Pittsburgh Pirates Rum Bunter Staff 2017 Predictions: David
Is a pitcher who posted a 69 FIP- in 2015, an 85 FIP- in 2016, and struck out 28.1 percent of hitters last season a breakout candidate? If so, Felipe Rivero will be that breakout guy. When I wrote about the Pirates bullpen and their changeup, I mentioned this about Rivero,
"Rivero’s changeup last season produced 79 whiffs on 137 swings, a whiff rate of 57.7 percent, and right-handed hitters had a whiff percentage of 59.52 percent against the changeup. Not only did opponents whiff more times than not, Rivero kept them from doing damage when the ball was put into play. The .213 slugging and 0.082 ISO ranked eighth and 19th best last season. Last season Rivero used his changeup 21.20 percent of the time, way up from the 4.73 percent in 2015."
Despite what happened in Rio de Janeiro, his changeup is unhittable. Furthermore, his fastball averages 97, and left-handed hitters have whiffed 42.53 percent of the time when they swung against his slider. Rivero is still only 25, won’t be 26 until July. Rivero’s ability to strikeout hitters can allow the Pirates to use him in high leverage situations without a defined role (Hudson in the eighth and Watson in the ninth). If he counts as a breakout, Felipe Rivero will be the one to breakout.
This pick was the most challenging, as Jameson Taillon is in the same boat as Rivero. Tyler Glasnow might put everything together, meaning just average control, and become a top of the rotation arm. Josh Bell with a full season and added power with a more athletic frame is also a very strong option to consider.