Description: Pirates outfielder Starling Marte is not in the starting lineup for Tuesday's game against the Chicago Cubs. No injury that we know of, just a rest day.
Insight: Marte has been a solid option in fantasy baseball this season, hitting .305 with five homers, 17 RBI, 10 steals and 33 runs. Jose Tabata will get the start and it's no coincidence that he's 5-for-7 against tonight's starter Matt Garza.
Description: Pirates starter Jeff Karstens (shoulder) made his second rehab start on Saturday at Double-A Altoona and went four innings without yielding an earned run.
Insight: Karstens doesn't have a clearly defined role when he returns to the Pirates, likely in early June, so fantasy owners should wait until we see how he is used before thinking about picking him up.
Description: Pirates right-hander James McDonald (shoulder) will begin his rehab assignment on May 27, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Insight: McDonald is dealing with right shoulder inflammation. He'll throw bullpen sessions Friday and Tuesday and 65 pitches for Double-A Altoona on May 27 if he gets through the bullpen sessions without an issue. The right-hander has a terrific first half in 2012, but has a 6.95 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP over 90 2/3 innings since the 2012 All-Star break.
Description: Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen has been scratched from the lineup Sunday due to right knee soreness, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Insight: We should have an update on the severity of the injury later today. The outfielder is hitting .281 with six homers, 23 RBI, 31 runs and nine steals this season and is 7-for-14 over his last three games.
Description: Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen is 8-for-13 (.615) against Houston hurler Jordan Lyles.
Insight: McCutchen has struggled this week, but facing the Houston pitching staff should fix that problem. Historically, May is McCutchen's most productive month of the season (career .315 batting average, .930 OPS).
Description: Pittsburgh left-hander Wandy Rodriguez won his second straight start Wednesday night by holding Milwaukee to one run on six hits in seven innings.
Insight: Rodriguez is allowing line drives at a rate of 16.3 percent, the lowest of his career, but in turn he has given up a higher rate of flyballs and HR/FB. Homers don't count towards BABIP, so that explains why Rodriguez has a low BABIP of .233. He's not as much of a regression candidate as you would think, because as his BABIP goes up, you have to figure his 1.62 HR/9 will dip. His career HR/9 is 1.03.
Description: Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes is 1-for-17 versus Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo.
Insight: Barmes (.231) homered off Matt Harvey last Sunday, but other than that has done little to draw attention to his play this season. Fantasy owners still dream of the days when he was in Colorado and smacked 23 home runs in 2009, but that player is long gone.
Description: Pirates pitching prospect Gerrit Cole is 2-1 with a 2.23 ERA in 36 1/3 innings with Triple-A Indianapolis this season. However, he has a 26/19 K/BB.
Insight: Cole, the 2011 No. 1 overall pick, is not quite ready for the big leagues. If the Pirates thought he was ready, they would have called him up instead of allowing Jonathan Sanchez to get shelled over and over in April. However, he might be up later this year.
Description: Pirates catcher Russell Martin is in the starting lineup for Tuesday's game against Milwaukee.
Insight: Martin's return may have been accelerated by the Brewers swiping six bases off backup catcher Michael McKenry. Martin has been an offensive force this season as well, batting .263 with six homers, 11 RBI and an .884 OPS.
Description: Pirates right fielder Jose Tabata is 10-for-21 with a 1.262 OPS versus Milwaukee starter Kyle Lohse.
Insight: Tabata was heating up (7-for-11) before he sat on both Sunday and Monday only getting into the game as a pinch hitter. This matchup should convince the team to get him back in the starting lineup and if that happens he should be in fantasy lineups.
Description: Pirates second baseman Neil Wallker (finger) has been activated for Monday's game against Milwaukee, according to a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report.
Insight: Walker hasn't done much with the bat this season, hitting just .253 with one home run, eight RBI and a .693 OPS in 23 games. Frankly, we were hoping to get a longer look at Jordy Mercer (.258, 3 HR, 4 RBI, .894 OPS in nine games).
Description: Pirates second baseman Neil Wallker (finger) is expected to be activated in time for Monday's game against Milwaukee, according to a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report.
Insight: Walker hasn't done much with the bat this season, hitting just .253 with one home run, eight RBI and a .693 OPS in 23 games. Frankly, we were hoping to get a longer look at Jordy Mercer (.258, 3 HR, 4 RBI, .894 OPS in nine games).
Description: Pirates catcher Russell Martin is questionable for Monday's game against Milwaukee due to neck soreness, but was available to pinch hit on Sunday if needed.
Insight: Martin dealt with the injury earlier this week and had a flareup Friday. Michael McKenry will continue to handle the catching duties while Martin is sidelined and he's produced a solid .831 OPS over the 14 games he's played this season.
Description: Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes is hitless in nine at-bats versus Milwaukee starter Marco Estrada.
Insight: Barmes (.219) homered off Matt Harvey on Sunday. He has two for the season. Fantasy owners still dream of the days when he was in Colorado and smacked 23 home runs in 2009. Unfortunately, the Barmes that played in Houston and now in Pittsburgh has averaged just .235 with 10 home runs per season over the past two years.
Description: Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen is 7-for-19 (.368) with a pair of home runs against Milwaukee starter Marco Estrada.
Insight: Historically, May is McCutchen's most productive month of the season (career .322 batting average, .946 OPS) and he's started off well in May 2013 as well. This matchup should help those totals. Good or bad matchup, you aren't going to take McCutchen out of your lineup because he does so many things for your fantasy team.
Description: Pirates right fielder Jose Tabata went 4-for-5 Saturday in a victory over the Mets.
Insight: Tabata is heating up. Over his last five games, Tabata has gone 9-for-16 with three RBI. The combination of Tabata's hot streak and Travis Snider's 1-for-16 slump should earn Tabata more playing time in right field.
Description: Pirates infielder Jordy Mercer slammed two home runs Saturday in a win over the Mets.
Insight: Mercer (.286, 3 HR, 4 RBI) has been getting most of the reps at second base with Neil Walker out of the lineup. Walker is slated to return Monday versus Milwaukee so Mercer's days of fantasy relevance could be coming to an end shortly.
Description: Pirates lefty Jeff Locke threw another quality start Thursday against the Mets, going six innings and allowing three hits and one run with a 3/3 K/BB.
Insight: Locke has only allowed 11 hits and four earned runs over his last 24 innings and has a 2.95 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP on the year. However, he has a 4.99 K/9, a 4.31 BB/9 and a .214 BABIP. NL-only owners can give him a shot, but mixed leaguers should stay away. Locke's FIP is 4.85.
Description: Pirates right-hander Jeanmar Gomez will start Sunday's game at New York, manager Clint Hurdle said Wednesday.
Insight: Gomez threw five shutout innings on short notice Tuesday against the Mariners in place of injured starter James McDonald. He has started 40 games at the major league level but owns a career 4.91 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP. Fantasy owners can ignore him for now.
Description: Pirates right-hander James McDonald had an MRI on Wednesday morning that showed no structural damage, only inflammation, in his right shoulder, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Insight: McDonald was placed on the DL Tuesday with right shoulder discomfort. He hasn't been the same since going 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP before the All-Star break last season. He went 3-5 with a 7.52 ERA and a 1.79 WHIP after the break and is 2-2 with a 5.76 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP in 2013.
Description: The Pirates cut ties with lefthander Jonathan Sanchez on Wednesday.
Insight: Sanchez (0-3, 11.85 ERA in five appearances) was DFA'd last week and predictably, no one was interested. His career is in a downward spiral right now and we don't expect to see him on a big league roster again anytime soon.
Description: Pirates righthander A.J. Burnett struck out nine Mariners over seven two-hit innings Wednesday afternoon, but took a loss.
Insight: Burnett walked four and allowed a homer and two runs to lose a 2-1 decision to Felix Hernandez. The right-hander has been fantastic this season, striking out 66 batters and allowing just 34 hits in 49 innings. He hasn't struck out more than a batter per inning since 2008.
Description: Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen went 4-for-4 with a double, a run and a steal Tuesday against the Mariners.
Insight: McCutchen played a bit over his head with a .327 average last season, as he needed a .375 BABIP to accomplish that. He came into Tuesday's game with an identical line-drive percentage to last season but with a .258 BABIP and a .250 batting average. The good news is that he has trimmed his strikeout percentage from 19.6 percent to 12.6 percent and is hitting .276 after Tuesday's game.
Description: Pirates second baseman Neil Wallker (finger) is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment Thursday with Double-A Altoona, according to Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Insight: Pittsburgh placed Walker on the DL only a few days ago, but he hasn't played since suffering a right finger laceration on April 26. He's likely to rejoin the team at some point for its upcoming series at New York Thursday-Sunday.
Description: Pirates right-hander James McDonald has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder discomfort.
