The Pirates will be without A.J. Burnett for an estimated four weeks. That’s better news than was expected at the start of the week, when it was feared that Burnett would be out for the rest of the season. But until then, the Pirates will need a replacement.
They went with J.A. Happ as their initial replacement for Burnett, and tonight’s first run through that experiment didn’t go so well. They’re not going to give up on Happ after just one outing, especially after giving up Adrian Sampson to get him. But who would be next in line?
If Vance Worley clears waivers, he would be the next guy to step up. But that’s no guarantee, as Worley isn’t making much, and still has a few years of control remaining if he manages to turn things around. Then again, Worley has a 4.47 xFIP this year as a starter, compared to a 3.55 xFIP as a reliever, so there’s a clear reason why the Pirates went a different direction and went with Happ (4.09 xFIP in the rotation this year).
After Worley, the next best option would be Radhames Liz, who has looked fantastic in the Indianapolis rotation as Ryan Palencer wrote today. However, Liz is a big unknown in the majors, with no guarantees that he would carry his Triple-A success up to the big leagues. Angel Sanchez becomes the top prospect at the level with Adrian Sampson gone, but you’ve got the uncertainty of a prospect making his debut in the big leagues, which doesn’t always lead to immediate results.
Right now, Happ looks like the best option, with the hope that he figures it all out sooner than later, and starts pitching closer to his xFIP. Beyond that, the Pirates depth has been hurt by injuries this year. They’ve got some interesting options to step in, but all of them are wild cards with a low probability of working out.
This isn’t a topic that matters now, but the talk of Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault yesterday got me thinking about the subject of the 2016 depth. The Pirates will have a lot of guys moving up from Altoona to Indianapolis at the start of the year. They will also have some guys returning from injuries, like Brandon Cumpton, Casey Sadler, and of course, Jameson Taillon.
Kuhl would be the top candidate to move up at the start of the year, since he’s pitched a full season in Altoona this year. Jason Creasy could be an option to move up as well, although he hasn’t had the same success this year as Kuhl, with command issues being the big issue. I could see Brault moving up to Indianapolis as a second half option, after getting more innings in Altoona. Then there are guys like Angel Sanchez, who have already moved up. And let’s not forget the biggest guy, Tyler Glasnow, who isn’t really depth as much as he is a mid-season replacement option.
Right now the Pirates look to be in a much better situation for the 2016 season with their pitching depth. Then again, a year ago the depth was supposed to be Kingham, Cumpton, Sadler, Sampson, and Taillon, and we’ve seen how quickly that can go bad. Hopefully they’ll have better results next year with injuries, as that 2016 group could be interesting.
**Happ’s Second-Half Struggles Continue in Pirates’ Loss to Cubs. Pete Ellis with live coverage from tonight’s game, including a very interesting note on Michael Morse at the end.
**Prospect Watch: Another Strong Outing From Stephen Tarpley. Includes my live report on Stephen Tarpley, which I’ll be expanding on in an article soon.
**Radhames Liz Looking Like Rotation Depth After a Mechanical Change. Ryan Palencer looks at what led to Liz turning things around in Triple-A.