The Pittsburgh Pirates have some serious question marks when it comes to the rotation. Obviously we know Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano take up the top of the rotation. They are going to need to pitch a lot of innings and really help keep the starting rotation together. But what can we expect from Niese, Locke and Vogelsong?
Gerrit Cole: Cole has been successful ever since the Pirates called him up. Last year he lead the team with 19 wins which was tied for 2nd most in the national league. He pitched over 200 innings and he also had over 200 strikeouts! Cole needs to have a similar season like this in order for Pittsburgh to have success winning ball games.
Francisco Liriano: Liriano seems focused. He was very adamant about wanting to throw 200+ innings and I know he can achieve it. If Liriano can stay healthy and consistent, he really has a good chance to win 15+ games. He is important in Pirates rotation and look for a big season from him.
Jon Niese: Niese becomes the new man in the rotation. We all knew that Pittsburgh needed help with starting pitching. Niese comes to Pittsburgh from the New York Mets. Niese was part of the best rotation in all of baseball a year ago. Now he joins a Pirates rotation that still has some concern. He is excited about working with Ray Searage. Niese went 9-10 a year ago with a 4.13 ERA. However, he brings more to the table than last year. He pitched 176 innings which is more than Locke, Burnett, and Morton individually did last year. He was able to stay healthy and produce a lot of ground ball outs. He has to produce outs and give Pittsburgh all he has. Jon Niese is the guy that makes or breaks this rotation.
Jeff Locke: Locke is about as inconsistent as you can get. It seems he is a 6 inning pitcher. The games he is throwing well, he will usually last till the 7th inning. Other games it is like he doesn’t even show up. Locke has always been that sort of pitcher. Many think he is fighting for his job right now. With the depth Pittsburgh has, he knows that a couple bad losses could ultimately move him out of the rotation. Hopefully this motivates him and helps him to be a better pitcher. Locke has changed some of his throwing motion. Let us hope this change will lead to better things for him. He struggled last year posting a 8-11 record with a 4.49 ERA.
Ryan Vogelsong: The return of Vogelsong to the Pirates organization is a good thing. Yes, he is no AJ Burnett but most believe he can provide some valuable innings. He seems very happy being a Pirate and let’s hope this leads to big things. At age 39 the risk of injury is extremely high but Pittsburgh didn’t spend a lot of money for him. He did only start 22 games last year for the Giants and worked some innings out of the bullpen. He finished 9-11 on the season and a 4.67 ERA. He isn’t an overpowering pitcher but rather one who hits corners and works off speed pitches. Just like Locke, Vogelsong is fighting for his spot in the rotation too. Ultimately Locke would be the first to fall out of the rotation but then again nobody can predict.
After looking at the depth chart on ESPN it has Locke has the 3rd starter and Niese between Locke and Vogelsong. Either way Niese is safe regardless of his performance. Vogelsong could be unbeatable or Locke could really develop more and produce more wins. The rotation currently scares me. Niese is a good piece to add but the Pirates still need more. Maybe they wait till trade deadline time to find another J.A. Happ story or they may just go with what they have.
We can’t forget about Jameson Taillon or Tyler Glasnow. These are both young pitchers that could easily be part of the rotation come mid-season. Glasnow has really pitched well in the minors. The season can’t come soon enough!