Every year on New Year’s Eve, I do the same type of article. The theme of the article is always a play on the upcoming year, with this year’s article being 17 situations that could lead to the Pirates returning to the playoffs in 2017. In previous years I focused on breakout candidates, high upside players, and other similar situations that could boost the Pirates forward.

This article was difficult to write last year, because the Pirates didn’t have a lot of high upside players. A lot of their offseason additions were lower upside guys like Ryan Vogelsong or Jon Niese. That, combined with all of the struggles across the board from players performing below projections, led to a down year.

This time around, the article takes a different shape. You don’t have as many high beta guys who can see their production range from very good to very bad. There are a number of players who are loosely involved in trade rumors who I included on the list, meaning the list could change by Opening Day. And then there are all of the guys who struggled last year, who need to bounce back this year.

So I took a different approach with this article. I didn’t focus as much on the individual importance of each number (meaning you could argue someone listed as 14 should be in the top 10). Instead, I focused on grouping the people below into individual categories, to show how important they were to the Pirates contending in 2017. I also cheated a bit and included other players throughout the article, so you’ve got more than 17. And I have a feeling I might have to revisit this article in a month or two when all of the dust settles from the delayed offseason.

Here is the list for 2017, focusing more on the groups and situations with these people, and less on specific high-upside guys.

The Depth

In previous years, the guys coming up from Triple-A would make up the bulk of this article. The Pirates were relying on those prospects to come up and make an impact, helping to push the team beyond their projections. So many of those prospects have arrived the last few years that the rotation and the lineup are pretty much set. There are still some top prospects in the minors, and those players who have arrived in previous years will still show up later on this list. For now, most of the guys in this first group are just depth for the rotation or bullpen, with two key top prospects included.

17. Edgar Santana/Dovydas Neverauskas – The Pirates have two hard-throwing right-handers in Triple-A in Santana and Neverauskas. Both can hit upper 90s and have good sliders, with the potential for late inning work in the future. They could both arrive in 2017, although they’re unlikely to make the team on Opening Day. I don’t know if they will immediately emerge as late inning options, or as guys who will have an easy transition to the majors. But having two guys with this type of arm strength could provide a nice boost for the bullpen during the year.

16. Austin Meadows – Meadows is a guy who probably won’t have a big impact unless an injury comes up, or unless Andrew McCutchen is traded. If the latter happens, he would shoot up this list in terms of importance. He’s got the potential to be an impact player in the majors, and the skills to have an easy transition to the majors when he arrives. He should be ready at some point in 2017, and it’s just a question of whether he has an opportunity that could come up this year.

15. Drew Hutchison/Steven Brault/Trevor Williams – The Pirates have some other pitchers in the minors who could provide depth for the back of the rotation, but Hutchison, Brault, and Williams are at the top of the list. At the moment, they would be competing for the final rotation spot on Opening Day. If the Pirates added another starting pitcher, like Jose Quintana, these three would provide some nice depth, or be candidates for the bullpen in long-relief/swingman roles. I don’t see any of them as having more than number four starter upside, but they all could easily reach that back of the rotation upside, and really help the Pirates out in the event of an injury or poor performance.

14. Tyler Glasnow – If the Pirates added Quintana, I don’t see how the deal could be made without including Glasnow. And if they added Quintana, it would be easier to trade Glasnow, since their rotation would be under team control for at least the next three years. But if that doesn’t happen, then Glasnow remains in the mix of starting pitchers from Triple-A, and obviously has the highest upside of the group. He won’t be ready at the start of the season, since there is still a lot of work to be done with his control and his changeup. The Pirates recently promoted Justin Meccage to the Minor League Pitching Coordinator role, which could be good, as it will give him some more time to work with Glasnow, who made his best progress in the past under Meccage. I don’t think it will be easy for Glasnow to provide an impact in 2017, but I also don’t think it’s impossible.

 

The New Bullpen

Ii’ll get to Tony Watson later in the article, and I’m not including Juan Nicasio here, since I don’t think he could perform better than what the Pirates saw last year. However, there are two relievers in the back of the bullpen who could perform better than expected.

13. Daniel Hudson – The Pirates signed Hudson to a two-year deal this offseason. He’s got one of the hardest fastballs, and can generate some strikeouts, with the chance to be a nice late inning reliever. The Pirates have brought in guys like this in the past, and after some minor changes, saw them take their game to the next level. We’ll see if the same happens with Hudson. If he remains the same pitcher he’s been the last two years (with the consideration that last year saw his numbers greatly inflated by a bad one or two-week stretch), then the Pirates will still have a really good arm in the late innings, and a possible closer if Watson is moved.

