Pittsburgh Pirates are Ranked as Having the Fifth Best Bullpen

Buster Olney finished up his rankings on Saturday by covering the top ten for multiple categories. His lists started two weeks ago with the top ten at each position, before doing the ten best teams yesterday and finally, the ten best bullpens, defenses, rotations and lineups today. These lists turned out to be brutal for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Olney, along with the help from MLB evaluators and some staff members at ESPN, had four Pirates listed during his run through the positions. That would be a nice number if those four players all made the top ten, but three of them were mentioned among the “best of the rest”, while Starling Marte ranked ninth overall for left fielders. Felipe Rivero, Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison were all just outside the top ten.

When Olney started his group rankings, they were sure to be unkind to the Pirates based off of his position rankings. The Pirates were not listed among the top ten teams yesterday, and they weren’t among the three other teams listed just outside the top ten. The Pirates also didn’t make the top ten for lineups, rotations or defenses.

Perhaps surprisingly, they ranked as the fifth best bullpen. I say it’s a surprise because Rivero wasn’t in his top ten and Olney doesn’t mention any other bullpen member in his brief write-up for the Pirates. There will be some battles in Spring Training for bullpen spots, with some starters possibly making the switch to relief, and Rule 5 pick Jordan Milbrath trying to get a spot with just a half season of experience above A-ball.

Besides Rivero, Daniel Hudson and George Kontos are the only bullpen arms with significant experience. So it is somewhat hard to believe that the Pirates made his list, even with some promising young arms like Edgar Santana and Dovydas Neverauskas around, along with AJ Schugel, who posted a 1.97 ERA despite a 1.41 WHIP in 32 appearances.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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Our newest Bucco https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1OSV4y1vJ7E

I’m excited!


This is a result of the Gerrit Cole trade to the Astros, now we have the 5th best bullpen


Maybe he was throwing the Pirates a bone.


Maybe the young arms of Dovy, Santana and Brault impress him?

Todd Tomasic

I only trust Rivero, Kontos, & to a lesser extent Neverauskus. The rest-let spring
training sort ’em out


I think the Pirates have potential for a nice bullpen. Kontos is a very nice 7th inning guy. One thing we learned over the year bullpens are truly unpredictable

dr dng

Well, I guess I know about as much as the experts.
(or maybe nothing at all) Other than the Revero and
the Amish guy (I can’t even remember his name),
I could not name a player who would definitely
be in the Pirates bullpen when they start the season.


All predication’s are for amusement only and those who make them are not responsible for their use.

Mike G

Does this effect out opinions of Olney’s other position choices? Do we think he’s making informed decisions?


This doesn’t even make sense. I mean, I think the bullpen has considerable upside, but all that upside is coupled with a ton of risk. It *could* end up being the fifth best bullpen if the young guys take steps forward, but it could also end up being the worst if they all fail.

joe s

What was Olney smoking when he came to that conclusion? Lets offer to trade them all and see what we get in return.


I don’t put much stock in any top 10 list that I wasn’t a part of creating. That being said, the Pirates being ranked at #5 actually gives Buster an out. No one thinks the Pirates will be anything but average, however, if they do have a shot at being more, it will be because of the bullpen. So if the Pirates make the playoffs, this gives them an out saying it was because the bullpen was so dominant.

Kerry Writtenhouse

Hanrahan was probably the closer, the last time he watched a Pirate game.

Kerry Writtenhouse

I’ve never really thought much of Olney.


I think that Buster meant 5th worst?


There must be some crappy bullpens out there. Who do we have besides Rivero that is dependable?


If we could take a year to regroup and let the young bull pen arms mature, this might turn out to be the #5 next year. At this time it’s just participation trophy


I’m not against the idea that this cheap bullpen is potentially good. I’m very curious on ESPN’S rationale it seems optimistic.

Scott K

Knowing ESPN is run by those who believe in the concept of participation trophies, I wouldn’t be surprised if they made Olney fill in this list with teams not well represented on the other lists.


Some real hard hitting analysis there Scotty boy

Have you thought about making a blog for all of your other amazing ideas?

Scott K

Sorry if the truth hurt your feelings, Danny boy.


You say you know the truth. Yet you somehow think participation awards affect Buster Olney’s analysis of the Pirates bullpen.

I think you’re just emotional and you wanted to get in a cheap shot about participation awards even though they have no relevance to the conversation.

I bet you felt really cool typing about the truth though.

Scott K

Pretty much was taking a shot at ESPN. Participation trophies was just the tool I used to make my point.

I’m a certified Pollyanna Pirates fan, and there’s no reasonable way to conclude their bullpen is top 5. Especially if it’s already been established their best RP isn’t even top 10. So please give me your analysis of how ESPN came to this conclusion?


You just made laugh, thanks!


I think Olney may have thrown away all credibility with this one.


Rivera not a top ten, really.


Maybe he figures they usually throw a good bullpen together one way or another. Still, to be #5 …I could see if they were 8 or 9. That still wouldn’t really make sense but I don’t know how you pick a bullpen and you don’t even necessarily know half the contents.


A very odd evaluation since the only established person with any success is Rivero.


Rivero combined with veterans like Kontos and Hudson, and strong bit pitchers like Schugel, Neverauskas, and Leathersich provides a strong nucleus even without Nicasio. The wild cards that could make them even stronger are Brault, Burdi, and one or two of the SP’s from AAA.

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