Juan Nicasio is getting a lot of press lately. In case you haven’t heard, he’s pitched 15 scoreless innings this spring. And everybody’s talking about it. See the Tribune Review story here. The Post-Gazette here, DK Pittsburgh Sports. Pirates Prospects.
Unfortunately for Nicasio, despite his top notch pitching he is still a long shot to make the starting rotation.
In typical Pirates (read: controversial) fashion. General Manager Neal Huntington says the worst performing starting pitcher of spring training is the safest. Of course, I mean Jon Niese. While Jeff Locke, Ryan Vogelsong and Juan Nicasio are left to battle it out for the remaining two spots.
Just how bad has Niese been?
He’s been Daniel Bard bad. And that’s bad. We’re talking a 14.40 ERA for Niese over just five innings. He’s not pitching because he can’t get anybody out. In short, he’s been a disaster so far. You don’t need a crystal ball to look back at the end of the Mets season last year to be reminded that Niese melted down and has yet, apparently, to recover.
Of course, the same logic that ensures Niese’s safety is the logic that condemns Nicasio. If the worst starting pitcher of spring training – a pitcher so bad he wouldn’t have been the Mets 5th starter in 2016 – is a guarantee to make the Pirates as the number three guy in the rotation; then surely the best pitcher of the spring, Nicasio, will not make the rotation. It is the Pirates way.
It’s also important to remember that Jeff Locke has pitched 466 innings for this club in the last three seasons. He was 25-24 with a combined ERA that is respectable. Ray Searage worked with Jeff Locke early and often this spring. He’s unlikely not to be a part of the starting rotation. Especially on a team like the Pirates.
Nicasio’s stellar spring performance is exactly what it appears to be: a statistical anomaly and not a golden ticket to the starting rotation.