Insight: McDonald hasn't been the same since going 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP before the All-Star break last season. He went 3-5 with a 7.52 ERA and a 1.79 WHIP after the break and is 2-2 with a 5.76 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP in 2013. His absence could help Jeff Locke remain in the rotation when Francisco Liriano and Jeff Karstens rejoin the team.
Description: Pirates outfielder Starling Marte has homered in three of the last four games.
Insight: Marte has been one of the best players in fantasy baseball this season, hitting .328 with four homers, 14 RBI, 10 steals and 23 runs. With 30 strikeouts in 119 at-bats, the batting average will come down eventually, but his all-around production makes him extremely valuable.
Description: Pirates second baseman Neil Wallker (finger) has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 27.
Insight: The Pirates simply couldn't wait any longer for Walker to return to the lineup. Walker needed six stitches to patch up a right index finger laceration that he sustained when sliding into second base on April 26, and he didn't make enough progress this week.
Description: Pirates outfielder Travis Snider is dealing with tightness in his right side and is questionable for Sunday's game against St. Louis.
Insight: Snider, a former first-round draft pick, has had numerous chances to produce at the big league level but he's never been able to succeed. This season he's batting a solid .305 through the first 22 games, but without a home run and just five RBI. He does have seven doubles in 59 at-bats, but that's rarely a fantasy category.
Description: Pittsburgh southpaw Jonathan Sanchez is facing a six-game ban for beaning Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig Friday night in St. Louis. SOURCE: Michael Sanserino, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Insight: As Friday's disastrous outing demonstrated (he didn't record an out before his ejection), Sanchez (0-3, 12.71 ERA) is in free-fall mode right now. Keep him far, far away from your fantasy team.
Description: Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez is off to a slow start (.181), but he has been very successful in the past against Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook.
Insight: Alvarez is a career 11-for-19 with a pair of homers and a 1.600 OPS against the Cardinals right-hander. He has hit three home runs in the last seven games and raised his batting average 77 points over that span. He is a must start on Saturday in this highly-favorable matchup.
Description: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen is just a career .214 hitter (3-for-14) with a .500 OPS against Cardinals starter Lance Lynn.
Insight: McCutchen is batting just .235 this season, but is still a contributor to all fantasy categories and fantasy owners aren't going to sideline him for a bad matchup. He's scored 15 runs, hit a pair of homers, knocked in 12 runs and has a league-leading six stolen bases in the first 22 games.
Description: Pittsburgh first baseman Gaby Sanchez went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs Thursday afternoon against the Phillies.
Insight: Sanchez is 10-for-36 (.278) with three homers and 11 RBIs as part of a first-base platoon with Garrett Jones. Jones is hitting .298 with 11 RBIs and has taken just two at-bats against left-handed pitchers this season.
Description: Pirates lefty Francisco Lirinao (arm) is scheduled to throw 80 pitches Thursday, 90 pitches Tuesday and 100 pitches on May 5 for Triple-A Indianapolis, which puts him on track to join the major league rotation on May 10 against the Mets. SOURCE: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Insight: Liriano is coming back from a fracture to his non-pitching arm. His stuff is intriguing but he has traditionally been below average with men on base, posting a 69.8 percent strand rate in his career. That's not a good rate when you post a BB/9 north of 5.00 like he has in each of the last two seasons.
Description: Pittsburgh left-hander Wandy Rodriguez was masterful in his last outing, surrendering just one hit over seven innings.
Insight: His strikeout-to-walk ratio is off the charts right now (11-to-1) and he faces a Philadelphia Phillies team which is scuffling for runs. Rodriguez is owned in less than 65-percent of all Yahoo leagues and could be an excellent waiver claim.
Description: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen is just a career .100 hitter (1-for-10) versus Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay with four strikeouts.
Insight: McCutchen is batting just .243 this season, but is still a contributor to all fantasy categories and fantasy owners aren't going to sideline him for a bad matchup. He's scored 14 runs, hit a pair of homers, knocked in 12 runs and has stolen six bases in the first 20 games.
Description: Pittsburgh first baseman Gaby Sanchez has homered in each of his last two starts.
Insight: Sanchez made the NL All-Star team in 2011 but he hit just .202 with the Marlins last season before being dealt with Pittsburgh, where he batted .241 in 116 at-bats. He's hitting .258 with two homers, eight RBIs and a 7/6 K/BB in 31 at-bats.
Description: Pirates lefty Jeff Locke shut down the Phillies Tuesday in a 2-0 victory. He threw six innings, walked two, struck out six and allowed just two hits.
Insight: Locke is 2-1 with a 3.74 ERA, but he has a 1.43 WHIP. He's likely the second man out of the rotation after Jonathan Sanchez once injured starters Francisco Liriano and Jeff Karstens return over the next couple of weeks.
Description: Pirates right-hander James McDonald improved to 2-2 with a six-inning, two-hit effort Saturday against the Atlanta Braves. McDonald gave up one run, walked four and struck out nine.
Insight: McDonald was battered his last time out, giving up eight hits and eight runs in 1 2/3 inning, but just three of the runs were earned so his ERA didn't take a major hit. After Saturday, the righty has a 4.12 ERA, but his high walk total (12 in 19 2/3 innings) is a concern.
Description: Slumping Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes is due for a big fantasy day and it could come in his matchup against Braves starter Paul Masholm. He's a career .441 hitter with a pair of homers and a 1.265 OPS in their matchup.
Insight: Barmes (.100 batting average in 14 games) is hitless in his last three games, but this matchup might get him going.
Description: Pittsburgh lefty Wandy Rodriguez was dominant Friday against the Braves.
Insight: He surrendered just one hit over seven shutout innings. Rodriguez has given up just five hits and one earned run in his first three starts. His strikeout to walk ratio is off the charts right now (11 to 1).
Description: Pirates manager Clint Hurdle indicated that left-hander Francisco Liriano (arm) could need three more rehab starts, which would put him in line to return to the big leagues in the first week of May. SOURCE: Bill Brink, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Insight: Liriano is coming back from a fracture to his non-pitching arm. He had both an ERA and a BB/9 north of 5.00 in each of the past two seasons. He has traditionally been below average with men on base, posting a 69.8 percent strand rate in his career, but there's no denying his stuff is intriguing.
Description: Pirates starter A.J. Burnett fired seven innings of one-hit ball Wednesday in a 5-0 win over St. Louis.
Insight: Burnett had a no-hitter through 6 2/3 innings before giving up a double to Carlos Beltran. He struck out eight and didn't walk a batter to win his first game of the year. Burnett has a 35/8 K/BB in 24 innings this season.
Description: Pirates lefty Wandy Rodriguez (left hamstring strain) will need to get through a bullpen session Wednesday before he's cleared to start Friday against Atlanta. SOURCE: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Insight: Rodriguez hasn't pitched since suffering a left hamstring strain on April 8.
Description: Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez is off to as bad a start as you can imagine, with just three hits in 41 at-bats (.073), but he has been very successful in the past against Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook.
Insight: Alvarez is a career 11-for-19 with a pair of homers and a 1.600 OPS against the Cardinals right-hander. It's a lukewarm recommendation considering how out of sync he's swinging, but if you need a one-day option at the hot corner he could be your guy.
Description: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen is just a career .182 hitter (2-for-11) versus Cardinals starter Lance Lynn.
Insight: McCutchen is batting just .262 this season, but contributing to all fantasy categories and fantasy owners aren't going to sideline him for a bad matchup. He's scored nine runs, hit a pair of homers, knocked in 10 runs and has stolen five bases.
Description: Pittsburgh first baseman/occasional outfielder Garrett Jones has been knocking the cover off the ball recently (7-for-13 in his last four games). Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, that trend is unlikely to continue Sunday against Reds ace Mat Latos.
Insight: Making contact against Latos has never been Jones' forte. In 15 at bats versus Latos, Jones has struck out seven times with just two hits. Both hits were singles. It looks like Jones will have to wait for the Reds to get into their bullpen if he wants to do any damage on Sunday.
Description: Pittsburgh minor league pitching prospect Andy Oliver is gotten out of the gate quickly. In two starts he's pitched 11 innings, yielding just five hits and zero runs while striking out 11 batters and walking six.
Insight: Oliver has alwasy been close to a strikeout-an-inning guy, but has done little else to impress the big club or fantasy owners with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.618 WHIP in 2012. If he gets his wildness under control he could be a viable fantasy starter some day.
Description: Pirates left-hander Jonathan Sanchez was rocked for nine runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings Wednesday afternoon against the Diamondbacks. He walked four and gave up two homers.
Insight: Sanchez was the worst pitcher in baseball last season with the Royals and Rockies. He gave up 82 hits, 11 homers and 58 earned runs and walked 53 batters in 64 2/3 innings. He shouldn't get near any fantasy rosters this season.
