With Opening Day just a couple of days away, fantasy baseball drafts are wrapping up for the season. If you have a late draft, there are some Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers that you should be targeting, along with a couple you should look to avoid.


One bad pitcher can make or break your staff for the season, so let’s take a look at who you should look to grab in your drafts.

Pitchers to Target

Jameson Taillon

Taillon started great last season for Triple-A Indianapolis and never looked back.He was as impressive as any young pitcher that debuted last season and is looking to stake his claim as a future ace in 2017. Taillon has some risk, most notably health.  There’s also the second time around the league factor to see how opposing hitters punch back. But I like Taillon’s chances to have a big 2017 season.

He struck out 85 and only walked 17 last season and also registered a 3.38 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 104 innings. He has an ADP of 159 and is the 38th starting pitcher off the board. I will take that value any day.

Ivan Nova

The question is which Nova will show up in 2017? Will it be the one that was very effective after being acquired by the Pirates at last year’s trade deadline or the pitcher who was plagued by inconsistencies during his entire Yankee career? My guess is Nova will be somewhere in the middle.

Nova went 7-3 in 11 starts with the Pirates last summer with a 3.04 ERA. The amazing part is he struck out 52 and only walked three batters in 64.2 innings. One thing that helps Nova, who pitches to contact, is now playing his home games at PNC Park compared to Yankee Stadium. The spacious outfield helps a lot. Nova has an ADP of 268 and is the 68th starting pitcher off the board.

He isn’t going to do much to help your strike outs, but considering how late Nova is being drafted, he’s certainly worth a look that late as long as you have three or four solid starting pitchers ahead of him.

Pitchers to Avoid

Gerrit Cole

It wouldn’t be the worst thing to target Cole in your drafts. I do think he will bounce back in 2017, but there is still too much risk so do yourself a favor and stay away. His ADP is at 96 right now so you wouldn’t be risking a lot to grab Cole in the eighth round, but I don’t recommend drafting him before that. Coming off a 7-10 campaign that saw Cole put up a 3.88 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, he can’t be much worse.

The big questions are whether Cole can regain the 2015 form that saw him go 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA and 1.09 WHIP and whether or not he can stay healthy. Cole landed on the DL three times last season, but the good news is that he has looked pretty good so far in spring training. Again, I think Cole will be solid, but there are more questions than answers with him right now. He’s a far riskier play than other pitchers in his tier.

Tony Watson

For years you could feel comfortable ending up with the Pirates closer whether it be Joel Hanrahan, Jason Grilli or Mark Melancon. You can’t say the same thing with Tony Watson. Watson had more than a couple bumps in the road after assuming the closer role once the Pirates traded Melancon.

Even prior to his new ninth-inning role, Watson wasn’t the same pitcher he was the prior season. The biggest disturbing issue to me is his fastball velocity dipped for the second consecutive season. That’s a big red flag. Watson could very well have a big season, but there are better options out there to target.  Only draft Watson if he falls to you late and if he does, make sure you also roster Daniel Hudson or Felipe Rivero.

Pitchers to Keep an Eye On

Chad Kuhl

There’s really no need to target Kuhl, except in NL-only formats. Kuhl won’t blow hitters away at the big league level and pitched to a 4.20 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 14 starts. He did post a 2.37 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 83.2 Triple-A innings last season. Kuhl should be serviceable.

He should go undrafted in mixed leagues, but keep an eye on him. If he starts the season well, he is a guy to grab off the waiver wire.

Tyler Glasnow

Whether he wins the fifth starter spot or not, Glasnow will still be drafted for his upside. His minor league success didn’t translate to the majors last season and he still has some control issues, which is a big reason to stay away from him. But Glasnow has looked good at times in spring training and if he can find a way to put it together, he could make a fantasy impact this season.

Daniel Hudson, Felipe Rivero

In deep leagues and NL-only formats, both relievers are worth rostering. They are also worth keeping an eye on in mixed leagues. I typically don’t overpay for saves so there are always some setup guys worth targeting. That’s the case with both Hudson and Rivero. Both could get you a handful of cheap saves during the season and if Watson should falter, one of the two will be promoted to closer.

If you have a deep enough team where you can draft and stash one of the guys it may pay off for you in the long run.

Image Credit – Daniel Decker Photography

Matt Shetler

Matt is a life long Pirates fan with both a newspaper and radio background. Before coming to Pirates Breakdown he was most recently the co-owner and lead columnist for Pittsburgh Sporting News. He has been a credentialed writer for all four major sports and also has written for plenty of other sports and fantasy sports websites.