Right-handed pitcher Tyler Eppler will be playing winter ball in the Dominican this off-season. He has signed on to play for Toros del Este after spending the entire 2018 season pitching for Indianapolis.
Winter ball’s version of Spring Training starts soon and games begin on October 13th in the Dominican. Eppler plans to be there from October 7th until November 20th. That length of stay in the league is somewhat typical of foreign-born players, who usually leave their winter ball teams either right before Thanksgiving or Christmas. It’s a similar time frame as the Arizona Fall League, though as a starting pitcher, he will be able to get more innings in the Dominican.
Eppler has been a workhorse for the Pittsburgh Pirates since being drafted in the sixth round in 2014, pitching over 450 innings during the last three seasons combined. In 2018, he posted a 3.59 ERA in 153 innings, with a 1.30 WHIP and a 118:39 SO/BB ratio.
He was eligible for the Rule 5 draft last year and will be again this December unless the Pirates decide to add him to the 40-man roster this off-season. Last year he was coming off of a 4.89 ERA with Indianapolis in his first season of Triple-A. With improved results and an extra year of experience, it’s possible that some team could see him as an option. He’s got a big 6’5″ frame, throws a lot of strikes and get his fastball up to 95 MPH as a starter, so it could play up even more in short relief roles.
Playing winter ball will not only give the Pirates more looks before they decide his Rule 5 fate, but it will also give other team more looks leading up to the draft. In fact, that was part of his thinking for playing winter ball this year.
“It’s a good opportunity for me to get in front of some new eyes,” Eppler said. “Hopefully put myself on the radar for the Rule 5 and to further the strides I’ve made this season as far as pitch execution goes.”