Description: Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez should not be started against Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw. In four at-bats, Alvarez has yet to put the ball in play, striking out all four times.
Insight: Alvarez is hitless in his last two games and batting .133 so far this season. He hit only .244 last season but his 30 homers and 85 RBI - both career-highs. He's a viable third baseman for fantasy owners, just not against Kershaw.
Description: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen is just a career .200 hitter (3-for-15) versus Dodgers starter Zack Greinke.
Insight: McCutchen went 3-for-10 with two doubles and two RBIs in the first series of the season. Most impressively, he's already stolen four bases to lead the league. Fantasy owners should start McCutchen despite the unfavorable matchup because he can contribute in so many ways.
Description: Pirates righty James McDonald lost his first start of the season despite holding the Cubs to one run on two hits and two walks in seven innings.
Insight: We know what McDonald can do when he's on point -- he went 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 110 innings before the All-Star break. But he unraveled quickly, posting a 7.52 ERA and 1.79 WHIP in 61 innings after the break.
Description: Wandy Rodriguez's season debut was a success. In 6 2/3 innings Wednesday against Chicago, Rodriguez allowed just two hits on 103 pitches.
Insight: Wandy struck out six in the shutout win. He's finished with an ERA under four in each of his last five seasons. Why not make it five in a row? If Rodriguez continues to pitch the way he did Wednesday, he should be well on his way.
Description: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is reporting that 2013 could be A.J. Burnett's last season.
Insight: 2013 will be Burnett's 15th season in the major leagues. His career highlights include winning the World Series in 2003 and pitching a no-hitter against the Padres in 2001. He led the Bucs with 16 victories and a 3.51 ERA a season ago.
Description: Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano (arm) thinks he'll be ready to join the Pirates' rotation in less than one month, but GM Neal Huntington wasn't sure about that. "We need to get him through spring training," Huntington said. SOURCE: Michael Sanserino, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Insight: Liriano had both an ERA and a BB/9 north of 5.00 in each of the past two seasons. He has traditionally been below average with men on base, posting a 69.8 percent strand rate in his career.
Description: Pirates starter Jeff Karstens has been scratched from Sunday's start with lingering shoulder discomfort, according to Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Insight: Karstens has been dealing with soreness in his right shoulder since Feb. 19. He's likely to begin the season on the disabled list with Francisco Liriano, meaning two pitchers from the group of Jeff Locke, Jonathan Sanchez, Kyle McPherson and Jeanmar Gomez will make the rotation.
Description: Pirates starter Jeff Karstens (biceps tightness) remains on track to avoid the disabled list. He threw 35 pitches Wednesday -- 20 in a minor league game and 15 in the bullpen afterwards. SOURCE: Bill Brink, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Insight: Except for the first half of 2011 when he went 7-4 with a 2.55 ERA and 1.074 WHIP, Karstens has not proven that he can be a viable fantasy starter. Nothing points to that changing in 2013. He's barely a .500 pitcher with a solid ERA over the past two seasons, but doesn't help your strikeout total and has never had more than nine wins in a season.
Description: David Waldstein from the New York Times says the Yankees are trying to lure former Cubs and Marlins first baseman Derrek Lee out of retirement.
Insight: They're also knocking on Chipper Jones' door. Lee last played for the Pirates in 2011, hitting .337 in 28 games (he hit just .246 in 85 appearances with the Orioles earlier in the season). Even New York GM Brian Cashman admitted that signing Lee would be a long shot but you can't blame him for trying. Desperate times call for desperate measures. If the Yankees can't work out a deal for Lee, Juan Rivera would likely open the season at first base with Kevin Youkilis occupying the hot corner.
Description: Pirates first baseman Garrett Jones was scratched from Thursday's contest with a minor left oblique strain. Jones will "take it light" the next few days, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Insight: If the injury really is minor like the Pirates are saying, Jones should be ready well before the season opener. Jones is coming off a career year in which he hit 27 homers with 86 RBIs and an .832 OPS. He had a .274 average after hitting in the .240s the previous two years. Fantasy owners who draft him should realize that he often sits against lefties since he has a career .198 average and .590 OPS against them.
Description: Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin will miss a few days with right shoulder soreness.
Insight: Moving to Pittsburgh's lineup from the Yankees hurts Martin's middle-of-the-road fantasy value. The catcher is a low-average hitter but has averaged 19.5 HR over the past two seasons. With the plethora of quality catchers in the big leagues these days, Martin likely isn't worthy of a starting spot in any fantasy lineups.
Description: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen is looking to steal more bases. He has been watching players who have success stealing bases in hopes of improving in 2013. SOURCE: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Insight: "If you want to hit better, you watch all the great hitters," McCutchen said. "So for stealing bases, you watch guys that have a lot of success stealing bases." McCutchen stole 33 bases on 43 attempts in 2010 but he slipped to 20 last season while having a career year -- .327, 31 homers, 96 RBIs, 107 runs, .953 OPS -- at the plate.
Description: A.J. Burnett has never made an Opening Day start before. That will change April 1st when the Pirates open the season at home against the Cubs.
Insight: Burnett lost his mojo in the Bronx but he got it back in Pittsburgh last season, finishing the year with 16 wins and a 3.51 ERA in 31 starts. The 36-year-old should put up similar numbers in 2013 as long as he avoids injury.
Description: Right-hander Jeff Karstens is dealing with a sore right biceps and will take time off from his throwing schedule.
Insight: Except for the first half of 2011 when he went 7-4 with a 2.55 ERA and 1.074 WHIP, Karstens has not proven that he can be a viable fantasy starter. Nothing points to that changing in 2013. He's barely a .500 pitcher with a solid ERA over the past two seasons, but doesn't help your strikeout total and has never had more than nine wins in a season.
Description: Lefthander Francisco Liriano and the Pirates finalized a new two-year contract on Monday. The deal had been on hold after Liriano injured his arm in December.
Insight: It's tough to recommend a pitcher coming off a 6-12 season with a 5.34 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP heading to a Pirates team that averaged just 4.01 runs per game. Fantasy owners should probably avoid Liriano on draft day and adopt a wait-and-see attitude.
Description: Right-hander Jeff Karstens will be back with the Pirates next season pending a physical. Karstens and Pittsburgh agreed to a one-year deal on Monday.
Insight: Karstens only made 15 starts last season and finished the year as a reliever. The right-hander has posted an ERA lower than 4.00 in each of the past two seasons with a strong WHIP but isn't guaranteed a rotation spot in 2013.
Description: Lefty Francisco Liriano's two-year, $14 million agreement with the Pittsburgh Pirates still hasn't been completed after the pitcher injured his right arm in December. SOURCE: Rob Biertempfel, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Insight: The Pirates will continue to talk to Liriano's agent but no deal is imminent at this time. The exact nature of his right arm injury has not been revealed.
Description: Pirates reliever Jason Grilli has been promoted to the closer's position now that Joel Hanrahan has been traded to Boston.
Insight: Grilli has been a strikeout machine, producing 127 whiffs over 91 1/3 innings since the start of the 2011 season. The Pirates were much improved this past season, so Grilli should have plenty of opportunities to close out games. He's no Mariano Rivera but Grilli will definitely be worth at least a late-round look in most fantasy leagues.
Description: Reliever Mark Melancon has been dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Insight: He came over as part of the Joel Hanrahan trade. Melancon (0-2, 6.20 ERA last season) will have to settle for setting up Jason Grilli in 2013. Don't expect him to have any fantasy value unless Grilli (1-6, 2.91) gets injured.
Description: The Pirates acquired outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sands from the Red Sox Wednesday as part of a six-player swap.
Insight: Sands dominated Triple-A last season with 26 HR and 107 RBI in 119 games. The Pirates aren't particularly strong in right field (Toronto castoff Travis Snider stands to see the most time there) so it's possible Sands could crack the team's big league roster if he has a good spring training.
Description: Jason Grilli is expected to assume Pittsburgh's closer role once the Joel Hanrahan-to-Boston trade becomes official. SOURCE: Jon Heyman, CBSSports.com
Insight: Grilli fanned 90 batters and had a 2.91 ERA in 58 2/3 innings last season. The 36-year-old Seton Hall product re-signed with the Pirates earlier this month for just $6.75 million over two years, with no bonuses for games finished. That's a major bargain for the Pirates considering how much money some middle relievers have fetched this offseason.
Description: According to Gordon Edes from ESPN Boston, the Red Sox are nearing a deal for Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan.
Insight: Edes didn't say who the Red Sox would be giving up, though it was reported earlier that Pittsburgh had been interested in shortstop Jose Iglesias. Obviously, Andrew Bailey's fantasy value will take a huge hit when and if this deal becomes official.
Description: Boston and Los Angeles have both been mentioned by CBS' Jon Heyman as potential destinations for Pittsburgh closer Joel Hanrahan.
