Checking in on the Pittsburgh Pirates Fantasy Value

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PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 24: Josh Bell #55 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a solo home run in the fourth inning during the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at PNC Park on April 24, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 24: Josh Bell #55 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a solo home run in the fourth inning during the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at PNC Park on April 24, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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After 35 games in the 2019 campaign, the Pittsburgh Pirates have some fantasy duds, but which players have been studs to start the year?

As we approach the quarter-season mark of the 2019 campaign, it’s a good time to evaluate some individual fantasy purposes. Heading into the year, the Pittsburgh Pirates had several players that were expected to provide solid fantasy value. Some haven’t quite performed as expected while others are leading owners to big wins early in the year.

Note: all Average Draft Position (ADP) numbers via Fantraxhq.com

Josh Bell – First Baseman

Josh Bell has been nothing short of spectacular this season after a disappointing 2018 campaign and he’s a big reason why the Pirates haven’t fallen into the NL Central basement. After collecting a pair of singles against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, the switch-hitting slugger is batting .300 with a stellar 1.003 OPS in 148 plate appearances. He’s knocked nine homers, 23 extra-base hits, 28 RBI and 22 runs scored. With an ADP of 241, Bell was the 19th-highest drafted first baseman, behind names such as Justin Smoak and Jose Martinez. It’s safe to say that he’s crushing those expectations and is one of the biggest fantasy surprises so far.

Fantasy grade: A+

Felipe Vazquez has made the most of his limited opportunities this season (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Felipe Vazquez has made the most of his limited opportunities this season (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Felipe Vazquez – Closer

With an ADP of 104, Felipe Vazquez was the seventh-highest relief pitcher drafted prior to the 2019 season. No Pirate player was drafted higher within their own position than he was. So far, he’s absolutely backed up the high expectations. The 27-year-old lefty locked down his 11th save of the year against the Cardinals on Friday, lowering his ERA to a wicked 0.51 in the process. He also owns a wonderful 29:5 K:BB through 17.2 innings. Even with Pittsburgh’s recent struggles, Vazquez remains one of the best closing options in fantasy.

Fantasy Grade: A

Starling Marte – Outfielder

So far, 2019 has been pretty disappointing for Starling Marte. He missed nine games in late April with an abdomen injury that he suffered during an ugly collision with Erik Gonzalez. Marte still has 119 plate appearances under his belt in 2019 but owns an unsightly .673 OPS and just 10 extra-base hits to show for it. More importantly, he has just six stolen bases in seven attempts. It puts him at a similar pace to the 33 he totaled last season, but his ADP of 41 suggests that many fantasy owners expected him to exceed that number.

Fantasy Grade: C-

Joe Musgrove – Starting Pitcher

Through the end of April, Joe Musgrove` would’ve easily been given an A grade. He posted a 1.54 ERA and 31:7 K:BB in 35 innings during that span. However, he’s coughed up 15 runs (12 earned) in just 5.2 innings during the month of May. Musgrove also doubled his walk total in those two outings, raising his BB/9 to 3.1, currently a career-worst. Still, his stellar work during the first month of the year suggests that he’ll get over this rough patch. Once the 26-year-old finds his command again, his ERA should fall back under 4.00.

Fantasy Grade: B

Pittsburgh Pirates
Joe Musgrove’s hot start has been wiped out by an ugly start to May. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Others/Injured Players

Jameson Taillon (SP): On the bright side, Jameson Taillon’s recent injury won’t result in Tommy John surgery, but he’ll still be shut down for at least another month and a half or so. Even prior to the injury, the 2018 breakout star was struggling out of the gate. He allowed 24 runs (17 earned) in 37.1 innings alongside a 30:8 K:BB. Fantasy Grade: C-

Chris Archer (SP): Like Taillon, Chris Archer has been stashed on the injured list, but he is expected to return within the next week. This season got off to an inconsistent start for the 30-year-old. He allowed one or fewer runs in two of his first three starts but coughed up 12 total runs in his other three outings. Archer has notoriously struggled with his command recently and things are worse in 2019 as he currently owns a career-worst 4.0 BB/9. Hopefully his IL-stint allowed him to get back to his early-season form. Fantasy Grade: C

Next. Run Differential & Pythagorean Record. dark

Gregory Polanco (OF): Despite not making his season debut until April 22, Gregory Polanco has gotten off to a hot start. He owns an .888 OPS with seven extra-base knocks in 57 plate appearances, spearheaded by three multi-hit performances in his last five games. However, he has yet to successfully steal a base and has only attempted one so far. Fantasy owners would love for him to swipe more bags, but if he continues hitting for decent power, it’s hard to complain. Fantasy Grade: B-

Melky Cabrera (OF): One of the most intriguing Pirates this season has been veteran Melky Cabrera. He was originally signed to a minor-league deal, but he’s become an important part of Pittsburgh’s lineup. The 34-year-old owns a .324 average and .823 OPS in 114 plate appearances. He’s more important to the actual Pirates than fantasy owners though, as he has just three long balls and 10 RBI besides the high average. Fantasy Grade: B-

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