The Pittsburgh Pirates announced on Monday afternoon that they have claimed left-handed pitcher Nik Turley from the Minnesota Twins. The 28-year-old Turley made his Major League debut in 2017, posting an 11.21 ERA and 2.15 WHIP in 17.2 innings over three starts and seven relief appearances. He is out of options going into 2018.
Turley was drafted in the 50th round by the New York Yankees in 2008 out of high school, so he really put in a lot of time over ten seasons to go from one of the final draft picks in 2008, to a Major League player in 2017. He was rated higher in the draft at the time and received a $125,000 signing bonus. The results were obviously very poor for the Twins, with a lot of hits and some home run issues. During his minor league career, which has been spent mostly as a starter, he a 3.43 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning. Turley has spent parts of four seasons in Triple-A and was even in independent ball at one time in 2016.
Baseball America ranked him among the Yankees top 30 prospects three times, topping out at #14 in 2012. He was also the 18th best prospect in the Florida State League that season and he was chosen as the best control pitcher for the Yankees system in 2011. In 2012, he was a low-90s fastball pitcher with a big curveball and a high ground ball rate. As he moved up the system, he began to get more fly balls. He also went through a period of average control, but he did a nice job of throwing strikes this season with Triple-A Rochester.
UPDATE 4:17 PM: Analysis from Tim Williams…
The Pirates are growing a collection of fringe lefties who could be used for depth in 2017. That started in September when they added Jack Leathersich and Dan Runzler to the 40-man roster. The addition of Turley seems to be along the same lines.
This seems like a pretty low-key move, so I won’t go into detail about how Turley can help the team in 2018. The Pirates will likely make a lot of waiver claims and minor league free agent signings over the offseason, with some of the earlier waiver claims being designated for assignment to make room for later waiver claims.
The goal with this plan, for the Pirates and every other team in baseball, is to add a mass quantity of players, and hope that one or two of them can eventually help out. I don’t know if Turley himself will make it through the offseason with the team, or if he will be the one who helps out. But the overall strategy is the thing to focus on here.
The overall strategy can also tell us something about the team. In this case, they need lefty relievers, and some of their fringe additions in the last few months have aimed to address that. I’d expect more lefties being brought in going forward. The question would be whether the Pirates make additional moves internally, such as converting someone like Steven Brault to a reliever.