Insight: The Pirates are comfortable using Jason Grilli in the ninth inning and would rather deal Hanrahan now instead of letting him leave as a free agent after next season. The Red Sox and Dodgers already have closers (Andrew Bailey for Boston and Brandon League for L.A.) so there's no guarantee Hanrahan would have fantasy value on either team.
Description: The Pirates are looking to trade closer Joel Hanrahan according to ESPN's Buster Olney.
Insight: The small-market Pirates probably won't be able to hold onto Hanrahan when he hits free agency after the 2013 season so now might be the perfect time to trade him. Juan Cruz, Jared Hughes and Jason Grilli will be expected to compete for the closer's role if Hanrahan ends up getting dealt this winter.
Description: Pittsburgh has agreed to a deal with catcher Russell Martin, pending a physical. SOURCE: Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports
Insight: The Yankees did not want to give Martin more than a one-year deal while the Pirates were willing to go to two. Moving to Pittsburgh's lineup hurts Martin's already middling fantasy value. The catcher is a low-average hitter who can bop 20 homers but contributes with his defense more than anything else.
Description: The Pirates have picked up third baseman Pedro Alvarez's option for next season.
Insight: This one was a no-brainer for Pittsburgh. Alvarez hit only .244 last season but his 30 homers and 85 RBI were both career-highs. If Alvarez can eliminate some of his strikeouts and hit for a higher average, he could quickly become one of fantasy's elite players.
Description: Pirates second baseman Neil Wallker (back) has been shut down for the season after being diagnosed with a herniated disc in his back.
Insight: Walker has only played in eight games since Aug. 26 due to the nagging back injury. He'll finish with a .280 average, 14 homers and 69 RBIs and is expected to be ready for spring training next year.
Description: Pirates infielder Josh Harrison should be in for a big fantasy day Thursday against the Mets. Harrison is a .600 hitter in 10 career at bats versus New York starter R.A. Dickey.
Insight: The knuckle ball hasn't seemed to phase Harrison, who has been playing a lot of second base lately due to Neil Walker's back injury. Harrison doesn't have a ton of upside usually but today seems like a safe day to start the 25-year-old.
Description: Don't count on Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen to be of much help Thursday versus New York. He's hitting a disappointing .182 in his career against Mets starter R.A. Dickey.
Insight: Getting to 20 wins could be Dickey's best chance at winning the NL Cy Young award. Expect him to be gunning for the struggling Pirates on Thursday. McCutchen (.334, 30 HR, 93 RBI) should be in for a less than stellar fantasy day.
Description: Pirates starter A.J. Burnett won for the first time since Aug. 16 by giving up one run on four hits, striking out 11 and walking one Sunday against the Astros.
Insight: Burnett was once a threat to win 20 games this season -- he was 15-4 after his start on Aug. 16 -- but the Pirates went into a tailspin and Burnett didn't sniff the win column for more than a month.
Description: Make sure Pirates outfielder Garrett Jones is in your lineup Sunday despite his recent cold streak. Jones will face Astros starter Jordan Lyles Sunday, a matchup he has enjoyed in the past.
Insight: Jones is batting .236 with a .678 OPS in September but he is 5-for-10 with two homers and seven RBIs against Lyles so Sunday would be a good day to get him back in your fantasy lineup.
Description: Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen has an excellent matchup to look forward to Sunday against Astros starter Jordan Lyles. McCutchen is 7-for-11 with three doubles and four RBIs against the Houston right-hander.
Insight: McCutchen reached 30 homers for the first time in his career on Sept. 20. He's never gone deep against Lyles but a .636 career average against the Astros starter suggests we expect a huge day from McCutchen Sunday.
Description: Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen went deep for the sixth time this month Thursday against Milwaukee to reach 30 homers for the first time in his career.
Insight: McCutchen has increased his homer total in each of the last three seasons after posting 12 in his rookie year. The outfielder hit just .252 with two homers in August but he's responded with a .299 average and six round-trippers in September.
Description: Pittsburgh second baseman Neil Walker won't be available for Wednesday night's game against Milwaukee because of a sore back.
Insight: Walker (.278, 14 HR, 69 RBI) just came off the DL a few days ago after battling a back injury in August so it looks like he never fully healed. Bobby Holt (.321, 0 HR, 3 RBI) is leading off and getting the start at second base tonight versus the Brewers.
Description: Despite a quality start, Pirates starter A.J. Burnett lost his fourth straight decision Tuesday against the Brewers. Burnett (15-8, 3.64 ERA) hasn't won since he improved to 15-4 on Aug. 16.
Insight: Burnett has three quality starts in his last six turns but he has nothing to show for it. It's good to see Burnett's season hasn't completely gone into the tank like Pittsburgh's has, but he's still nowhere close to the valuable fantasy starter he was earlier in the season.
Description: Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez is hitless in 10 at-bats versus Milwaukee right-hander Yovani Gallardo with six strikeouts.
Insight: Alvarez is now one round-tripper away from recording his first 30-homer season. He still strikes out far too often (160 K's in 467 at bats) and his batting average is too low (.242) but it's clear Alvarez is improving. Tuesday, however is likely to add to his strikeout total, not his home run total.
Description: Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez went for 2-for-5 with a pair of homers Sunday versus Chicago.
Insight: Alvarez struggled with a wrist injury earlier in the week but you couldn't tell with the way he was swinging the lumber on Sunday. Alvarez is now one round-tripper away from recording his first 30-homer season. He still strikes out far too often (157 K's in 463 at bats) and his batting average is too low (.244) but it's clear Alvarez is improving. He could very well become a top fantasy third baseman in the future.
Description: Pirates righty James McDonald's 7.08 second-half ERA was enough for the Pirates to finally remove him from the rotation. McDonald will be replaced by Kyle McPherson, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Insight: McDonald was 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in the first half but he's been a disaster since the All-Star break.
Description: Wandy Rodriguez is 4-4 with a 3.36 ERA and a 1.27 ERA since joining the Pirates.
Insight: In other words, exactly what you paid for. Rodriguez (11-13, 3.65 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) has posted an ERA in the threes and a WHIP between 1.20 and 1.31 in each of the last four seasons and he's headed there again.
Description: Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen went 20 games without a homer but he has four in his last six games.
Insight: McCutchen was due for a slump after batting .360 in May, .370 in June and an absurd .446 in July, but a .252 August has him primed for a big finish to the season. In September, McCutchen is hitting .306 with four homers and eight RBIs in 13 games.
Description: The Pirates are expecting second baseman Neil Walker to return to the starting lineup Saturday in Chicago.
Insight: Walker (.280, 14 HR, 69 RBI) hasn't started since August 26th because of a back injury. He made a pinch-hitting appearance Friday against the Cubs. Walker's presence will likely mean less playing time for Josh Harrison (.232, 3 HR, 14 RBI).
Description: Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez is not in the lineup Wednesday due to right wrist discomfort.
Insight: Alvarez was scratched from the lineup, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The move shouldn't hurt fantasy owners much since Alvarez is batting .143 with one homer in 42 at-bats this month.
Description: Pirates starter Jeff Karstens was removed from his start Friday versus the Brewers after experiencing discomfort in his right hip flexor.
Insight: Karstens (5-3, 3.89 ERA) looked terrible tonight, allowing five hits and four runs in just a third of an inning. It's clear Karstens is hurting right now as he had to leave his last outing on Saturday with similar symptoms. Another trip to the DL could be in order for the 29-year-old.
Description: Pittsburgh second baseman Neil Walker will miss his fourth game in a row on Friday. He's still battling a sore lower back.
Insight: Walker (.280, 14 HR, 69 RBI) has not partcipated in any baseball activities since his injury so it wouldn't be too big of a shocker if he winds up on the DL. Josh Harrison (.245, 3 HR, 14 RBI) will see another start at second and might be worth a look in deeper formats.
Description: Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen will get the night off Friday against Milwaukee.
Insight: McCutchen has cooled off this month (.252 average in 107 August at bats) but he should still warrant plenty of MVP consideration based on his outstanding first half (.362, 18 HR, 60 RBI). He could be available to pinch hit tonight for the Pirates.
Description: Second baseman Neil Walker is out of the Pirates lineup again Tuesday due to lower back tightness, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Insight: After hitting .358 in July and going 12-for-37 (.324) to start this month, Walker has been plagued by injuries, including a dislocated thumb and a tight back. The second baseman is just 4-for-35 (.114) since going 5-for-5 on Aug. 12.
Description: Second baseman Neil Walker won't be a part of Pittsburgh's starting lineup Monday night against the Cardinals.
Insight: This has been Walker's worst month of the season. He's hitting just .222 since the start of August. Josh Harrison (.236, 3 HR, 12 RBI) will start at second tonight for the third-place Pirates.
