Pittsburgh Pirates Mailbag: April 25, 2018

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 11: Tyler Glasnow
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 11: Tyler Glasnow /

Welcome to this week’s Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag here at Rum Bunter

The past week has not been a pretty one for the Pittsburgh Pirates. That, however, does not deter us here at Rum Bunter which means it is once again time for our weekly mailbag!

As always, thank you to everyone who submitted questions to this week’s mailbag. Let’s begin!

At some point this season Tyler Glasnow will get another crack at being in the Pirate starting rotation. In my opinion, the only way this would not happen is if the rotation has no more injuries, or everyone pitches well. Odds are, neither of these things will happen.

So far this season Glasnow has looked like a completely different pitcher and has looked much closer to being the dominant starting pitcher he was in the minor leagues. In 12 1/3 innings pitched this season Glasnow owns a 3.50 FIP, he has allowed just 10 hits, and he has struck out a whopping 31.6 percent of the batters he has faced.

Most importantly, Glasnow has looked more confident and composed than ever before. Runners being on base has not impacted Glasnow the way it did in the past, and he has done a much better job of controlling the opposing running game. He finally looks like a pitcher that is trusting his elite stuff.

Honestly, I would already have Glasnow in the starting rotation over Steven Brault. Glasnow has the much higher ceiling of the two and has flashed enough this season to earn another crack at the Pirate rotation. Also, sooner or later, the Pirates need to let Glasnow sink or swim in the Major League rotation in an effort to figure out his long-term future.

Jameson Taillon throws one of his fastballs or his curveball 92.5 percent of the time. So, I can see why it may seem that he is a two-pitch pitcher. However, he does also possess a good changeup that he just does not use all that often.

With how effective Taillon’s four-seamed/two-seamed combination and curveball have been this season there just has not been much need for him to go to his changeup very often. He has also seemed to toy with a cutting fastball at times in Spring Training and early in this season as well.

The 2018 season has not been kind to Adam Frazier thus far. 52 plate appearances into the season he owns a .224/.255/.306/.561 slash line, a .250 wOBA, a 56 wRC+, and he is striking out 21.2 percent of the time.

Frazier’s biggest issue so far is that he is hitting too many groundballs. This has always been an issue for Frazier as he had a 43.8 percent groundball rate in 2016 and 47.9 percent in 2017. This season, however, that number has spiked to 65.8 percent. Groundballs turn into outs more often than not, so a hitter with a high groundball rate tends to struggle.

His hard contact rate is also down this season. After dropping from 31.4 percent in 2016 to 27.5 percent in 2017, Frazier’s hard contact rate is all the way down to 23.1 percent this season.

If Frazier is going to pull out of this slump, he needs to start making better contact and hitting fewer groundballs. Will that happen? We will have to wait and see. But considering he has always been a heavy groundball hitter whose hard contact rate was average or below average, I would not count on Frazier becoming an offensive threat this season.

Assuming Joe Musgrove gets healthy and everyone else stays healthy then my guess is the starting rotation in July will be Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Ivan Nova, Chad Kuhl, and Musgrove.

When Musgrove returns, which should be sooner rather than later, he will bump Steven Brault from the starting rotation. While Nick Kingham is knocking on the door at Triple-A and Tyler Glasnow is pushing to make starts, without injury, the only thing that would knock anyone from the starting rotation is poor performance. And, other than Brault, no one in the Pirate rotation is pitching poorly right now.

But odds are that between now and July there will be injuries that shake up the starting rotation because that’s how baseball goes.

Starling Marte would definitely be a better leadoff option than Adam Frazier, Josh Harrison, or Sean Rodriguez. This would be the case even if Marte wasn’t having a career year in both the walk rate (12.7 percent) and on-base percentage (.365) departments.

While Marte has never been much for drawing a walk with a lifetime 5.1 percent walk rate, he still has a career .344 on-base percentage and this combined with his elite speed makes him a strong leadoff candidate.

As you can read below, Francisco Cervelli would be my leadoff man due to his skill set. Marte, while possessing the skills to bat leadoff, also has the power (lifetime .153 ISO and .440 slugging percentage) to be a productive two or three-hole hitter.

Next: Fixing the Pirates Leadoff Woes

That will do it for this week. As always, if you ever have a question for our mailbag look for our Tweet each week asking for questions!