The Pittsburgh Pirates Need To Dip Into Their AAA Bullpen Depth

Apr 24, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Dovydas Neverauskas (66) makes his major league debut against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning at PNC Park. The Cubs won 14-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 24, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Dovydas Neverauskas (66) makes his major league debut against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning at PNC Park. The Cubs won 14-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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This season the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bullpen has been very up and down, and it is time to dip into Triple-A for some bullpen help.

Right now, the Pittsburgh Pirates own a record of 16-22. While the team has had plenty of problems so far this season, one of the biggest has been an inconsistent bullpen.

Felipe Rivero, Juan Nicasio, Tony Watson, and Wade LeBlanc have all been excellent for the Pirates. Right-handed reliever Daniel Hudson has been incredibly inconsistent. Meanwhile, the other two bullpen spots have been a revolving door of bleh.

Five other pitchers have spent time in the bullpen for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. At this moment, the other two bullpen spots belong to Johnny Barbato and Josh Lindblom. However, it is time for the Bucs to dip into their Triple-A bullpen depth.

The two main pitchers in the Pirate bullpen that could be replaced are Johnny Barbato (6.66 FIP, 5.62 xFIP, 2.00 HR/9) and Josh Lindblom (9.00 ERA, 4.16 xFIP, 15 hits allowed in 8 innings pitched) and the Pirates have three solid options at Triple-A to replace these two pitchers in A.J. Schugel, Dovydas Neverauskas, and Edgar Santana.

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A.J. Schugel is the most experienced pitcher of these three. He pitched 52 innings for the Pirates last season averaging 7.96 K/9, 2.25 BB/9, and 0.69 HR/9 while posting a 3.19 FIP. To be honest, it was a surprise when he did not make the team out of Spring Training.

At Triple-A this season Schugel has picked up where he left off at last season. In 16 innings pitched he owns a 3.48 FIP, 3.13 xFIP, he has walked just 4 batters, and has struck out 19. Schugel’s dominant changeup has been on display at Triple-A all season, and it is time for Schugel and that changeup to return to the Major League level.

Dovydas Neverauskas made his Major League debut earlier this season. It came against the Chicago Cubs on April 25th. Neverauskas pitched 2 innings allowing a run on 2 hits, no walks, and a strikeout. However, he was optioned back to Triple-A the following day.

The Lithuanian native owns a 3.35 FIP, 3.72 xFIP, and has allowed just a single home run in 17 innings pitched for the Indianapolis Indians this season. He is also generating ground balls at a 50 percent rate while averaging 7.94 K/9. Furthermore, Neverauskas has softened opposing bats allowing line drives at just a 13.6 percent rate.

Dovydas Neverauskas would be a better bullpen option for the Pittsburgh Pirates than Johnny Barbato or Josh Lindblom are.

Finally, there is Edgar Santana. The 25-year old Dominican has never pitched in the Major Leagues. However, odds are, that will change at some point in 2017.

Santana has been absolutely dominant at Triple-A so far this season. In 21 1/3 innings pitched he has allowed just 10 hits, he has not allowed a home run, and he has struck out 20. He owns a 0.42 ERA, a 2.12 FIP, and a 58 percent ground ball rate. Santana has also demonstrated great control having walked just 5 batters thus far.

Edgar Sanatana possesses a plus fastball and an absolute wipeout slider. He has all the tools needed to be a dominant Major League reliever one day, and that day will be here sooner rather than later.

Next: Pirates Split Series With Diamondbacks

The bullpen has been very inconsistent for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. Luckily for the Bucs, they have solid bullpen depth at Triple-A. It is time for the Pirates to begin to rely on that depth more heavily.