Description: Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata is questionable for Monday's game against St. Louis with a sore left groin, but if he plays, he's had plenty of success against Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse. He's 9-for-18 in his career against Lohse with three extra base hits and a 1.360 OPS.
Insight: Tabata has more talent than production. He's batting just .236 with three homers, 12 RBI and eight stolen bases. He was a pleasant surprise in 2010, but barring a turnaround, this will be his second straight disappointing season. Monday, however, could be the exception if he plays.
Description: Pittsburgh righthander Jeff Karstens exited Saturday night's game against Milwaukee in the eighth inning because of a groin injury.
Insight: Karstens was dominant in this outing (7 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 4 K's) and probably could have gone all nine innings if his groin hadn't acted up (his pitch count was only at 84 at the time of his departure). The Pirates haven't released any further details about the injury so we'll have to wait and see if this is something that will affect Karstens long term.
Description: Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (finger) is back in the starting lineup Monday against San Diego.
Insight: Walker hasn't started since Aug. 15 due to a dislocated finger, but he appeared as a pinch-hitter during Pittsburgh's 19-inning marathon victory over St. Louis Sunday. We'll have to monitor Walker's progress at the plate to determine if the injury will hinder him.
Description: Third baseman Pedro Alvarez was just 1-for-6 at the plate on Sunday but his solo home run off of Barret Browning ended up being the difference in the game as Pittsburgh captured a dramatic 6-3 win over St. Louis in 19 innings.
Insight: Alvarez also walked twice on Sunday. After going 20 games without a home run, Alvarez (.235, 23 HR, 62 RBI) has now left the yard twice in his last four games.
Description: Pirates outfielder Starling Marte (oblique) has been placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Insight: Marte strained his right oblique Saturday and had to leave the game. The outfielder has been a nice free agent addition for fantasy owners so far, hitting four homers and stealing four bases in 23 games.
Description: Pirates outfielder Starling Marte left Saturday's game due to right side discomfort, according to Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Insight: Marte has started off his major league career 24-for-95 (.253) with four homers, 10 RBIs and four steals, but he has walked just three times against 24 strikeouts. We'll have more information once the team evaluates him.
Description: Pirates starter James McDonald might have saved his spot in the rotation with his performance Friday against St. Louis. McDonald held the Cardinals scoreless on two hits in six innings with seven strikeouts and three walks.
Insight: McDonald looked like an ace in the first half when he went 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 17 starts but he started off the second half with a nauseating 8.76 ERA in six starts and was in danger of being moved to the bullpen. McDonald isn't all the way back yet, but this was a step in the right direction.
Description: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen might not be worthy of a start Thursday against Los Angeles righthander Joe Blanton. The All-Star center fielder is hitting a mere .154 versus Blanton in 13 career at bats.
Insight: We understand if you're unwilling to sit McCutchen (.358, 24 HR, 72 RBI) Thursday given the excellent year he's been having but if you have a solid outfielder you can insert in his place, don't be afraid to use him.
Description: Pirates starter James McDonald may find himself pitching in a relief role when the team moves to a five-man rotation next week. As good as McDonald was in the first half, he has been equally as bad if not worse in the second half.
Insight: McDonald looked like an ace in the first half when he went 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 17 starts, but he has already allowed more earned runs (30) in 31 second half innings than he did in 110 prior to the break. McDonald is a talented young pitcher so he may be able to turn it around and it's unlikely anyone you can grab from the free agent pool has as high of a ceiling, but he'll have no value if he is moved to middle relief.
Description: Pirates second baseman Neil Walker's impressive stretch continued Sunday with a 5-for-5 game.
Insight: Walker went 0-for-8 in his previous two games but he more than made up for that Sunday. The second baseman hit his 14th homer of the season and improved his average to .294. He is batting .348 with 10 homers, 12 RBIs and 27 runs scored since July 1.
Description: Pirates second baseman Neil Walker has recorded two five-RBI games in his last seven contests, with the latest coming Wednesday against Arizona.
Insight: Walker has been a force since the beginning of July, batting .348 with nine homers and 31 RBIs in his last 32 games. At a shallow position, he could make a difference down the stretch. Walker has provided production on par with Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips at a much cheaper price -- Walker has a .292 average, 13 homers, 65 RBIs, 57 runs and seven steals and Phillips has a .290 average, 13 homers, 63 RBIs, 59 runs and eight stolen bases.
Description: Pittsburgh left-hander Erik Bedard has been a completely different pitcher at home than on the road. His latest outing dropped his home ERA to 2.38 in 10 starts.
Insight: Bedard fired seven scoreless innings and held Arizona to just two hits to improve to 6-12 with a 4.53 ERA and 1.40 WHIP on the season. The left-hander has been terrible away from PNC Park, going 3-8 with a 6.75 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in 11 starts and should only be used at home.
Description: Pirates righthander captured a share of the major league lead with his 14th win of the season Sunday against the Reds. He lasted eight and two thirds innings, giving up two runs on three hits. He fanned seven while walking three.
Insight: Burnett (14-3, 3.19 ERA) is really on a roll right now. He's won each of his last four starts with a 1.38 ERA in that span. Start him with confidence going forward.
Description: Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen left the yard for his 23rd home run of the season Sunday in a 6-2 win over Cincinnati. The 23 blasts matches a career high for the star outfielder.
Insight: McCutchen (.368, 23 HR, 67 RBI) has continued to keep his batting average close to .370 in the second half but in recent weeks his power has been absent. The home run Sunday was actually McCutchen's first since July 17, a span of 16 games without a homer.
Description: Despite batting .340 (18-for-53) in his last 16 games, Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen has just one RBI in that span.
Insight: If this is what's considered a slump for McCutchen in 2012 fantasy owners will gladly take it, as he's still hitting for a high average. The outfielder is 8-for-22 with two doubles and a triple against Homer Bailey, but coincidentally has zero RBIs against the Reds righty. Look for McCutchen to get on the RBI board for August and against Bailey Sunday.
Description: Pirates starter James McDonald tossed his best start of the second half Saturday against the Reds, and though his final line doesn't look that dominant he was significantly better than he has been in any other post-break start.
Insight: McDonald allowed four runs but one of those was unearned, and of the seven hits he scattered three were of the infield variety. Most importantly, McDonald walked just one batter in six innings after issuing 19 free passes in his previous 20 2/3 innings.
Description: Pirates second baseman Neil Walker is not listed in the starting nine for Wednesday's game versus the Cubs.
Insight: Walker (.291, 11 HRs, 55 RBIs) had a huge night Tuesday (five RBIs) and he finished the month of July with seven homers, 21 RBIs and a .358 batting average. Those are his highest totals for any month this season.
Description: Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen closed out a torrid July with three hits in five at-bats.
Insight: McCutchen hit .451 with seven homers and 15 RBIs in 25 July games after batting .370 with seven bombs and 26 RBIs in June and .360 with eight homers and 18 RBIs in May. Curiously, he failed to steal a base in three attempts this month, but you won't find many fantasy owners complaining about that.
Description: Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett fired his best start of what has been an outstanding bounce-back season Tuesday against the Cubs, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning and finishing with a one-hit complete game shutout.
Insight: Burnett (13-3, 3.27 ERA) should have earned your trust by now. He's a legitimate SP2 in mixed leagues.
Description: The Blue Jays traded outfielder Travis Snider to the Pirates Monday for pitcher Brad Lincoln.
Insight: Snider, a former first-round draft pick, has had myriad chances to produce at the big league level but he's never been able to sustain success. Perhaps a change of scenery will help him realize his potential, but he can be avoided outside of NL-only leagues.
Description: Pirates catcher Rod Barajas is not in the lineup Monday versus Chicago.
Insight: Barajas had been in an 0-for-19 slide before singling in the top of the eighth Sunday against Houston. He'll ride the bench while Michael McKenry (.268, 9 HRs, 22 RBIs) makes his 37th start of the year behind the plate for Pittsburgh.
Description: Pirates starter James McDonald walked seven batters and allowed five runs on six hits in five innings Sunday against Houston in his latest post-break failure.
Insight: McDonald has been plagued by an extreme lack of control in four second half starts as his ERA has gone from 2.37 to 3.38 in that span. In 20 2/3 innings since the All-Star break, McDonald has walked 19 batters while allowing 28 hits and 20 earned runs. The right-hander was one of the top aces in fantasy baseball in the first half, but he shouldn't be started until he improves his command. Still, this is likely just a rough patch that McDonald can work through by improving his mechanics rather than a loss of ability or injury.
Description: Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen will receive his fifth off day of the season on Sunday.
Insight: The National League's batting average leader is 3-for-7 in the series with a couple of doubles. Don't be surprised if McCutchen (.369, 22 HRs, 66 RBIs) comes in as a pinch-hitter later on in the game.
