A Deeper Look At Lisalverto Bonilla


On November 29, 2016, right-handed relief pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. What could he bring to the Bucco bullpen in 2017?

This past weekend, I took a look at Nefi Ogando. When talking about Ogando I said a Major League bullpen can never have too many power arms. It is due to this that I liked the Pirates claiming Ogando off waivers in December. Additionally, this is the reason why I like another under-the-radar move the Pirates made this offseason.

On November 29, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed right-handed relief pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla to a one-year contract. Bonilla has not pitched in the Major Leagues since 2014 but was added to the 40-man roster. I believe Bonilla is an under-the-radar bullpen option for 2017.

Lisalverto Bonilla has Minor League options. Due to this, I expect him to start the 2017 season at Triple-A Indianapolis. However, I expect to see him in Pittsburgh at some point during the 2017 campaign.

Last year, Bonilla split time between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Dodger organization. He pitched a combined 111 innings between the two levels and he averaged 9.58 K/9, 3.24 BB/9, he allowed six home runs, and he posted a WHIP of 1.34.

Bonilla owned a combined a FIP of 2.86 between Double-A and Triple-A. He pitched in 31 games in the Minor Leagues in 2016. 13 of these 31 appearances were as a starting pitcher, while the other 18 came as a reliever.

Lisalverto Bonilla’s fastball sits in the low 90s. However, his change up has the potential to be a plus out pitch. From this standpoint, he is similar to A.J. Schugel. Bonilla also throws a curveball that sits in the low 80s.

When looking ahead to 2017, ZiPS projections foresee big things from Bonilla. ZiPS projects him to average 8.62 K/9, 3.60 BB/9, and 0.95 HR/9 at the Major League level in 2017. He is also projected to post an ERA+ of 94 and a WAR of 0.7.

Next: 2017 Pirates ZiPS Projections: Second Base

The biggest issue for Lisalverto Bonilla is his control. However, this is something that Ray Searage is the master at fixing. And I am sure they will focus on it in Spring Training.

Barring a rash of injuries, Lisalverto Bonilla will start the 2017 season at Triple-A Indianapolis. But I still believe he will pitch in the Major Leagues at some point in 2017. Team’s always need 10-12 relievers, at least, to get through a season. And Bonilla has the stuff and potential to be a solid middle relief arm.