12. Felipe Rivero – Rivero has electric stuff, but also some control problems that hold him back. He’s a good late inning reliever and a potential closer with the control problems. If the Pirates can find a way to reduce those issues, he could take a step forward as a very dominant reliever, on par with what the Pirates saw from Mark Melancon and Tony Watson in previous years. Just like with Hudson, the Pirates will have a very good reliever here if no improvements are made, although there is some upside.

 

How Good Will These Guys Be?

I mentioned earlier that the Pirates had a lot of prospects who made the jump to the majors the last few years. Some of those guys could still have another level to reach, while others are guys who need to show that their 2016 debuts were legit and something to build upon. Note that I included Ivan Nova in this group because he fits the overall theme of wondering how good players in this group can be.

11. Adam Frazier – I’d include Alen Hanson with Frazier as someone who could provide some nice depth off the bench, although I feel Hanson would belong in the “Depth” group above. Frazier is also ahead of Hanson on the depth charts, essentially guaranteed a roster spot. He worked his way to the majors last year, and worked his way into getting some starts at the end of the year. Defensively, Frazier doesn’t offer a lot at any position, which will keep him on the bench. However, he’s a good hitter who can get on base frequently, and that makes him a top depth option off the bench if an injury comes up or a starter doesn’t perform. That worked well in 2016, and we’ll have to see if the performance carries over in 2017.

10. Chad Kuhl – I’ve been talking up Kuhl as a strong number four starter with a high floor for the past few years. He’s a guy with surprising velocity and a high ground ball rate, although the lack of a great strikeout pitch will prevent him from being higher up in the rotation. He can get some strikeouts with his slider, and he mostly pitches to contact and avoids the strikeout approach, but he’s still not a guy who can completely dominate hitters like Jameson Taillon or Gerrit Cole. That said, he showed the potential to be a solid number four starter last year, especially after making an adjustment to his approach after the first few starts in the majors. He should have a rotation spot locked up, and could be a nice boost to the group if he can put up around a 4.00 ERA over a full season.

9. Ivan Nova – Nova isn’t a young player like the other guys in this group. However, he’s a guy who could really give the Pirates a boost if he repeats his final two months of 2016. He had a 3.06 ERA and a 3.13 xFIP in his time with the Pirates, earning him a three-year, $26 M deal, which seemed a bit low. That deal could turn into a big value if he comes close to what he did last year. I think the floor here is around a 4.00 ERA, but if he has figured something out, he could shoot higher than that and give the Pirates a very strong number three starter.

8. Josh Bell – Bell’s offense carried over about as well as you could hope for in his MLB debut. He only had a .775 OPS, which isn’t what you want long-term from a first baseman with his defensive issues. However, I think there’s still a lot left for Bell, and we haven’t come close to seeing his upside with the bat. The defensive issues will suppress his value, keeping him at a 2-3 WAR player. If he can become that player in 2017, he would finally give the Pirates some security and production at first base.

7. Gregory Polanco – I’ve been waiting for Polanco to break out since he entered the majors, and he was the most important player on this list last year. It looked like he was finally breaking out, with a .310/.386/.556 line in the first two months of the season. He struggled at times the rest of the year, with a .229/.286/.412 line. He still showed promising signs, with good power production in that span. He also had some injury issues that he was dealing with, and that could have slowed his production. Polanco just turned 25 at the end of the 2016 season, so he still has plenty of time to see that long-awaited breakout, and hopefully it finally happens in 2017.

6. Jameson Taillon – You couldn’t ask for a better debut than the one the Pirates saw from Taillon. He looked like a guy who could already pitch as a number two or number three starter in the majors, with an advanced approach, and the stuff needed to dominate opposing hitters. The thing about young players is that the league can adjust to them, and they don’t always stay consistent in their early years. If Taillon can counter the adjustments quickly, and avoid inconsistencies, he would give the Pirates exactly what they need as a young, top of the rotation starter.

 

The Bounce Back Candidates

One of the big issues for the Pirates last year was that most of their roster under-performed, suffered injuries, or both. The Pirates have four key players who fit in this category who need to bounce back in 2017 to help the team. There’s also the chance that two of them might not be on the team by Opening Day.