Description: Wandy Rodriguez allowed six hits and three runs over six innings of work Saturday in his first start as a member of the Pirates.
Insight: Rodriguez (7-9, 3.82 ERA) didn't look all that sharp Saturday (five walks) but luckily he was pitching against a punchless Astros lineup that couldn't take advantage of his mistakes. Rodriguez will take the mound again Friday in Cincinnati.
Description: The Orioles have designated lefthander Dana Eveland for assignment.
Insight: This is the second time this month that Baltimore has designated Eveland (0-1, 4.73 ERA in 14 appearances). Clearly, the 28-year-old won't be making an impact on the fantasy scene any time soon.
Description: Newly acquired lefthander Wandy Rodriguez will make his Pirates debut Saturday night against his former team, the Houston Astros.
Insight: Erik Bedard (5-11, 4.32 ERA) was supposed to start on Saturday but now it looks like he'll be moved back to Sunday. Kevin Correia (8-6, 4.24) has been moved to the bullpen to make room for Rodriguez (7-9, 3.79).
Description: It didn't take long for stud prospect Starling Marte to hit his first major league home run. It actually took only one pitch.
Insight: Marte took the first pitch of the game and hammered it over the left field wall to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead. It's a pretty impressive way to open a big league career and if Marte can continue to showcase that kind of power from the top of the order with MVP hopeful Andrew McCutchen holding things down in the middle of the lineup, Pittsburgh will be pretty tough to beat.
Description: Pittsburgh righthander Kevin Correia has lost his place in the Pirates' starting rotation.
Insight: Correia (8-6, 4.24 ERA) appears to be the odd man out now that Pittsburgh has traded for Wandy Rodriguez (7-9, 3.79). He'll work mostly as a long reliever for now but if one of Pittsburgh's starters gets hurt, Correia would likely return to the rotation.
Description: 23-year-old Pirates outfielder Starling Marte will bat first and play left field Thursday night in his first taste of major league action.
Insight: Marte exhibited a nice combination of speed (21 steals) and power (12 HRs) during his 99-game stint in Triple-A and he should display a similar skillset up in the majors. Marte might not be a stud right away but he's worth holding onto in keeper leagues.
Description: Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez is just 2-for-9 against Cubs starter Ryan Dempster with four strikeouts.
Insight: Alvarez has finally started to produce the long ball that many experts were expecting when he first arrived in the majors in 2010 with 21 HR and 58 RBI. Sit him on Wednesday in this unfavorable matchup.
Description: Pirates starter James McDonald has allowed 15 earned runs on 22 hits in 15 2/3 innings over his first three starts of the second half. McDonald (10-4, 3.15) has also walked 12 in that span, including three in six innings Tuesday against the Cubs.
Insight: McDonald looked better Tuesday than he did in his previous two starts but he issued an egregrious two-out free pass to pitcher Paul Maholm to load the bases in the fifth inning before allowing a two-run double to David DeJesus. He then served up a two-run homer to Alfonso Soriano in the sixth. Though McDonald doesn't have a long history of success to fall back on, his first half was so good that fantasy owners shouldn't worry yet.
Description: According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the Astros have traded left-hander Wandy Rodriguez to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Insight: The Astros are trying to stock up prospects and the Pirates are in the hunt for the NL Central this season. This is the best possible move for the lefty's fantasy value, as he'll stay in the division, join a better ballclub and move to the third best pitcher's park in baseball (per MLB Park Factor).
Description: Pittsburgh lefthander Erik Bedard pitched brilliantly despite picking up his 11th loss of the season Monday night against the Cubs. In seven innings of work, Bedard surrendered just one run on two hits. He walked two while tying a season-high with 11 strikeouts.
Insight: After hitting a rough patch in June and early July (1-5, 7.34 ERA in seven starts), Bedard (5-11, 4.32) has fared much better in his past two outings, going 1-1 with a 0.66 ERA.
Description: Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez hit his fifth homer of the second half and 21st of the season Sunday against the Marlins.
Insight: Alvarez has persevered through some long slumps to post excellent power numbers this season. His 102/29 K/BB ratio and .232 batting average are atrocious but his 21 homers and 58 RBIs are useful in any format.
Description: Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen has a stunning .647 OBP against Miami starter Carlos Zambrano. He's 5-for-11 with six walks in 17 plate appearances against "Big Z."
Insight: McCutchen is having an MVP-type season, leading the NL in runs (65), batting average (.372), slugging percentage (.649), OPS (1.075) and total bases (.218). Throw in 14 steals and he's a fantasy superstar. He's a must-start on Saturday in the favorable matchup.
Description: Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez pounded his 19th home run of the season Wednesday in a 9-6 win over the Rockies.
Insight: The hit was part of a 2-4 performance. The home run was Alvarez's fourth of the month. If Alvarez (.227, 19 HRs, 55 RBIs) keeps slugging at his current pace, he'll finish the year with 34 HRs and 98 RBIs. That's the most by a Pittsburgh hitter since Jason Bay knocked 35 balls out of the park back in 2006.
Description: Andrew McCutchen had a quiet game Wednesday (0-4) but the Pirates were still able to win thanks to a three-hit performance by Garrett Jones.
Insight: Jones (.273) erupted for his 13th long ball of the season on Wednesday and now he is up to 40 RBIs on the season. He's batting .311 with eight homers and 25 RBIs since June 1 after hitting just .232 with five homers and 15 RBIs in his first two months of the season.
Description: Pittsburgh outfielder Garrett Jones will not start Tuesday night's game against the Rockies.
Insight: Jones (.267, 12 HRs, 37 RBIs) usually protects Andrew McCutchen by hitting in the cleanup spot but tonight that responsibility will be bestowed upon first baseman Casey McGehee (.250, 7 HRs, 31 RBIs).
Description: Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett lost his first start since May 2 Sunday against Milwaukee. Burnett allowed four runs in seven innings to drop to 10-3.
Insight: Burnett (10-3, 3.78 ERA) won nine straight decisions in between losses. The right-hander has been a major surprise this season, his first with Pittsburgh, but he still presents a major risk so see if you can shop him for a more stable arm.
Description: Pittsburgh only managed to score one run on four hits while striking out 14 times Sunday against Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo, but that didn't prevent outfielder Andrew McCutchen from contributing three hits, including a solo homer, in four at-bats.
Insight: This game was a microcosm of Pittsburgh's season. The other hitters in the Pirates lineup managed to go 2-for-28 with 17 strikeouts against Brewers pitching Sunday, while McCutchen provided his usual phenomenal line.
Description: Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen mashed a two-run homer off of Milwaukee starter Marco Estrada in the third inning of Saturday night's 6-4 win over the Brewers. The two-run shot was McCutchen's 20th of the season.
Insight: McCutchen (.366, 20 HRs, 63 RBIs) is having an impossibly good month at the plate. In 10 games this month, he is hitting .514 with five home runs and 12 RBIs. McCutchen has emerged as the front-runner for the National League MVP award and if he goes deep again Sunday, it will be the fourth game in a row that he has homered in.
Description: Pirates All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who leads the NL in hitting with a .362 batting average, has struggled against Zack Grienke, with just two hits in 13 at-bats.
Insight: McCutchen was named the National League Player of the Week for the week of July 2-8 after hitting .517 for the week with three long balls and nine RBIs. Hopefully the break and Grienke won't cool his hot bat.
Description: Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett reached double-digit wins Sunday against the Giants. Burnett went six and a third innings for the Pirates, allowing four hits and two runs. The 35-year-old finished with two walks and five strikeouts.
Insight: This is Burnett's eighth season in a row of at least 10 wins. He hasn't lost a decision since May 2 against St. Louis.
Description: Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen blasted two home runs Sunday in Pittsburgh's blowout 13-2 win against San Francisco.
Insight: McCutchen (.362, 18 HRs, 60 RBIs) has tallied at least three hits in five out of his last nine games and in that nine-game span he is hitting .553 (21-37) with four homers and 12 RBIs. His MVP candidacy is looking as strong as it ever has.
Description: Pirates second baseman Neil Walker was a key contributor in Pittsburgh's 13-2 win over the Giants on Sunday afternoon. He finished the game with five hits, one of which ended up being his sixth home run of the year.
Insight: Walker ends the second half on a 12-game hitting streak. He has hit an astounding .489 during the streak to raise his batting average from .263 all the way up to .291.
Description: Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen will take Giancarlo Stanton's place in Monday night's Home Run Derby in Kansas City.
Insight: He'll represent the National League alongside Carlos Beltran (.298, 20 HRs, 65 RBIs), Carlos Gonzalez (.331, 17 HRs, 58 RBIs) and Matt Kemp (.355, 12 HRs, 28 RBIs). McCutchen has had a brilliant first half for the surprising Pirates. He leads the major leagues in hitting (.358) and should be able to easily eclipse his career highs of 23 homers and 89 RBIs.
