Pittsburgh Pirates Minors: Tyler Eppler Goes Overseas


The Pittsburgh Pirates often try to find players in creative ways by going outside Major League Baseball to other countries.  They now have lost a prospect of their own.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed numerous players during Neal Huntington’s tenure from overseas.  The biggest move they have made when finding key free agents in different leagues is easily Jung Ho Kang, who during his time actually on the field has made a big impact.  However, they also have signed players like Radhames Liz from the Korean League and even gave contracts to project players from India at one point.

One often hears about the players coming from overseas to play in the MLB.  However, there is also many cases where things just do not click for a player at the MLB level and they go abroad to play professionally and then come back to take another shot.  The most famous cases of this is former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Ryan Vogelsong who saw a complete career resurgence.  Last year, the St. Louis Cardinals also saw this with Miles Mikolas (who was a Pittsburgh Pirates player for brief time).

The Pittsburgh Pirates now have a player who is hoping to do the same.  Right-Handed pitching prospect Tyler Eppler will be going to the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan.  Orix actually purchased Eppler’s contract from the Pittsburgh Pirates in what is basically similar to a team trading a player for cash considerations.  Eppler will make $600K for the Buffaloes next season and get a chance to pitch against a higher level of competition than he has the last few years.

Eppler has been a part of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization since he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 draft out of Sam Houston State University.  He was noted for his size, standing at 6’5” and weighing 230 pounds.  He spent the next four and a half seasons climbing up the Pittsburgh Pirates minors until reaching Triple-A in 2017.  He spent all of 2017 and 2018 at the Triple-A level, which is very unusual for prospects to do so, especially without earning any promotion to the big leagues.

Part of the reason he never received a big league promotion was that of other higher touted prospects in front of him.  However, he also never really put up stats that suggested he would have success at the big league level.  During his 2017 stint, Eppler pitched to a 4.89 ERA over 136.1 innings. The biggest concern, however, was that he only struck out 10 percent of batter faced and only induced groundballs 39 percent of the time.

He improved some in 2018 bringing his ERA down to 3.59, but still only struck out batters 12 percent of the time and only improved his groundball rate to 41 percent.  All these numbers are well below average in Triple-A, so imagine Eppler at the big league level against the highest level of competition.

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This is most likely one of the reasons that the Pittsburgh Pirates are giving Eppler a chance to go to Japan.  The team most likely has not viewed him as a legitimate depth piece moving forward and would rather give him an opportunity to have success elsewhere.  Eppler will now get a chance in Japan as many others have had.