The Pittsburgh Pirates today announced that they have claimed right-handed pitcher A.J. Schugel from the Seattle Mariners. No corresponding move has been announced yet to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. The 26-year-old made his Major League debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015 and allowed five runs over nine inning in five relief appearances.

Schugel was a 25th round draft pick in 2010 by the Angels out of Central Arizona College. Three years earlier, he was a 33rd round pick of the Padres out of high school. By 2013, he reached Triple-A and started the entire year for Salt Lake City, posting a 7.05 ERA in 89.1 innings. While that number is extremely high, the team had a 5.37 ERA playing in one of the highest offense parks in baseball.

He moved on to Arizona in 2014 and made 26 starts in Double-A, posting a 3.48 ERA and 1.30 WHIP, with 117 strikeouts in 147.1 innings. Schugel started the 2015 season in the majors, pitching once before being sent to Triple-A. He eventually got demoted after a rough start in Triple-A and pitched great in Double-A, making the climb back to the majors by the end of August. In 65 starts in Double-A, he has a 2.98 ERA, while it goes up to 7.99 in 28 Triple-A starts, though there is a huge difference between the parks he has pitched in at those levels.

Scouting reports have him sitting low-90’s, touching 95 MPH. He has a changeup that is described as either average or above average, depending on which source you trust. He throws a slider that needs work. Schugel isn’t a high strikeout pitcher, but he displays strong command and he posted a 1.40 GO/AO ratio this past season after being around 1.00 in that department over his first five seasons combined. He has two options remaining.

Schugel looks like someone who the Pirates feel is a better option than whoever they end up getting rid of for his spot. With the two options left, they will be able to send him down. With almost no success in Triple-A, even though he has some MLB experience, it’s unlikely he has a chance to make the Opening Day roster. He just recently went through waivers this winter, so they may feel that can pass him through and send him outright to Indianapolis if they need a 40-man spot later.

UPDATE 4:17 PM: Analysis from Tim Williams…

It’s hard to say at this point where Schugel will fit in with the Pirates. He has some experience in the majors, although the performance in that time doesn’t suggest he’s a good depth option. His performance as a starter in Triple-A doesn’t suggest he’d be good for that rotation either, especially since he’d block a better option like Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, or Trevor Williams. He seems like the type of guy who would benefit from a move to the bullpen, where his fastball would play up. That also seems to be the best fit for him based on the current depth chart.

As for the overall move, this is just another situation where the Pirates are adding depth. I wouldn’t be surprised if Schugel ends up getting designated for assignment later in the off-season. He cleared waivers in the NL in December, then was claimed in the AL. This time around he cleared in the AL, and went through every team except St. Louis. By claiming him, the Pirates now have the opportunity to put him through waivers again, knowing that St. Louis passed on him once, and knowing most of the other teams passed on him twice. That speaks to his value, which is low, but if the Pirates see something they like in him, then there’s no cost here to get him in the system.

UPDATE 4:59 PM: The Pirates have designated Yoervis Medina for assignment, opening up a spot for Schugel. Medina was picked up off waivers less than a month ago. He is out of options and would have had a hard time making the Opening Day roster. Just like was mentioned with Schugel, Medina is the type you pick up on waivers, and if you need a spot for someone else later, you hope to get him through waivers. If he is kept, he will be assigned to Indianapolis as a depth option out of the bullpen. He has had some success in the majors recently, so it would be nice for the Pirates if they could keep him in the system.

UPDATE 5:07 PM: Analysis from Tim Williams…

Personally I’d rather have Medina over Schugel. Medina is a hard throwing right-handed reliever who has dealt with control problems, and the Pirates have had success in that department in recent years. But there’s a good chance Medina wouldn’t have made the roster out of Spring Training and would have been DFAd anyway. He was out of options, and the current bullpen only has one spot open, with Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Jared Hughes, Arquimedes Caminero, Juan Nicasio, and Neftali Feliz looking like locks.

The Pirates have Rob Scahill, John Holdzkom, Trey Haley, Kyle Lobstein, and A.J. Schugel as guys on the 40-man roster competing for the final bullpen spot. They’ve got several other NRI guys competing for a job, and Medina would join that list if he clears waivers. The 40-man list includes a lot of hard throwers, so the Pirates could still end up with a reliever the quality of Medina in their bullpen.

If the Pirates decide to go with two left-handers, then Media had no shot at all, since that final spot would be taken by one of the current guys competing for a spot (Lobstein, plus NRI guys like Jim Fuller, Kelvin Marte, or Robert Zarate), or an addition later in the off-season.

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34 COMMENTS

  1. Now I don’t like this move….Medina had more upside and potential to actually contribute….disappointing…

    • He was never going to make the team- the whole plan was to DFA him somewhere along the line and hope he clears waivers. We still hope to retain him.