5. Tony Watson – A lot of people started noticing Watson’s struggles when he moved to the closer’s role last year. But he was struggling before making that move. Watson was close to replacement level in 2016, which is a far cry from his performance from 2013-2015, when he was one of the best relievers in baseball. The Pirates could trade him this offseason, so it’s not a guarantee that he will play for them in 2017. But if he does, they would need him to bounce back to being the reliever they had prior to 2016, and that reliever would pair nicely with Hudson and Rivero in the late innings.

4. Francisco Cervelli – Cervelli probably was unlikely to repeat his 2015 season, when he posted a 3.8 fWAR, which is a value that doesn’t include his pitch framing. That framing ranks among the best in baseball. Cervelli saw his power drop off, but maintained his .370 range OBP that he’s had in each of the last four seasons (although the first two years combined for 223 plate appearances). He also dealt with injuries, being limited to 101 games and 393 plate appearances. I don’t know if 130 games and 510 plate appearances can be expected again like we saw in 2015, but the more he can stay healthy, the better it would be for the Pirates. Having a strong defensive catcher who can reach base 37% of the time provides a big boost for the team on both sides of the ball.

3. Gerrit Cole – Cole’s 2016 season was filled with injuries, with three trips to the disabled list due to elbow issues. He didn’t need surgery this offseason, and has already resumed throwing. We probably won’t know how he’s responding or get an indication of how he’s bouncing back until Spring Training. Needless to say, the Pirates will want the 2013-2015 version of Cole, who was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball over that span. He ranked 19th, 16th, and 19th in WAR, ERA, and xFIP among 132 qualified pitchers during that span. The Pirates could use that type of production at the top of their rotation.

2. Andrew McCutchen – This is another case where the Pirates need the 2013-2015 version more than the 2016 version. I don’t think McCutchen will bounce back to those levels and be a 6 WAR player, but I could see him being at least a 4 WAR player, which is a big increase from his 2016 production. Of course, there’s the chance that McCutchen won’t be on the team by Opening Day, and if that happens, along with some other moves, then this could be an entirely different list. That all brings me to number one…

 

The Offseason Moves

1. Neal Huntington – Normally, the rosters are starting to take shape across baseball by this time, and this type of article would be pretty locked in. But the slow offseason, combined with a lot of trade rumors for the Pirates, makes this list very flexible. You could see scenarios where half of this list could be traded away by the start of the season. Neal Huntington’s job isn’t finished yet this offseason, and he will easily be the most important part in 2017, at least early in the year. He will need to find a way to add help, trade the right prospects or players to get that help, make deals where he gets young talent back for guys like Andrew McCutchen, Tony Watson, or other veterans, and all while trying to fit in under a small market budget. When the season starts, this list will be entirely about the players. But so much can happen until then, and Huntington’s wheeling and dealing over the next 2-3 months will have the biggest impact on the 2017 season.

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103 COMMENTS

  1. It seem like you always talk about Bell’s defense like it has peaked. Wouldn’t an athlete that new to a position be expected to continue to improve?

  2. Tim,
    Do you think there is a chance the Pirates sign a guy like Trumbo or Chris Carter to a 1 year deal similar to what the Rangers did w Desmond last year? If either of those guys remained unsigned I do see both of them willing to take a 1 year prove yourself type deal.

  3. Opinions please….

    With everything remaining how it is I project this as the starting rotation in 3 years. Of course a Quintana trade changes everything, but let’s say trade free in 3 years. John, Tim what do you think the rotation looks like in 3 years. Im actually excited looking at all the candidates.

    1. Mitch Keller
    2. Jameson Taillon
    3. Tyler Glasnow
    4. Nick Kingham
    5. Taylor Hearns

    Other possible candidates
    Clay Holmes
    Yuedy Garcia
    Gage Hinz
    Chad Kuhl

    What does everyone think. I say the future is bright.

  4. No list without Brady Dragmire is valid.

    #DragmiresQuagmire

    Also, do you not expect Newman to debut this season? If he has a season like last year, he could find his way onto this sort of list, too. Plus, he’s my boy, as you all well know by now.

    • Good point about Newman, and I would like to see the Pirates put more emphasis on the W/K stat, because it is a TEAM stat, and there’s a direct correlation between getting on base and runs scored. For instance, our 4 best chances for being a part of the Pirates in 2017

      Bell – at MLB/AAA he had 78W/93K in 549 AB
      Meadows – at AAA/AA he had 31W/66K in 293 AB
      Newman – at AA/A+ he had 43W/36K in 400 AB
      Hanson – at AAA he had 32W/78K in 432 AB

      These are excellent numbers and it makes me wonder about our overall approach at the plate when we have guys like Josh Harrison with 18W/76K in 487 AB, and Starling Marte with 23W/104K in 489 AB. We need much better from both of them.

