The Pittsburgh Pirates have dedicated the last couple of years to pad the minor leagues with as much talent as possible. We saw some of that talent lost in the Rule 5, with 11 players taken in the minor league phase.
While most of those players aren’t considered to be notable prospects, what stands out the most is the need the team really had to clear those players to make room for the traffic jam that is going to become of Altoona and Indianapolis — most notably the pitching staffs.
Nine of the 11 taken were pitchers, five of which played at either Altoona or Indianapolis. There was room that had to be made, and the Pirates took the decision out of their hands and let the rest of the league thin the herd a bit.
The decision making won’t end there, as with more players flooding in from Greensboro, there won’t be enough rotation spots for everyone, and some will have to make the shift to the bullpen.
Indianapolis’ rotation will likely consist of Quinn Priester, Mike Burrows, Luis Ortiz, and whatever other spillovers come from the 40-man roster. It may also include some sort of minor league free agent for depth (like Jerad Eickhoff in 2022).
That leaves very few spaces available in Altoona to split between who remains and anyone from Greensboro coming up.
There are some players who could benefit from this, and have their stuff play a little better by making the shift to the bullpen.
The righty acquired in the Jacob Stallings trade has one of the more explosive fastballs in the system, capable of reaching the upper 90s in shorter outings. He mixes that with a slider and curveball, but works the absolute best as a fastball/slider guy, which would seem to work a lot better out of the bullpen.
He also struggled with his control quite a bit throughout the season, especially the final months. A move to the bullpen may have always been in the cards for him, and this upcoming season could be the time to do so.
Mlodzinski was my choice for a bounce back season, and could be so even pitching out the bullpen. The Pirates played around a lot with the best way to utilize Mlodzinski, even throwing an opener out in front of him a couple of times, and that could be something they still do. However, shot out of the bullpen could really help simplify things for him, a lot like it did for Tahnaj Thomas.
This one is a little different as Bolton made more appearances out of the bullpen than he did as a starter in 2022. While there is probably still some hope for him to be a starter, he struggled to stay healthy in 2022, and also fought with his control.
Last season, Altoona toyed around with a lot of piggy back situations early on in the season, with most starters only going four innings before being followed up behind another multi-inning reliever.
That was mostly because they were shifting to a five man rotation, after using six all of 2021. They also had the same kind of starting pitcher crunch they are going to be looking at this upcoming season.
Eventually, the starters began to pitch deeper into games, and those left took on relief roles. It’ll be something that’s going to have to happen again this season, with these three some who may really benefit from doing so.
Highlight of the Day
AND ANOTHER ONE. ✌️⚾
— Australian Baseball League (@ABL) December 9, 2022
Pirates Prospects Daily
By Tim Williams
**Rodolfo Nolasco gets the feature this week in John Dreker’s Pirates winter report, which also feature’s a weekly update of what is happening during the offseason.
**Jase Bowen homered heading into the weekend in the latest winter league update.
**Missed yesterday? Anthony looked at minor league Rule 5 pick Josh Palacios, and how he’s fitting a trend in the system.
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Pirates Prospects Weekly
John Dreker has all of the Pirates winter league updates, including a look at outfield prospect Rodolfo Nolasco.
Ethan Hullihen’s latest Pirates Business feature will hit the site at noon on Sunday.