Ready to ‘Buc’ the Trend?

Spring
Training has its typical topics. Over the last few springs, there’s been the
A-Rod/Jeter coverage, Barry Bonds chase of Hank Aaron’s all-time home run
record and of course, the endless comparisons between the Yankees and Red Sox.

And yet,
for some reason, there’s only one team on my mind, haunting my baseball dreams,
banishing the usual Spring Training fodder into the background.

The

Pittsburgh

Pirates.

Huh?

Yes, those
Pirates.

For some
quirky, ill-conceived reason, I have a funny feeling about a franchise that
hasn’t enjoyed a winning season or qualified for the playoffs since winning the
division under Jim Leyland in 1992 – nearly 15 years ago!

Call me
crazy, delusional or illogical, but something tells me this may be the year

Pittsburgh

finally ‘Bucs’ the trend.

From a
fantasy standpoint, there are a number of bargains sporting yellow and black in
2007. Not only is the team generally cast aside in fantasy wasteland, creating
good buying opportunity, there’s also a young foundation in place.

For
starters, I confess to having a completely functional, heterosexual “man-crush”
on rotation ace Ian Snell, who won 14 games and struck out almost as many
batters as innings pitched while demonstrating advanced control all in his
first full season last year. Plus, not many fantasy owners take pride in owning
a guy named Ian Snell. I have no studies to support such an outlandish claim,
other than to say that last names which remind competitors of a harmless,
slithering animal tend not to draw as much fanfare as ones such as Escobar,
Mussina or Burnett. Laugh all you want, but there’s truth to the theory.

The rest
of the Pirates’ rotation has potential, too, with rising lefties Zach Duke, Tom
Gorzellany, Paul Maholm and potential offseason steal — relative to the gold
diggers’ spending market — in right-hander Tony Armas.

Most of
their position players are unusually appealing. Leading the way, of course, is
underappreciated right fielder

Jason

Bay

, who’s
produced All-Star numbers over the last few seasons despite a complete lack of
offensive protection. With the acquisition of budding 27-year-old first baseman
Adam LaRoche, however, Bay’s days of feeling lucky to see a strike appear all
but over. With both Bay and LaRoche coming off 30-homer seasons, might one –
or both — finally become the first player(s) in franchise history to reach 40
jacks? It’s certainly within reason.

Then
there’s the little-known, speedy center fielder Chris Duffy. Under the radar,
Duffy quite possibly had the best comeback story of 2006. Batting just .194
through mid-May, he was sent down to the Minors. The only problem was, he
didn’t report until almost 1 ½ months later for personal reasons. During
Duffy’s self-imposed exile, many speculated that he had lost the desire to
play. He would later rise from the ashes and lead all National Leaguers with 23
steals over the final two months of the season.

Whether
it’s third baseman Freddy Sanchez, reliever Matt Capps, the solid yet
unspectacular Xavier Nady or the team’s extremely underrated defense (I know,
referring to defense violates some sort of fantasy supreme court amendment),
Pirates fans have reason to feel hopeful for the first time in a long time.

<i>– Alex Cushing, MLB.com Fantasy 411 crew</i>

6 Comments

You could also mention Jose Castillo as another candidate to break out this year as he is nearing that magic age, he’ll be 26 in March. He had a great winter league in Venezuela. Ronny Paulino played well last year behind the plate and Doumit is still a good prospect, albeit with no place to play at the moment. I love Gorzelanny and last year he started to pitch well down the stretch with an ERA of 2.43 over his last 6 starts and lowered his walks from 6.2 per 9 to 3.4 per 9 over that stretch as well. The Pirates may have some good teams in the years to come with the young talent that they possess.

Thanks for chiming in Mr. Cushing, glad to see the Blog Sharing arrangement has come around… (can’t say the same for my opinion of the Bucs, um Nice ballpark Bucs…)

What you guys hammering out the contract Bonds style?

hope to hear from you more – Zack/Philly

I think The Kid meant to say Bay and LaRoche (or both) might become the the first player(s) since Willie Stargell to reach 40 jacks, since Pops did it twice. And let’s not Ralph Kiner, either, since he did it FIVE times. :-)
–CS

Yes, let’s not forget Kiner; the only Buc to ever hit 50 in a season…

It would be nice to research before writing — stargell, kiner hit 40/50–…agree with you on duffy though…anyone who followed this kids august/september, know what he can do this season..33runs, 2 hrs,14 rbis and 23 sbs in 53 games

I’m pretty sure he meant to say that Bay and LaRoche would each hit 40, making them the first Pirates’ teammates to accomplish such a feat…

I’m not sure if Mets3142 was talking to me, but Stargell never reached 50 in a season. He came really close in ’71 though…

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