      • Marte is fine as that sort of hitter because he’s a really good contact guy with some pop, and he gets hit often enough to call that part of his on base skill. Harrison’s hurts, though, because he doesn’t have Marte’s contact skill or his pop.

  5. Tim, do you have any idea, as of right now, what the win projection is for the Pirates. I realize it could change dramatically if the Pirates make some more off-season moves. I know in years past you have put up an article detailing this and I know for several of those years, the Pirates were able to exceed those win projections. Do you foresee the Pirates exceeding the projection this year, meeting the win total or coming up short?

  6. I think Kang deserves a mention after multiple issues with the law (or accusations thereof), combined with multiple injuries over the last couple years. If Kang is suddenly out of the picture for whatever reason, they have Freese and then who else? That, in turn, puts a lot of weight on Freese to perform at a starter-level which I’m not sure that’s what they signed him for. So, Kang’s health, off-the-field choices, and legal counsel will have a big impact on 2017.

    • There’s really no place for Kang to go but down. He’s unlikely to play better than he has when healthy. And this article is more about people who could exceed expectations, or exceed their 2016 performances.

      • I guess my point was that I would put him in the “bounce back” bucket, in terms of being able to produce at his 2015 level for a full season.

      • I know I am being Mr. Obvious here but the Pirates NEED to have:
        Cutch back to form
        Cole win 15-18 games
        Taillon to win 12-15 games
        Nova to stay in form as last season as a Pirate
        Cervelli to return to 2015 form
        Bell to make an impact
        And Polanco to do the same
        It’s a lot to ask for, but if those things happen……PLAYOFFS!

  7. Hutchison and Williams, in my opinion, are not MLB quality starter options. To suggest that they are is ignoring their past performances and their stuff. Hutchison was even hit hard in AAA last year.

    Brault is a possibility, especially since he is the lone LH on the horizon.

    Glasnow will be in the rotation in 2017 – and will stick – if he is not traded. he may not be in the rotation starting Day 1, as the Pirates may stubbornly force Hutchison into the rotation to try to justify the Liriano trade. But that will likely fail – just like Niese, Nicasio, and Locke did last year.

        • I’d say it was a good signing that didn’t work out. You don’t analyze transactions with hindsight, you analyze them with the information that is available at the time the deal is made. Liriano’s salary was put to use elsewhere, which is what they said they would do, and they did so in a way that gets more value for the money, with less risk. Nobody liked the prospects attached to the deal, but time to move on.

    • So we got two pitchers in the last year with starting experience. One has a career 4.00 xFip, 6.8 k/9, 2.7 w/9, the second a has a career 4.04 xFip, 8.3 k/9, 2.8 w/9. The first is of course Ivan Nova, the second is Hutchinson. Like or hate the trade that brought him here (dislike personally), there are things that make sense with Drew. Those k/w numbers definitely play at the mlb level, his problem is a career 38.6% ground ball rate in a hr friendly al east park. IF, and its a big if, Hutchinson can get that ground ball rate up near 45-50% while retaining those k/w numbers, he’ll likely end up with an era in the mid 3’s. That’s what the numbers imply, and I think that’s why they like him. And the groundball thing is basically what the Pirates do as an organization. I wouldn’t write him down for anything, but I think he could be worth something. Or not. Do I like him over Liriano? Heck no. But I see him a tier better Williams and he could surprise.

      • Hutchinson will get every opportunity to be #5 starter. He has MLB experience and his #’s are not bad for a five. I would like to get his whip down closer to 1-1.15. But, he will get his chance.

    • You think Glasnow is ready? He is cannot control his pitches and won’t throw his secondary stuff much. The way he is right now is a less effective Juan Nicasio. Glasnow needs to be in triple a till he figures it out.

  8. I think Cole’s health and performance are a major part of 2017. If he’s healthy and dealing, I like our chances at least for a WC spot. If he’s hurting and we don’t add another quality starter it could be a really long year. I know I’m being Captain Obvious but we need him to have a big year. I love Tallion but we need a legitimate top three to contend this year. PS- Tim, when are the prospect guides shipping?

  9. I think injuries could have gotten their own mention in this list. Cole, Polanco, Cervelli, Stewart, Diaz, Marte, Kang, Harrison, Vogelsong, Glasnow all missed time last year with injuries. That is a lot to overcome.

