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Here's the outlook for the Pirates' starting offense this year, followed by each player's 2011 ZiPS Projection. As bad as the Pirates are, they have a fair number of interesting young hitters, including one in Neil Walker who might come very cheap in your fantasy draft. In my next post, I'll look at the Pirates' pitchers.
CATCHER: Chris Snyder. Snyder probably won't help you - he has some pop, but his average is way too low. If you're near the end of your draft and you still don't have a catcher, there should still be much better options than Snyder, including Blue Jays youngster J.P. Arencibia or even the Rockies' Chris Iannetta, who has batting-average issues like Snyder but at least plays in a good hitters' park. Snyder's 2011 ZiPS projection: .215 BA, 12 HR, 34 R, 45 RBI, 0 SB.
FIRST BASE: Lyle Overbay. Unless you're in a ridiculously deep league or an NL-only league, you'll want to avoid Overbay as well. He's 34 and doesn't hit particularly well for a position where you need offense. 2011 ZiPS projection (assumes he plays for the Jays, his former team): .244, 16 HR, 59 R, 58 RBI, 1 SB
SECOND BASE: Neil Walker. ESPN doesn't have Walker ranked in its top 15 second basemen, which is interesting given that Walker posted a .296 average in his rookie season last year, with good power for a middle infielder. He isn't much of a defender at second base (yet?), but that's none of your concern, and offensively, he should be well above average. He won't provide many steals, and his minor league profile indicates that average will come down a bit, but he'll provide a nice jolt of power for a late-round pick. He'll be batting second, unfortunately, which makes the 94 RBIs ZiPS projects fairly unlikely. 2011 ZiPS projection: .271, 18 HR, 81 R, 94 RBI, 9 SB
SHORTSTOP: Ronny Cedeno. Don't bother. 2011 ZiPS projection: .253, 9 HR, 45 R, 45 RBI, 9 SB
THIRD BASE: Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez's batting average probably won't help you, but his power? Yes, please! He's a great bet to hit 30 or more homers this season. Keep an eye on his struggles so far this Spring (19 strikeouts, one walk), but don't freak out about them - Alvarez has a history of taking a while to get going. Once he makes some adjustments, he should be fine. 2011 ZiPS projection: .262, 28 HR, 89 R, 116 RBI, 3 SB
OUTFIELD: Jose Tabata. Tabata is perhaps a better player in real life than he is in fantasy because his corner outfield defense is so strong. He did swipe 44 bases between the majors and the minors last year, however, and will provide just enough in the other categories to help you get by, particularly if you've picked more power-oriented middle infielders in the earlier rounds. It appears he'll bat leadoff and will be followed by three good hitters, so 100-plus runs isn't unrealistic. 2011 ZiPS projection: .289, 8 HR, 107 R, 59 RBI, 33 SB
CENTER FIELD: Andrew McCutchen. A potentially-outstanding early-mid-round pick. McCutchen hits for average and power and steals bases, and he's beginning his third year in the big leagues, so a huge breakout isn't at all out of the question. He's also a great bet to stay healthy. It's hard to see him not providing some value even if he has a disappointing year, and this is the sort of pick that could win your league for you if McCutchen does break out. 2011 ZiPS projection: .288, 16 HR, 113 R, 70 RBI, 34 SB
OUTFIELD: Garrett Jones / Matt Diaz. Jones and Diaz are platooning, so there's little fantasy value to be gleaned here unless you're in an NL-only league or you're especially proactive about setting your roster each day. Jones is the one hitting righties, so he'll get most of the at-bats. 2011 ZiPS projection (for Jones, and note that ZiPS assumes he will get 565 at bats when he will actually get far fewer): .262, 22 HR, 73 R, 85 RBI, 10 SB