2014 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Breaking down Pittsburgh Pirates top position battle

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From now until the end of spring training, I will take a look at each team’s top spring training battle.

That’s big for Fantasy Baseball owners as you never want to be on the wrong end of a battle come draft day as you are basically wasting a roster spot right off the bat. To get things started, let’s take a look at last year’s surprise in the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Sep 19, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Jose Tabata (31) runs from first to third against the San Diego Padres during the sixth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With a solid young core in place, the Bucs don’t have a lot of holes to be filled except at first base and right field. With the Pirates still searching for a first baseman, let’s focus on the right field job as there should be a four-way battle for playing time with last season’s late acquisition Marlon Byrd now in Philadelphia.

However no matter who wins the Pirates starting job for Opening Day, they are merely keeping the seat warm until prized prospect Gregory Polanco gets the c all, which most likely will be in late June or early July, similar to how the Pirates handled Gerrit Cole last year.

With that being said, let’s take a look at the Pirates right field options in the first installment of my 2014 Fantasy Baseball Preview.

The Favorite: Jose Tabata

When he wasn’t injured last season, which seems to be an ongoing problem, Tabata had a solid 2013, posting a .771 OPS in 106 games. He did enough good things with the bat that should give him a long look to at least start the season as the Pirates everyday right fielder, or at the minimum as part as a platoon.

The downside to Tabata is that he doesn’t offer enough speed or power to be considered the long-term answer in right field or an option on your fantasy team.

However, if we are going by the assumption that we could see Polanco in June or July, the Bucs could do much worse than Tabata for a few months. Even when and if Polanco arrives, Tabata should remain a valuable part of the Pirates bench.

Could Emerge: Travis Snider

The Pirates tendered Snider a contract this offseason, which may have come as a surprise to some, but I didn’t mind the move as I think Snider deserves another look. Snider has disappointed since being acquired from Toronto during the 2012 season and we are still waiting for that power to show up, but he is a good defensive right fielder.

Snider posted a .614 OPS in 2013, and that was only slightly higher (.644) against right-handed pitching. A left-handed bat is going to play a big role in the right-field plans early in the year and Snider will get first crack. However, he will have to hold off two talented young players.

His power potential is intriguing but even if he opens up the season as part of a platoon, Snider offers very little fantasy value to begin the season.

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