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.

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32 COMMENTS

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

  2. 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

  3. 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.

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

    • The ESPN staff in most cases he used were on the stats side, plus he listens to MLB evaluators. He has a lot of resources available to him and these articles clearly take a lot of time with the amount of writing in each, so I can’t imagine having all of that combined, then not putting thought into the order. It’s clearly not something just thrown together.

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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

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

    • 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.

      • In the article, he talks about how bad the bottom feeders in MLB are and 12 teams didn’t get a mention on any of the lists today. The lists were basically dominated by the top teams

      • Some real hard hitting analysis there Scotty boy

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

          • 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.

            • 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?

    • My only guess is that he seems extremely high on the top four bullpens and doesn’t talk highly of any others, so there appears to be a huge gap (in his mind) between #4 and #5

      • 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.

    • 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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