Pittsburgh Pirates 2017 ZiPS: Number Five Starter

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Here at Rum Bunter, we have been analyzing the newly released ZiPS projections for the 2017 Pittsburgh Pirates. Finally, a look at the options for the number five-spot in the rotation.

The first ZiPS breakdown that occurred here at Rum Bunter, focused on the starting rotation.  The Pirates currently have four locks, with Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, and Chad Kuhl having themselves a spot.

ZiPS has Cole with a 86 ERA-, Taillon at 92, Nova 100, and Kuhl being the worst of the bunch at 113.  For Kuhl, that is essentially a Jeff Locke projection, as Locke posted a 111 ERA- and a 119 ERA- in 2014 and 2015.  This leaves the Pirates with a spot in the rotation, and potentially two spots down the road if Kuhl performs to his projection, or even worse.

But for now, the only spot left is for the fifth option.  For this analysis, the look will only be at internal options.  Pitchers such as Alex Cobb (95 ERA-) and Jose Quintana (86 ERA-) would be key additions to the Pirates, but odds are slim either of the two come to Pittsburgh.

Drew Hutchison

The Pirates traded away Francisco Liriano, and two iffy prospects who were once rated highly, to the Toronto Blue Jays at last years trade deadline.  The only player they got in return was Drew Hutchison, who is now 26.  The right hander has not performed to an extent worth a price, posting a 123 ERA- and 106 FIP- in 82 career games.

Hutchison doesn’t keep the ball on the ground, 38.6 percent career mark, and he gives up the long ball, a career rate of 3.3 percent.  The one good bit of news, is he strikes out pitchers at roughly the same rate as AJ Burnett, and Hutch walks less batters than Burnett did.  But Burnett was a ground ball machine, so there is no solid comparison.

The Pirates tendered Hutch a contract for 2017, and settled for $2.3 million to avoid arbitration.  One way or the other, Hutchison will be a Pirate come April 3 in Boston.  His role is yet to be determined, but he likely has the inside track on the five-spot.

ZiPS projects Hutchison to post a 4.50 ERA (112 ERA-), and a 4.28 FIP (106 FIP-).  This is essentially Chad Kuhl, which would also make Hutch the odd man out if Tyler Glasnow looks ready with his command and changeup, or if Nick Kingham is set to go.

Steven Brault

Steven Brault came over from Baltimore for Travis Snider, and performed well in the minors for the Pirates.  In his 50 minor league starts and Arizona Fall league starts in the Pirates organization, Brault tossed 250.1 innings.  He posted a 3.13 ERA, 3.11 FIP, struck out 21.8 percent of hitters, walked only 7.8 percent, and kept the ball in the park.

He got the call up to Pittsburgh on July 5th to face the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch.  He only lasted four innings, and he threw 82 pitches in those four.  He started six other times and appeared in one game as a reliever.  And in those starts and relief outing, Brault was rather inefficient, as he threw 662 pitches in just 33.1 innings, or 19.86 pitches per inning.

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Brault also posted a 4.86 ERA and 5.07 FIP, as he only struck out 17.5 percent of batters, walked 10.2 percent, and gave up 1.35 home runs per nine innings.  But despite this, given his minor league track record, the Pirates seventh top prospect according to Baseball America, is projected to just fine in the back end of the rotation.

ZiPS gives Brault a 4.18 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 104 ERA-, and 105 FIP- despite only projecting him to strike out 16.5 percent of hitters.

Tyler Glasnow

The hard throwing Pirates prospect, who had an effective velocity of 96.53 miles per hour, 3.77 miles per hour more than average, has the best projection fro ZiPS.  ZiPS projects Glasnow to have a 3.60 ERA, 3.83 FIP, a 90 ERA-, and a FIP- of 95.  This would make Glasnow the second best Pirates starter behind only Gerrit Cole.

Of course there is an area of concern of Glasnow’s walk rate, 12.4 percent in his small sample size in the majors, but he also walked 12.5 percent in his minor league career.  But despite the control, Glasnow strikes out his fair share of hitters, as he possesses a hard fastball and a sharp hook.  ZiPS projects Glasnow to have a 27.1 percent strikeout rate in 2017, which would have ranked ninth among the 73 qualified starters in 2016.

Glasnow still has a lot to improve on with control, and developing his changeup more might be something the Pirates look for.  He might start the season once again in Indianapolis, but just by a projection stand point, he should start in Pittsburgh (Steamer has a 3.78 ERA and 3.77 FIP projection).

Next: Antonio Bastardo Still On The Block


Hutchison, Brault, and Glasnow are not the only three competing for the job.  Other notable names include Frank Duncan (115 ERA- and 111 FIP-), Trevor Williams (116 ERA- and 114 FIP-), and Nick Kingham (112 ERA- and 106 FIP-).

Of the internal options, Glasnow is the best in terms of ZiPS projections.  But with Hutchison’s contract, expect him to be named coming out of spring.

*Numbers from fangraphs

Other ZiPS Projections