakout? We have had Josh Bell and Gregory Polanco either injured for have fallen short of the breakout potential so far. They are lacking a major bat in the lineup, and while they are serviceable, they aren’t taking them over any of these NL Central teams at the moment.

Pirates Starting Pitching

Jameson Taillon headlines a pretty good rotation, and the ceiling of this group is also pretty high. The addition of Chris Archer was unexpected last season, but it adds another arm with upside, although the hype has gone down over the last year or two. His ERA stayed put in Pittsburgh, but the strikeouts went up a bit as you’d expect. Trevor Williams had a 3.11 ERA  in 2018, but lackluster swing and miss stuff, and ERA estimators are about a full run higher on him heading into 2019. Joe Musgrove is the intriguing breakout arm of this group. Musgrove boasted an excellent slider that if he throws more could give him the bump in other stats that puts him on the map. We will need to wait and see who gets the fifth spot in this group, but the impact isn’t that high.

Pirates Bullpen

The Pirates had a middle of the road bullpen last season, with more of an issue with their middle inning guys rather than the backend. Felipe Vazquez is an above average closer with a lot of upside for fantasy as well. His setup man Keone Kela is another high velocity arm. Richard Rodriguez has some strong potential to make this bullpen better than last years. Pittsburgh could end up having one of the lower team ERAs come the end of the season. It is the offense that might hold them back from being a truly competitive team in the central.

Pirates Hitters

Pittsburgh doesn’t have any real power or the speed they did a few years ago. Starling Marte projects to be their best hitter, although Corey Dickerson falls right behind him. They will be without Gregory Polanco for the first part of the season, leaving Lonnie Chisenhall to fill in. The Pirates will have to rely on station to station baseball, and hope that these bats can keep their contact rate up. Jung-Ho Kang might be a name that jumps into the lineup at some point this season, which would give them a bump in the power department. Elias Diaz and Melky Cabrera should get some run off the bench.

Pirates Projected Lineup

  1. Adam Frazier
  2. Starling Marte
  3. Corey Dickerson
  4. Josh Bell
  5. Francisco Cervelli
  6. Colin Moran
  7. Kevin Newman
  8. Lonnie Chisenhall

2019 Noteworthy Fantasy Pitchers

Jameson TaillonJameson Taillon A lot of analysts are predicting a big year for Jameson Taillon. Because of his new slider, he has established a strikeout pitch that he desperately needed. Everything checks off for a big 2019, for instance his groundball rate and strikeout rate tie together well, and ERA estimators back up his success over the last two seasons. He stands a good chance of racking up wins, and posting a durable innings total.

Chris ArcherChris Archer The move to Pittsburgh didn’t change much for Archer, as he kept his ERA around four. He also kept the same strikeout stuff. He has been pitching in favorable pitchers parks in his whole career, and just continues to post around a four ERA. The days of predicting a Cy Young are over, but above average strikeouts and more strong outings than not are there. He isn’t the ace of this staff, but some improvements could get him back into better form.

2019 Noteworthy Fantasy Hitters

Starling MarteStarling Marte Starling Marte continues to be the better fantasy asset within the offense. He reached 30+ stolen bases again, and outside of his 2017 season with the suspension, he has done that over the last five seasons. Marte is getting older, and his speed has dropped a bit. Because of this there could be a drop in SB. He is likely a 40 HR+SB guy again, but his name value still has him higher on the ADP.

Josh BellJosh Bell –  If you are looking for a first base option later in drafts, Josh Bell will be there. After a 26 HR season in 2017, he failed to crack 15 last year. His 50%+ groundball rate the last few seasons has not been encouraging, and we should expect him somewhere in between 2017 and 2018 numbers. While there is a nice hitting coach in town, unless he gets on the launch angle team, expect similar numbers.

  
Jason Guilbault has been writing and podcasting in the fantasy sports world for over five years. You can find his work at The Fake Baseball and Daily Fantasy Cafe. He is an avid Tottenham fan, and follows the Boston sports teams. When he isn’t diving into stats, he is enjoying the outdoors or down at the local brewery.