Could Nefi Ogando Be A Bullpen Option For The 2017 Pirates?


On December 23rd, 2016, the Pirates claimed right-handed relief pitcher Nefi Ogando off waivers. Can he be a bullpen option for the 2017 Pirates?

A Major League bullpen can never have too many power arms. In an under-the-radar move the Pittsburgh Pirates added an arm like this back on December 23rd. This arm is right-handed reliever Nefi Ogando.

The 27-year old Ogando was claimed off waivers from the Marlins on December 23rd. Due to this he now has a spot on the Pirates 40-man roster. Additionally, he is out of Minor League options and will have to be designated for assignment if he does not make the team out of Spring Training.

The fact Ogando is out of options could work into his favor. Neal Huntington, like most general managers, hates to give up assets. As he so often says, some times it is not about having the best 25 on the 25-man roster but it’s about what the 25 best are at that moment.

The Pirate bullpen is pretty set. Felipe Rivero, Juan Nicasio, Daniel Hudson, Wade LeBlanc, and whoever is not traded between Antonio Bastardo and Tony Watson are locks to make the bullpen out of Spring Training.

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This leaves two bullpen spots. These spots will be decided between A.J. Schugel, Jared Hughes, Nefi Ogando, and Tyler Webb. Both Hughes and Schugel have options, therefore, I doubt both make the team out of Spring Training. And, while I would keep Schugel, I expect the Pirates to keep Hughes. I also do not expect Tyler Webb to make the team. In my opinion, the last bullpen spot, barring a catastrophic Spring Training, will go to Nefi Ogando.

The question then becomes, can Nefi Ogando be an effective reliever for the Pirates? In short, yes. Because Ogando has all of the tools needed to be a good relief pitcher.

Last season Ogando pitched 15 2/3 innings in relief for the Miami Marlins. In these 15 2/3 innings pitched he struck out eight batters, he did not allow a home run, and his WHIP was 1.15. He held opposing hitters to a .175 batting average against and he posted a 2.30 ERA and a 3.66 FIP.

Nefi Ogando throws a fastball, slide, change up mix. Last season, his fastball averaged 95.0 miles per hour. Opposing batters hit just .115 off of his fastball last season. This included a below league average 15.0 line drive percentage.

His slider was also a very strong pitch in 2016. Opposing batters hit just .176 off of his slider last season. His slider has a lot of movement on it, is thrown very hard (averaged 89.2 miles per hour in 2016), and generated a 21.1 percent strike out rate and a 14.3 percent swing-and-miss rate in 2016.

He also did a very good job generating ground balls last season. This, of course, is something that the Pirates love. Ogando generated a 61.2 percent ground ball rate last season. While it came in a small sample size, it is still good to see.

There should also be two other benefits for Nefi Ogando this season. First off, he will pitch at pitcher friendly PNC Park. Prior to pitching at pitcher friendly Marlins Park, he pitched in the bandbox that is Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia during the 2015 season.

Secondly, he will get to work with Ray Searage. Searage is one of the best, if not the best, pitching coach in all of baseball. Very few pitchers have ever worked with Searage and not benefited greatly from it. Nefi Ogando has all the tools needed to be Searage’s next success story.

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To be honest, I am not sure why the Marlins designated Ogando for assignment. While the Miami bullpen has some very good arms in pitchers like A.J. Ramos, Brad Ziegler, and Kyle Barraclough, I find it hard to believe they have six relievers with better stuff than Ogando. Hopefully, this will prove to be a mistake by the Marlins that the Pirates benefit from.