First Pitch: This Seems Like a Good Time to Look at the Rotation Depth

The rotation hasn’t been a problem for the Pittsburgh Pirates this year. After today’s game, they rank third in the majors in ERA and eighth in xFIP. That said, there are some concerns recently with Vance Worley and Jeff Locke. I detailed the issues with Worley last night, saying that the Pirates would be better off switching to Charlie Morton now. Locke had a rough start tonight, giving him his second poor start at Wrigley Field this year. It’s not just Wrigley, as he has given up four or more earned runs in four of his last five starts.

In the last week, the Pirates have received a big boost to their rotation depth. Granted, Nick Kingham went down with an elbow injury. However, Morton is on the verge of a return, Clayton Richard arrived in Indianapolis, Jameson Taillon started pitching in real games again, and Casey Sadler and Adrian Sampson continued pitching well. With Worley and Locke struggling recently, this seems like a good time to take a quick look at each depth option, to see when they could help and how they’ve been doing recently.

The Short-Term Depth

Charlie Morton – As I wrote last night, the smart thing to do would be to replace Vance Worley with Charlie Morton. Worley isn’t pitching like the 2014 version, and Morton is looking close to the pitcher we saw in 2013. That change will come soon, whether it’s the next start, or after one more outing. That will likely change the depth around, adding Worley to the rotation depth options, assuming he can get things sorted out in the bullpen.

Casey Sadler – He continues to pitch well out of Indianapolis, with another strong outing tonight. Sadler doesn’t have the highest upside, but he does what the Pirates love — pitches to contact and gets a lot of quick ground ball outs. He could still be a top short-term option after Morton, at least until Clayton Richard is ready. Speaking of which…

Clayton Richard – He made one start with Indianapolis, and while the stats were good, the command was off. That’s to be expected, since he’s still getting used to his new mechanics. I’d expect him in the rotation at some point in the second half, although he’s got a better chance of being a first round option than the guys on the list below.

The Rest of the Year Depth

Adrian Sampson – With Nick Kingham down, Sampson becomes the top prospect who could be promoted by the middle of the season. He’s got a nice three pitch mix, with a fastball that sits 91-94, a curveball that’s good enough to get outs when needed, and a changeup that improved in 2013 and was key to his breakout last year. He’s got the upside to be a middle of the rotation starter, and could get a chance in the second half to try and win a rotation spot for the long-term.

Jameson Taillon – He just pitched his first game against another organization on Thursday, only going one inning. He’ll continue building up from there, and should be back in Indianapolis at some point in June. My review of his outing was posted yesterday. His stuff looks great, delivering the ball down in the zone with ease. He could be an option for the Pirates in the second half of the season, possibly later in the year.

**Prospect Watch: Strong Pitching By Dodson, Sadler, Aquino, and Burnette

**Baseball America’s Second Mock Draft Has Pirates Taking Neil Walker’s Successor

**Pirates Activate Antonio Bastardo, Option Bobby LaFromboise

**Jung-ho Kang Adjusting Well On and Off the Field

**Willy Garcia Cut Down His Strikeouts, But Where is the Power?

**Morning Report: This Could Be a Big Weekend for Three Bradenton Pitchers


  • I would be very surprised if Taillon is with us at any time, unless it is as a Sept callup. They will be monitoring his innings and I would be surprised to see them give him ‘high stress’ innings in the majors. jmo

  • Richard has a career FIP of 4.44, much of that in Petco. NO THANKS!

    • Have Benedict and Searage requested your advice yet ? I was really happy when they ignored your predictions for Cole.

  • Give Locke 2 or 3 more starts and if he keeps this up make the move for Sadler. Locke and Worley have had their shots.

    • deacs: I would not let him start again against the Cubs (3 times already), who have a team that hits him very well with RHB’s like Addison Russell, Starlin Castro, and Kris Bryant and a LHB like Anthony Rizzo who has always hit LHP’s very well. He can throw an excellent Changeup, but it has to be with pinpoint command and that has just not been the case lately. And, usually when he is throwing his FB 90 or below, the batters are less likely to be fooled by an offspeed pitch

      Tim: I liked this, and the one on batting – I hope that you are working around to the bullpen sometime in the very near future. For the past 2 or 3 years it has always been anchored by solid performances in the 8th and 9th and adequate arms to get through the 7th. IMO, a few of the guys we depended upon are struggling, as are a few of the new ones, and it may be time to make some adjustments. No better time to do it!

    • I say put Locke on the DL with “tendinitis” right now and replace him with Morton. Then make a decision in a few weeks based on how Worley is pitching at that point.

  • Thanks tim, if the pirates get any further behind the cards they are going to have an chance to look at all their depth before to long, as in out of the race and seeing what they have for next year.