In the last week, the Pittsburgh Pirates have used Max Kranick, Cam Alldred, and Beau Sulser in relief.
All three pitchers have mostly worked out of Indianapolis this year. At the moment, Kranick and Alldred are back in Indianapolis, while Sulser was lost on waivers to Baltimore. The latter move was a result of the team adding former first-round pitcher Tyler Beede, so the team didn’t lose any pitching depth, but did add one more arm to the mix.
By the end of this month, I have a feeling that Roansy Contreras will be back in the majors as a starter. Contreras pitched into the fifth inning for the first time this year on Friday night, as he continues to get stretched out.
Even with Contreras as a starter, the Pirates will still have a need for their bullpen strategy. They’re still likely to churn through pitchers out of Indianapolis.
Fortunately, Indianapolis has several candidates to fill the long-relief role. Contreras is the easiest pick of the group to remain a starter, and there are 2-3 other players on the roster who could have a shot at starting. Outside of Contreras, most of the Indianapolis pitching staff will need to make their way to the majors through the bullpen.
I wrote about some of the pitchers who can help in long-relief in this week’s article drop. That list didn’t include guys like Yerry De Los Santos, Austin Brice, Cristofer Melendez, and others who pitch more of the traditional one inning outings.
None of the potential relievers in Indianapolis are as exciting as Contreras, who is the top pitching prospect in the system. That doesn’t mean they can’t be effective MLB players, as the Pirates have shown this year. The bullpen so far has shown success from Wil Crowe, Dillon Peters, and Anthony Banda, to name a few. I don’t think many people were expecting a lot out of those three, and so far they’ve combined for almost 40 innings of sub-3.00 ERA baseball.
The advanced metrics suggest this won’t continue. Crowe and Peters have high walk rates and low BABIP. Neither has been impacted by home runs, which could be the difference between both remaining effective relievers, and both ending up the equivalent of 4th/5th starters.
It’s exciting when three relievers are combining to create a number one starter in the aggregate. It’s less exciting when three relievers just give you what you’d expect from one of them as a starter.
The Pirates don’t have a lot of exciting prospect names in the Indianapolis pitching staff. What they have are a lot of candidates to emerge as another Crowe or Peters, and perhaps the ability to piece together another batch of top of the rotation innings.
Of course, this all assumes the Pirates will maintain the same frequency of long-relief work. That won’t be needed if more starters go six innings like Zach Thompson last night. Until the Pirates get that consistently from their starters, the long-relief work should be used to get that type of production in the aggregate.
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Pirates Discussion: Pirates 3, Reds 1
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
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