Pittsburgh Pirates: Two Relievers to Watch at Altoona

Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

The Altoona Curve are 37-30 this year, and currently lead the Western Division in the Eastern League.  A big reason for their success is because of their pitching, specifically two minor league relief prospects.

The Altoona Curve currently are third in the Eastern League in terms of team earned run average.  A big part of this success has stemmed from their bullpen.  The Curve have recorded the most amount of saves in their respected league.  While saves are not everything, it is obviously important to have more saves than fewer saves.  This also shows a sign of a strong bullpen.  It shows that the starters and even more importantly the reliever are getting the ball to the ninth inning with the lead.  There are two specific relievers who have really put together impressive years for the Curve.

Sean Keselica

The first reliever of note is Sean Keselica.  Keselica was a 33rd round draft pick in 2015 out of Virginia Tech. Obviously, there were not lofty expectations for him entering the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.  However, he has turned into a legitimate relief prospect.  The left handed reliever owns a career minor league ERA of 2.27 in 122.2 innings pitched.  Last year between Low-A and High-A he posted an ERA below 1.50.

This year he has been just as effective for the Double-A Curve.  So far through his 44.1 innings pitched, the 24-year-old has posted an ERA of 1.83. Keselica also has shown the strong ability to strikeout hitters, but he also posts strong groundball numbers.  In his innings of work, he has struck out 45 hitters.  Meanwhile, he has accumulated a 1.86 ground out/air out ratio and a 53.2 percent ground ball rate. He has done all this with a low 90s fastball that tops out 95. If he continues to post strong groundball and strikeout numbers in AA, he should get bumped up to AAA soon.  If he can carry those results to Triple-A, then obviously the Bucs could have a nice bullpen piece at some point next year.

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Miguel Rosario

The second reliever of note is Miguel Rosario. Rosario has been flat-out dominant this year for Altoona.  He very well could be this year’s Edgar Santana in terms of putting up ridiculous numbers. Rosario is a 24-year-old right-handed pitcher out of the Dominican Republic.  He does not throw overly hard, with a fastball around 90-91 miles per hour, but he is very deceptive.  The righty has had a solid career since signing with the Bucs in 2011 as a 19-year-old.  So far he owns an ERA of 2.65 for his minor league career.

This year he has been outstanding.  He has come in relief 18 times and has built up 32 innings so far.  In those 32 innings of work, he has a 0.84 ERA, quite impressive for a reliever who does not possess power stuff. This is mainly because he has held opponents to a batting average of .195.  A couple areas of concern are in his FIP and flyball rate.  His FIP is at 3.38, suggesting that he has been worse than his ERA indicates..  Also, his ground out/air out ratio is below 1, showing that he gets more fly ball outs than ground outs.  He also does not strikeout a large percent of batters, as he strikes out just 20.7 percent of hitters.

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Still, it is hard to argue against the results.  Obviously Rosario has good secondary pitches, he is deceptive, and he can locate his stuff.  He may not fit the exact mold the Pirates look for in a reliever, but at the end of the day, results are all that matter. The same thing can be said about Sean Keselica.  Although he does have straight power stuff, he still has had a lot of success this season.  Both of these players should be in line for mid-season promotions to Triple-A.