For the past few weeks, we’ve been doing a feature that will be titled “Prospect Roundtable” going forward.
Each week, I pose a question to the writers and contributors of this site, and each week they send their picks and summaries to me, with no one knowing who anyone else is picking.
It was pretty impressive, on that note, that no one had identical picks for the standout performers the first two weeks of the season.
This week, I decided to change gears a bit with the question. Working alongside the theme of my column this week, I asked everyone which pitcher in the Pirates system they felt would benefit if “long-relievers” become a bigger part of the Pirates’ long-term strategy.
My idea heading into this was that a lot of fringe-starters or power relievers could see their stock boosted, going from minimal one-inning roles or depth spot starts to a regular multi-inning relief role.
Here are the pitchers that each writer felt would benefit from the Pirates’ new approach.
John Dreker: Osvaldo Bido
Bido has been developing as a starter for good reason. He throws hard and has a five-pitch mix with good control. He threw hard when he signed at 21 years old, but he was both painfully skinny at the time and he didn’t have the best control. He’s filled out and improved his strike-throwing, but he appears to have topped out at Double-A as a starter because he doesn’t miss a lot of bats and he’s a fly ball pitcher. I saw his first inning last week as a starter and he was pumping in 96-97 MPH fastballs. By the end of the fourth the stuff had dropped off. If you let him just air it out for 2-3 innings at a time, drop his worst pitches and go with a three-pitch mix, you could see him develop into a solid long reliever, which appears to be his ceiling now.
Wilbur Miller: Nick Garcia
I’ve already mentioned Max Kranick as a candidate for a long relief role, so rather than repeat that I’ll go with Nick Garcia. When the Pirates drafted Garcia in round 3 out of Chapman University, it made him the second-highest drafted Division III player ever. He reportedly had reached the upper-90s with his fastball, but he hasn’t shown quite that kind of velocity as a pro. I saw him a lot last year at Bradenton and his stuff seemed to lose effectiveness after a couple innings. He had a 2.70 ERA in 23.1 IP as a reliever and 4.91 in 51.1 as a starter. This year his first two outings were in long relief. In 7.1 IP he allowed just three hits and fanned nine. Control was a problem last year, but he walked only one in those games. On Sunday he started, but still just went three innings. He had control problems against a tough Aberdeen lineup, but gave up just one hit and unearned run. The shaky control is another reason relief may work better for Garcia. It’s not a great deal to go on, but I think there’s a realistic chance Garcia’s stuff will play up in relief.
Anthony Murphy: Luis Ortiz
If this is the Pirates long-term plan with how they want to work their pitching staff it would makes sense, because there are several players who fit the mold in the system currently. One that has stood out especially this season has been Luis Ortiz. After getting moved straight from Bradenton to Altoona, Ortiz has pitched well out of the rotation for the Curve early on. Long term, he may be a better fit for a 2-3 inning role due mainly to one thing, velocity. He’s been clocked as high as 99 mph early on in his outings, pairing that with his slider and you can see why he can be so dangerous in shorter outings. This year he has allowed one hit and struck out seven in the first two innings of games (six innings overall), while posting a 7.50 ERA from the third frame on.
Ryan Palencer: Cam Alldred
When I think of a multi-inning leverage reliever, the first guy who comes to mind is Cam Alldred. The lefty doesn’t offer anything that is overpowering, with a fastball in the low-80s most times and a slider that comes in around 79. However, he is deceptive and moves the ball around well to each quadrant of the zone, leading to missed bats and soft contact. When you think of late-inning hurlers, most times high velocity follows. Alldred also doesn’t have the pitch variety to work a third time through any order. If his improved command continues with Indianapolis, the cross-body deception that Alldred possess is enough to give multiple quality innings out of a bullpen.
Tim Williams: Blake Cederlind
There has been some talk of Blake Cederlind working as a starter in his return from Tommy John. That sounds appealing to have a starter who can throw triple-digits with a hard cutter that generates a lot of strikeouts. It also sounds unrealistic for a guy coming off a major injury with a career high of 59.1 innings in a single season. That said, the same appeal of watching Cederlind pumping 100 MPH sinking fastballs can be felt as a multi-inning reliever. That shouldn’t be a difficult adjustment. In 2019, Cederlind went multiple innings in 21 of his 41 appearances. That included 16 appearances of two innings or more, and two appearances where he pitched into a third inning. Cederlind has worked on changing his movement in his time off, and should be set for a mid-season return. If he returns with the old stuff, there’s no reason why the Pirates should limit him to one inning appearances.
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Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.