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.