    • Happens to every team every year. The Indians made it to WS missing their two best outfielders and suffering injuries to two key starters.

      Underperforming years from Cutch, Liriano and Cole were the difference between contending and collapsing.

  10. Tim-Great article for New year’s Eve. A question for you. I see articles from time to time on teams being better than others at player development in the minor leagues. Are there measurable stats out there or are these articles based mostly on anecdotal info and opinions?

    • I think it’s just analysis. I don’t know what articles you’re referring to. I’d only trust them from bigger places who cover all the systems, like Baseball America or MLB.com, for example.

  11. I still tend to think that Jung Ho is largest wildcard for the Pirates. He could have hit 30 home runs last year if he didn’t have that disastrous August and July. Apparently, this was also happening while he was in really bad shape physically and mentally. I think a healthy Kang could hit 285 and hit 30 plus home runs while playing great 3B. That would be very important to us. But on the other hand, he could spend the season in jail and or rehab. Here’s to a happy and healthy Jung Ho in the new year!

    • add this to bfsm and we should be very competitive without any additional pitching adds. lots of underperforming and injuries derailed us more than not having the talent to compete with St. Louis and Chicago last year.

    • I’m not sure the young lady in question will ever come forward and that’s very unfortunate because if Jung Ho did something he shouldn’t have he shouldn’t get off with no consequences. He also has to learn to control himself with the adult beverages and that may require professional help. I hope 2017 works out for him.

  12. seeing frazier shuttled from ss/2b in the nyp league then craig playing 3b
    is defense an afterthought when drafting these players.

    • Lee, I think there has to be at least one more move
      because we need to do something with the
      extra left handed bullpen arms. Hopefully we
      can pick up something useful there.

          • Harrison at 3b, Frazier or Hanson at 2b. I will admit again I don’t like that signing at all, so I’m a bit irrational

            • …so you want to make a deal that makes them weaker at 2 positions? They signed Freese because they need his bat. If you look at Mercer, Cervelli, Harrison at the bottom of the order, that is not a lot of pop. It’s nice having Freese’s power to pinch hit and fill in. I kind of wish they had more power at 2B. If only they had a 2B with some power. Does anyone know of a 2B like that?

                • Agree Freese isn’t a anything special but he is a nice experienced bat to have around and has a ton of postseason experience. He has one season under a 100 ops+ and it was a 99. 4.25 mil and you know you are probably getting more value than that out of him.

                  • as a backup sure but you cant afford to have that type of OPS+ in the lineup everyday in a production spot in the batting order if you plan on contending.

                    • Yeah- I have no issues with that whatsoever, but when Tim is talking about Him and Jaso being our First base platoon- I literally Puke. We can’t have 2nd base production from our first basemen…..at least with Pedro there was some upside, there is zero upside in that platoon, you are looking at 1-1.5 WAR out of first base, and you can’t have that in this league

                    • I was thinking it and then you typed exactly what I was thinking: “It’s time to quit getting 1 or so WAR at the 1B position.” Good teams usually get 3,4,5 OWAR out of their 1B.

          • Would be nice if folks could just chill and wait and see how things play out with Kang. He is a young man who unfortunately has done a few stupid young man things. I am hoping he is at third base opening day and gets 600 ABs and is the teams best all around player

                • He still was stupid enough to put himself in a bad situation. Only 2 people know exactly what happened in Chicago and you aren’t one of them.

                  • That is why I feel it is best to not pass judgement. I made my share of mistakes when I was his age – think most young men do a few things that they would agree were “stupid” 20 years later.

            • Bruce, I agree with you. I absolutely hope Kang
              goes for 30 hr, 80 RBI and .285+
              =
              But on the other hand, this is not a 19 years old.
              He turns 30 in April. I know even Tiger Woods
              and others of us have done stupid things
              after age 21, but most of them have not
              played for the Pirates since Doc Ellis.

        • I wish they would trade Frazier for a decent backup shortstop and sign a 4th OF. We have 10 people that can play second base and noone to man shortstop in the event Mercer even has a hangnail.

          • If frazier was a plus defender I would say keep him because I like his bat so much…but I agree, they need another decent SS that isn’t an offensive black hole.

              • I mean if they get a backup that can play a decent SS I hope he is not an awful offensive player like they usually run out there as a backup.

