The Pittsburgh Pirates did some roster shuffling in Altoona today, adding Luis Heredia to the Altoona bullpen in place of RHP John Kuchno, who was released. They also swapped catchers, with Jackson Williams joining the roster and Zane Chavez was assigned to Morgantown.
Heredia has been down in Extended Spring Training at Pirate City. He had a medical issue, which shut him down during the middle of Spring Training for a couple weeks. When he returned, he started over his process of getting ready for the season. For the last two weeks, Heredia has been pitched 1-2 innings in games and the scouting reports have been strong. Last year, he switched more to a sinker and was getting great results early, then struggled in the second half. His off-season in Mexico was more of the same. He’s been throwing his four-seam, a sinker, curve and a changeup in Spring Training and throwing strikes with each pitch, so just like with last year and this winter, the potential is there for success, but he needs to be consistent. This winter, his velocity was consistently mid-90s in short outings.
This is his last season before minor league free agency reaches, so he’s going to need to impress to get re-signed by the Pirates. They had three players last year in Dovydas Neverauskas, Jose Osuna and Jared Lakind, who impressed in the upper levels last year and returned to the team to avoid free agency. Osuna and Neverauskas both received 40-man roster spots.
John Kuchno was an over-slot signing from the 18th round of the 2012 draft. At one time he looked like he had a chance at reaching the majors due to a very strong ground ball rate as a starting pitcher, with the ability to go deep into games. He put up decent results in Altoona in 2015 after moving to the bullpen and repeated that last year, but he struggled with the jump to Triple-A and was having a tough start to this season.
Zane Chavez has been struggling at the plate this season (2-for-33, .196 OPS), so the switch isn’t a big surprise. He was signed more for his defense, but Jackson Williams provides the same solid defense, along with some Major League experience for the Double-A staff. Williams was one of the last cuts from the Major League Spring Training roster this year. He has been an extra with Indianapolis up until today (officially he was assigned to Bristol until now).