Description: Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen is 0-for-10 in his career against Giants starter Tim Lincecum.
Insight: McCutchen has been a fantasy monster this season, batting .359 with 16 homers, 56 RBIs, 55 runs and 14 steals. He hasn't had success against Lincecum, but he also hasn't faced this season's version of the Giants righty, the one who has a 6.08 ERA in 93 1/3 innings, so don't worry about past history.
Description: Pirates catcher Michael McKenry homered for the seventh time this season Saturday against San Francisco.
Insight: McKenry is a must-add player in NL-only leagues and someone to watch in mixed leagues as he's earned more playing time with his recent performance. The catcher has four blasts and 12 RBIs in his last nine games.
Description: Pirates starter and All-Star snub James McDonald dominated San Francisco over seven one-run innings Saturday in his final start before the break.
Insight: McDonald (9-3, 2.37 ERA) struck out 10 batters Saturday, the first time he's fanned double digits since May 17. The right-hander goes into the All-Star break having won four straight starts. He allowed just 76 hits in 110 first-half innings.
Description: Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen has just one hit, a single in eight at-bats against Giants righty Ryan Vogelsong.
Insight: McCutchen leads the NL in hitting (.360, 16 HR, 56 RBIs, 54 R, 14 SB) and has done everything and more than most fantasy owners could have expected this season. Saturday, however, is an unfavorable matchup.
Description: Pirates outfield prospect Starling Marte's promotion appears imminent, according to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Insight: Marte is batting .290 with nine homers, 17 steals and a .349 OBP in 80 games for Triple-A Indianapolis this season. With Pittsburgh surprisingly in contention, it appears that Marte will be on his way to the major leagues soon.
Description: Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen is a fantasy stud, but he has struggled in his career against Astros starter Bud Norris, going 7-for-28 (.250) with zero homers and eight strikeouts.
Insight: McCutchen (.360, 16 HR, 54 RBIs, 53 R, 14 SB) went 0-for-5 on June 28, but he's followed that up with 14 hits in 21 at-bats. Thursday does not present a favorable matchup, but we wouldn't bet against the Pittsburgh superstar.
Description: Pirates outfielder Alex Presley is doubtful for Wednesday's game against Houston with concussion-like symptoms.
Insight: Presley (.242, 6 HR, 13 RBI, 8 SB in 60 games) was called up from Triple-A after getting sent down in mid-May. The outfielder has the potential to be a nice speed option for those who need it, but doesn't do enough things well to warrant a fantasy roster spot.
Description: Pirates outfielder Drew Sutton bashed a walk-off solo home run Tuesday against the Astros. The home run was part of a 3-5 night for Sutton.
Insight: Sutton was dropped by the Rays in late June but since coming over to Pittsburgh, he's been fantastic. Tuesday was his third multi-hit game in a row and overall he's batting .407 in seven games for the Pirates. The walkoff blast was Sutton's first home run of 2012.
Description: Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez is questionable for Tuesday's game against Houston. He has been dealing with leg cramps.
Insight: Alvarez started noticing the cramps late in Sunday afternoon's game against St. Louis. The 25-year-old has begun to hit like the guy who was hyped as a "star in the making" when he first arrived in Pittsburgh in June 2010. Over the past four weeks he's batted .308 with seven homers, 20 RBI and a 1.048 OPS.
Description: Monday was a great day to be Garrett Jones. All the Pittsburgh first baseman did was go 4-5 with a homer and four RBIs in a Pirates 11-2 win over Houston.
Insight: It's time to start taking Jones (.266, 11 HRs, 34 RBIs) seriously in fantasy again. After a mediocre first month (.265) and a terrible May (.206), Jones bashed his way to a .300 clip in June with five homers and 15 RBIs and he's already starting July off on the right foot. Even more good news: he's still available in over 96 percent of ESPN leagues.
Description: Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen collected four hits in his return to the lineup on Monday night.
Insight: Guess his wrist can't be bothering him too much. Pittsburgh could sneak into first place if the Reds lose on Monday night and most of the credit for that has to go to McCutchen (.354, 15 HRs, 52 RBIs) who has been unbelievable for the Pirates this season. If McCutchen's second half is as flawless as his first half was, he should be a contender for the NL MVP award at season's end.
Description: Pirates All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen is back in the starting lineup for Monday's game against Houston. He's been dealing with a sore wrist after making a diving catch over the weekend.
Insight: McCutchen's fantasy owners can breath again. McCutchen (.346, 15 HRs, 51 RBIs) said he felt fine after the game, but the Pirates took a conservative approach and sat him on Sunday.
Description: Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez will not start Monday night's game against Houston. The 25-year-old has been dealing with leg cramps.
Insight: Alvarez started noticing the cramps late in Sunday afternoon's game against St. Louis. Alvarez (.231, 15 HRs, 44 RBIs), who has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games, will be available off the bench for the Pirates should they opt for a pinch-hitter later on in the game.
Description: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen will not start Sunday's game against the Cardinals. McCutchen hurt his wrist on Saturday and is listed as day-to-day.
Insight: McCutchen (.346, 15 HRs, 51 RBIs) said he felt fine after the game but it looks like the Pirates are taking the cautious approach with their star center fielder. Look for him to return to the Pittsburgh lineup sometime in the next couple of days.
Description: Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez's grand slam helped the Pirates to a 7-3 victory over the Cardinals on Saturday.
Insight: Alvarez is on an RBI tear right now after recording nine RBIs in his past three games. The 25-year-old continues to hit for a low average (.226) but his power stroke is very real: Alvarez's home run Saturday was his 15th of the season. That ties Alvarez with Andrew McCutchen for the team lead in that category.
Description: Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata is not in the starting lineup for Thursday's game against Philadelphia.
Insight: Tabata has more talent than production. He's batting just .226 with three homers, 11 RBI and eight stolen bases. He was a pleasant surprise in 2010, but barring a turnaround, this will be his second straight disappointing season. Time to look elsewhere.
Description: Pittsburgh starter Jeff Karstens will return from the disabled list to pitch Monday night against the Phillies. Karstens hasn't played in a game since mid-April because of right shoulder inflammation.
Insight: Karstens was terrific in a rehab start for Double-A Altoona last Tuesday (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER) and appears to finally be fully recovered from the shoulder injury that has kept him out for the past two months. In three starts for Pittsburgh this year, Karstens is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA.
Description: Pirates left-handed pitching prospect Justin Wilson took a no-hitter into the sixth inning Friday night for Triple-A Indianapolis. Wilson finished with six innings of one-hit, one-run ball with eight strikeouts.
Insight: Wilson, the No. 9 prospect in Pittsburgh's organization according to MLB.com, allowed just one hit in his last start as well. The 24-year-old lefty is 5-4 with a 3.46 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings in 15 starts this season. Most impressively, he's allowed just 57 hits and has a .196 BAA. The Pirates don't need a starter right now, as Jeff Karstens will return next week to take the place of Brad Lincoln, but if another injury were to strike Pittsburgh's rotation, Wilson could get the call.
Description: Pirates righty Brad Lincoln held Detroit to one runs on two hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in six innings Saturday to improve to 4-2 with a 3.50 ERA.
Insight: In Lincoln's first three starts after moving into the rotation, he's went 0-2 with a 10.03 ERA and a 2.31 WHIP in 11 2/3 innings. He'll lose his spot once Jeff Karstens returns, so don't bother adding him despite any limited potential he might possess.
Description: Pirates righty A.J. Burnett was brilliant again Friday night against Detroit. Burnett held the Tigers to two hits in six scoreless innings, walking three and striking out four to win his eighth game of the season.
Insight: Burnett (8-2, 3.24 ERA) has won seven straight starts with a 1.87 ERA. Since he allowed 12 runs in 2 2/3 innings on May 2 against St. Louis, Burnett has allowed just 13 earned runs combined in 59 1/3 innings over nine starts. Simply amazing for a guy who an ERA over 5.00 in each of his last two seasons.
Description: Pittsburgh starter Jeff Karstens (shoulder, hip) is scheduled to make his next minor league rehab start with Triple-A Indianapolis.
Insight: Karstens was placed on the DL back in April with shoulder inflammation, but he also suffered a strained right hip flexor recently. The right-hander threw seven innings of one-run ball with Double-A Altoona Tuesday and should be able to return within the next 10 days. Karstens went 9-9 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.21 WHIP last year, so he's someone to target in deeper mixed leagues that don't place stock in K/9.
Description: Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez went 2-for-4 with a solo homer Thursday against the Twins.