      • Also better to try to get him through waivers now than in spring when all teams have a clearer picture of what they need.

      • So, you replace a guy who “is never going to make the team” with a guy who is even more likely to never make the team. I thought the idea was to take guys with upside and make them successful reclamation projects…this seems to fly in the face of that…doesn’t make sense. Maybe we let Medina go for reasons not related to his pitching ability?

        • No, you replace a guy who wasn’t going to make the team this year and that we couldn’t keep under that scenario, for an asset we can keep if he doesn’t make the team by sending him to AAA, with also the possibility that you can keep the former player if he clears waivers…..you see what i mean?

  2. Sounds a little like the pitcher we got from the Marlins….not a big strike out pitcher, relies on ground balls and his defense. His numbers are pretty bad, but he did pitcher in some high altitude ballparks, which inflate pitchers’ ERAs and batters hitting numbers.
    Sounds like a guy to help fill out the Indy pitching staff….not a bad thing. It will be interesting to see who gets dropped from the 40 man, because most of the stiffs (and the obvious choices) we had on there 2 months ago are mostly all gone.

  3. Another example of a player rushed to the majors. There is still hope for him but he has go back to AA and start over and after a [hopefully] short stay at Altoona he can get to Indy by early summer.

    • Some teams have to rush players through the system because they don’t have depth at that position. Hope he goes to Altoona and is used in the rotation. Bucs have a hands off policy with new players in the organization (not sure how long of a time period) simply to see what they’re doing on their own. Let him start in AA since he has options remaining, see where he’s at and figure out what his coaches want to tweak then bump him up to Indy after Taillon, Glasnow or both come up midseason and potentially have him as early season depth next year in Pittsburgh.

      • Micheal is 1 of 2 players currently on our major league roster whom has ever hit 20 homers in a season, let alone 30- are you sure this is who you want to trade?- because I don’t see many Pirates able to execute a sac bunt, walk more times than strikeout, or succesfully steal 30 bases with an 80% success rate. Not too many teams are averaging 5 doubles a game while bunching them together to score runs. This offense has no identity as it is.

        • I’m sorry but Micheal Morse isn’t hitting 20 homers this year. Last year he hit a whopping 5 homers!!! He is deadweight and I’d take a Jaso/Rodgers Platoon over him any day of the week. Now if it was 2014 and Morse hadn’t regressed yet than maybe I’d take him, but now he’s eating up money that could be going to a SP which is of much greater need for the Pirates right now. And I agree with you the lineup is not anywhere close to were it should be, but Micheal Morse isn’t going to do anything to help. He’s dead weight and it’s simple as that.

          • Morse isn’t dead weight but his spot is redundant on this roster. I’d imagine Bucs would take almost any deal for Morse but what team is saying “Michael Morse is who we need”? With three 1b options already and the plan being they’re all placeholders/insurance policies for Bell, then I would assume all of them go to spring training and one gets traded just before the season.

            • Okay he isn’t deadweight but his salary could be used in many other places to help the team. We need to bite the bullet and try and get him off the team.

              • His salary IS deadweight – it is sunk cost that the Pirates will be stuck with. The good news is that they have Morse – and don’t have Tabata for the same amount of money. The Dodgers sent $4M+ along with Morse – but the Bucs would probably have to pass that along and maybe add a M or two to get someone to take him at this point.

          • Daniel- no offense, but you aren’t in any way, shape, or form addressing what i presented as a fact. Not too many people hit 20 homers in the number of AB’s he got last year, and I couldn’t care less what he did in 2015, Truthfully if he had a good year last year he wouldn’t be on the team because we wouldn’t have gotten him for the true definition of dead weight “tabata” Morse is 1 year removed from a decent year (even if he didn’t quite reach 20 homers that year) not 5.

  4. Planning ahead–we need someone to start in Indy once Glasnow and Taillon get called up. And the GO/AO rate suggests some upside.

      • I saw this elsewhere, among 135 qualified relievers Blanton had the 6th lowest leverage when entering a game, dead last among Pirates relievers who throw 10 innings. Despite being good no one trusted him.

        Maybe teams are buying his out of nowhere return.

        • I mean, that specific ranking is inconsequential to me…I don’t think anyone could honestly believe managers have that close of a pulse on leverage situations and react rationally.

          But the general point is one I do buy…I, for one, sure as hell assumed Joe Blanton wasn’t a very good pitcher at this stage of the game.

    • 🙁 – If the Pirates really wanted multi-inning relievers, there isn’t a more obvious choice than Blanton quite honestly.

  5. Unless there is another move that hasn’t been reported yet, and without knowing who is getting dropped off the 40-man, this looks like a highly questionable use of a roster spot.

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