                • oh right, I’ve got you. I agree. This is an area I don’t care about OPS because its a shortstop, I just want the guy to be able to get on base and not K constantly- Give me an OBP around .320 and a K % under 20% and play above average defense and I’m fine with that as a shortstop

                  • I’ll take an combo of hitting skills if you can field. Not many SS with power but I’ll take a .290 obp if he can slug over .400. It’s uncommon though.

                    • I know. It’s disappointing that a major college SS probably isn’t even going to be passable at 2B. I’m still holding out hope he is athletic enough to improve his fielding at an OF corner and 2B and be the next Brock Holt.

                    • well passable is…..a matter of perspective. Walker was passable, just not compared to his piers, for example. I would prefer to just have brock holt back honestly. Can we package Hanson and Frazier and get Holt back? It would free up a roster spot and cost us nothing in terms of talent besides maybe a pinch running threat

                    • Boston would never do it. They don’t need two light power quasi MI in Fenway. Man the Pirates do need a SS though. I was thinking of a deal where the Pirates got Anderson and Quintana from the Sox and they all just cost the Pirates too much. Then I looked at Anderson’s plate discipline and patience compared to Newman’s and was horrified. Anderson could really fizzle if he doesn’t quit hacking. He has not improved in any year of his career really. But he is gonna be way ahead defensively. Surprisingly, Anderson and Newman were born 11 days from each other.

                    • I could see Chris Beck as a guy the Pirates might get as a throw in if they get Quintana. He fits their mold. Big, hard throwing righty that gets groundballs that hasn’t had great results yet. He’s 26 and averaged 94 and 86 on the fastball and slider last year. Throws a changeup I am guessing is below average, as is his control. Nice arm though.

                    • no…..we need someone to BACKUP shortstop, and that requires fielding. A .400 slugging and they’d be a starter.

                    • well I doubt they’d have a .320 OBP if they hit .210 (going back to a prior statement I made on acceptable hitting for a backup defensive shortstop), but I guess its possible.

                    • Yeah. The guy I was thinking of is a low walk SS with power. There is probably one…Jose Uribe. There can only be one fatlander.

                    • Ha! Now he does. He’s about 250 or more and 38. He probably needs help getting his big ass up off the bench to pinch hit.

    • I’d just go with what I said in the article:

      “I don’t view his nerves as a long-term issue. I think they will be something he has to work through in Triple-A, and he’ll also have the issues when he first arrives in the majors. But once he gets settled down and gets used to pitching to upper level and MLB guys, he will learn to settle down, and the stuff will take over, just as it has done at every level in his development.”

      My main concern with Glasnow is the changeup. I think he needs a third pitch to have success in the majors, or come close to his upside.

      • Have you heard much about different grips he’s tried with the change? I’ve wondered if he could benefit from a Holdzkom like “palm” ball.

      • At what point do you say the third pitch is the priority – splitter – slider – knuckle curve -whatever vs this change up obsession.

        From what I have seen his curve and fastball are close to unhittable. I think the bigger issue is control/command and that needs to be fixed before the focus shifts to teaching him a change.

        Koufax and Johnson both struggled early with control – Glasnow seems to be cut from the same mold.

          • Getting the fastball over for strike one will fix a lot of issues for Glasnow. If he would throw even 60% or a little over strikes consistently he wouldn’t need to throw a changeup that much. Too often last year he was closer to 50% strikes than 60%. I was surprised to just check and see he was 58.5% strikes in the majors. That might be better than what he was at AAA.

        • well if you are the pirates, you have to figure out which is easier to do: get him a decent 3rd pitch or get him to command the two plus plus pitches he has. Its not an easy decision, and they are in a position to know better than we are.
          – i think their failure is focusing too much on a changeup, there are a lot of other pitches which could help him

      • So why haven’t they moved on from the changeup and started working on a different third pitch with him? Or maybe some different fastballs, 2 seam, 4 seam, sinkers…a splitter maybe?. You can’t use a hammer to break through a rubber wall.

          • I agree with finding another pitch he’s comfortable with.
            The nerves issue though only gets solved one way. Play him. See Nolan Ryan’s early stats. Put him in the fifth spot in the rotation and let him go all year. He is the best option for that spot.

  13. When I look at the above list, here are guys who I think will make or break the Pirates season in 2017 – if they either return to previous form or realize their potential:
    – Polanco – he needs to become a superstar – a 30 HR /100 RBI guy
    – Bell – he needs to show he belongs – 20-25 HR / 80 RBI
    – Cole – he needs to win 15-20 games
    – Cutch – return to form – .300/20-25 HR/80-90 RBI

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