Insight: Alvarez is hitting .529 (9-for-17) with two doubles, five homers, 10 RBIs and three walks in his last five games. However, Alvarez is one of the streakier player in baseball, and his luck can easily go south in a hurry. For example, the 25-year-old went 4-for-41 (.098) prior to his current hot stretch. He's also had separate cold streaks of 2-for-30 and 0-for-18 this season, as well as a stretch during which he hit six homers in 13 games. Beware his inconsistency.
Description: Pirates starter James McDonald tossed his first career complete game Thursday against Minnesota. McDonald allowed just one run on six hits while walking none and striking out five to win his sixth game of the season.
Insight: Minnesota's offense was no match for the dominant McDonald Thursday night. The Pirates right-hander has been a major surprise this season, registering a 2.19 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and a sub-.200 BAA. Most impressively, McDonald hasn't allowed more than three runs in any start this season.
Description: Pirates righty Brad Lincoln allowed four runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings Sunday at Cleveland. Lincoln walked one and struck out two.
Insight: Since Lincoln moved into the rotation, he's gone 0-2 with a 10.03 ERA and a 2.31 WHIP in 11 2/3 innings over three starts. He'll lose his spot once Jeff Karstens returns, so stay away from him in fantasy leagues even if he shows some improvement.
Description: Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez had two home runs for the second straight game Sunday against Cleveland.
Insight: Alvarez went 3-for-4 with two homers and six RBIs Sunday after driving two out of the park and driving in three runs yesterday. The Pirates third baseman has been very streaky this season, starting out 1-for-24 before going 18-for-49 (.367) with six homers and 14 RBIs in his next 14 games. However, he followed that up with an 0-for-18 stretch. Don't bother adding Alvarez based on the last two games, as you probably already missed the hot streak.
Description: Pirates righty A.J. Burnett put together another strong outing Saturday in a win against the Indians. He lasted 6.2 innings, allowing six hits and two runs.
Insight: Burnett is 6-0 with a 2.17 ERA in his last six starts. After a so-so tenure with the Yankees, Burnett (7-2, 3.52 ERA) is off to a terrific start in his first season with the Pirates and could be poised to make his first All-Star game appearance.
Description: Pittsburgh righthander A.J. Burnett has won his last five starts yielding two runs or less in four of the five outings.
Insight: Burnett seems to have found his old form, posting a 6-2 record this season with a 3.61 ERA, 1.251 WHIP and 56 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings. Despite the solid statistics, he's owned in just half of all Yahoo leagues.
Description: Pirates starter Erik Bedard allowed seven runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings Thursday at Baltimore.
Insight: As we said yesterday, Bedard has been horrific away from PNC Park this season. Thursday's debacle puts him at 2-5 with a 6.27 ERA in seven road starts. He's strictly to be used at home, where he is 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA in six starts.
Description: Those thinking about adding Pirates starter Erik Bedard for his start Thursday at Baltimore would be wise to reconsider. Bedard hasn't been good on the road this season.
Insight: Bedard will face his former team in Baltimore tomorrow, but the lefty is 2-4 with a 4.85 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in six starts away from PNC Park this year. He's averaging less than five innings per start on the road.
Description: Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen went 2-for-3 with a double, a homer and a stolen base Sunday against Kansas City.
Insight: McCutchen drove in all three of Pittsburgh's runs. Like Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew in fantasy football, McCutchen is Pittsburgh's only viable offensive player, making the numbers he puts up even more amazing.
Description: You might want to be careful about starting any Royals Sunday against Pittsburgh righthander A.J. Burnett. Yuniesky Betancourt (.182), Jeff Francouer (.167) and Alex Gordon (.167) are all hitting below .200 for their careers against the former Yankees ace.
Insight: Kansas City has now dropped three straight, including the first two games of this three-game set with the Pirates. We're expecting the fourth-place Royals to struggle again Sunday against Burnett, who has rejuvenated himself since returning to the National League (5-2, 3.76 ERA in nine starts this season).
Description: Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata went 2-for-4 Friday against Kansas City, but he was thrown out attempting to steal second twice.
Insight: Tabata has been caught stealing seven times this season, one more than the number of times he's been successful. That's the difference between Tabata having mixed league relevance and him being just another guy with a .609 OPS.
Description: Pirates second baseman Neil Walker will face Cincinnati's Mike Leake on Thursday and that's always been good for his stats. He's 6-16 (.375) against the Reds righthander with three doubles and a home run.
Insight: Walker (.272, 3 HRs, 21 RBIs) has also driven in seven runs against Leake. He's going for his fourth multi-hit game in a row on Thursday and we wouldn't be surprised if he gets it.
Description: Pittsburgh Pirates starter A.J. Burnett has won three starts in a row and yielded no runs in his last two outings.
Insight: Aside from a 12-run debacle against the Cardinals on May 2, Burnett has been excellent this season, giving up two runs or less in his other seven starts. He's not a big strikeout guy, but you can argue with the latest results.
Description: Catcher Jeff Clement, a former first-round draft pick who is now in the Pittsburgh organization, hit for the cycle for Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday.
Insight: Clement was selected third overall by Seattle in 2005, but he played just 75 games with the Mariners before moving on to Pittsburgh. He hasn't played in the majors since 2010, but Pittsburgh may decide it needs an offensive spark. Clement is batting .307 with 15 doubles, six homers and a .927 OPS in 44 games this season.
Description: Manager Clint Hurdle says he's keeping third baseman Pedro Alvarez out of the Pirates' lineup for the next few games so he can "clear his deck."
Insight: Alvarez is hitless in his last 18 at bats and is just completely lost at the plate right now. The Pirates young third baseman still has plenty of fantasy potential: he does have eight homers in 160 at bats this year. But for now, it's best to ignore Alvarez in fantasy until he proves he can get out of this horrible slump.
Description: Pirates outfield prospect Starling Marte came a double shy of the cycle on Friday with Triple-A Indianapolis.
Insight: Marte, who is rated as Pittsburgh's No. 3 prospect by MLB.com, is batting .267 this season, but he has nine doubles, six triples, five homers and 14 stolen bases. Marte is hitting .333 with three homers and eight RBIs in his last 10 games. Pittsburgh has the worst offense in baseball, so we may see Marte up at some point, and a player with that type of speed is always intriguing in fantasy baseball.
Description: Pirates righty Brad Lincoln will start Tuesday against the Reds.
Insight: Pittsburgh placed Charlie Morton on the disabled list on Friday, and with Jeff Karstens still on the DL with shoulder inflammation, Lincoln will make a start or two. The 6-foot-4 27-year-old has been excellent out of the bullpen this season, allowing just one run in 19 1/3 innings in relief. In his lone start this year, Lincoln allowed two runs on four hits in six innings against the Marlins.
Description: The Pirates placed right-handed starter Charlie Morton (elbow) on the 15-day disabled list with elbow inflammation.
Insight: Morton has just two wins with a 4.65 ERA and 1.45 WHIP this season , so he won't be difficult to replace. Reliever Brad Lincoln (3-0, 1.07 ERA, 0.87 WHIP) and the injured Jeff Karstens are candidates to replace Morton in the rotation.
Description: Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen has should the ability to take Red starter Johnny Cueto deep. Of his eight hits against Cueto, five have been of the extra base variety, including three home runs.
Insight: McCutchen's bat his been explosive in May and his OPS jumped from .723 in April to 1.186 in 24 May games. With the favorable matchup, McCutchen is a must start on Wednesday.
Description: James McDonald throttled the Reds for his fourth win of the season on Monday. He allowed just five hits in eight scoreless innings of work, walking one while striking out five.
Insight: McDonald trimmed his ERA from 2.51 to 2.20 in the process. The 27-year-old is quickly becoming the ace of the Pittsburgh staff. Don't be afraid to pick McDonald up if you're in one of the roughly four percent of ESPN leagues where he is still available. He's the real deal.
Description: A.J. Burnett picked up his third win of the season by shutting out the Cubs over 5 1/3 innings on Friday. Burnett allowed six hits while walking two and striking out six.
Insight: Aside from his 12-run debacle against the Cardinals on May 2, Burnett has been excellent this season, giving up two runs or less in his other six starts. The move to the National League has helped his strikeout rate as well, as the right-hander has a K/9 of 8.2.
Description: 2011 No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole won his third straight decision on Wednesday for Class A Advanced Bradenton. Cole shut out Lakeland on four hits over five innings. He walked two and struck out three.
Insight: Cole is 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 45 innings this season. The three pitchers drafted immediately after him -- Danny Hultzen, former UCLA teammate Trevor Bauer, and Dylan Bundy -- have all had major success in the minors this year. Bauer has already been promoted to Triple A and Bundy to Class A Advanced, while Hultzen is no doubt nearing a promotion to Triple-A as well, so Cole has a lot to live up to. He's not a player who will have fantasy impact this season but he's someone to keep in mind in mid-2013 and on.