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.