James McDonald, Pirates (Owned in 2% of Yahoo leagues)
I took an in-depth look at McDonald a couple of weeks before the Dodgers shipped the lanky right-hander to the Bucs (along with OF prospect Andrew Lambo) in exchange for reliever Octavio Dotel. The article’s main point still stands:
At this point, he looks more like a league-average starter long-term, as opposed to a high-upside arm. McDonald’s curve and change allow him to miss an above-average number of bats, but his control is just so-so and his fly ball tendencies are somewhat worrisome.
However, McDonald’s career prospects brightened considerably following that deadline deal. In L.A., he was an out-of-favor option for the back of the rotation. In Pittsburgh, he’s arguably the most talented arm on the staff. The 25-year-old has impressed his new club so far, posting a 20/4 K/BB ratio and surrendering five runs in 17.2 innings pitched. He’s sitting 92-93 MPH with his fastball, mixing in a sharp 12-to-6 curve and a fading changeup.
Don’t get carried away — it’s just three starts, and his rest-of-season ZiPS projection (7.1 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 1.3 HR/9, 4.77 FIP) isn’t spectacular. But McDonald now has a clear shot at regular starts, and he’s young and gifted enough to garner interest in NL-only leagues.
Pedro Alvarez, Pirates (24%)
The second overall pick in the 2008 draft boasts excellent secondary skills, and he’s taking and raking so far in the majors. Alvarez is batting .255/.339/.453 in 218 plate appearances, walking 11.5% of the time and posting a .198 Isolated Power. That’s good for a .348 wOBA and a 118 wRC+. Pedro’s powerful cuts have come with plenty of whiffs, though — he’s just shy of Mark Reynolds territory with a 35.9% K rate and a 68% contact rate.
Still, as Reynolds, Adam Dunn and other hitters with Herculean pop prove, strikeouts don’t preclude a batter from being highly successful. This 23-year-old Vanderbilt product might not top the .250 range, but his patience and power make him worth a roster spot in mixed leagues.
A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.