An injury to one of the team’s top pitching prospects is having a big negative impact on the Pittsburgh Pirates this season
A wise man once said “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” This can be applicable to the 2019 Pittsburgh Pirates. After, the Pirates have had more players go on the injured list than any other team in the Majors.
On Monday, Jung Ho Kang was placed on the 10-day IL. This made Kang the 19th Pirate played to go on the IL this season. This is the most players the Pirates have had spend time on the IL since at least 2001, and it’s only May 15th.
Injuries have no impact just the MLB club, though. One of the team’s top hitting prospects – Oneil Cruz – is currently on the MiLB IL. Joining him is starting pitching prospect JT Brubaker. And Brubaker’s injury is one that is, no pun intended, hurting the Pirates.
Both Chris Archer and Jameson Taillon are currently on the IL for the Pirates. While Archer is set to return to action this afternoon against the Diamondbacks, the team will have a hole in their rotation due to the Taillon injury until at least early July. This is a spot where the team could use Brubaker.
The Pirates are hesitant to promote top pitching prospect Mitch Keller to fill this void. Largely due to the fact that Keller is currently working on adding a slider to his arsenal. Brubaker appeared to be ready for the MLB level.
This, of course, was before Brubaker was shut down with elbow pain in late April. Prior to his injury, Brubaker owned a 2.57 ERA, 4.02 FIP, a 4.7% walk rate, and a 23.3% strikeout rate in four starts (27 innings) at Triple-A this season.
Dating back to last May, Brubaker had made 26 starts at Triple-A. In these starts he owns a 3.02 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 6.8% walk rate, and a 19.7% strikeout rate in 140 innings pitched. He certainly looked like a pitcher that had nothing left to prove in the minor leagues.
With Archer and Taillon on the IL Steven Brault and Nick Kingham have replaced them in the starting rotation. Brault and Kingham have each made two starts. They have combined to allow 17 earned runs in 15 2/3 innings pitched (9.76 ERA), while walking nine batters, allowing five home runs, and striking out 14. Somehow, the Pirates have managed to go 2-2 in these games.
Trevor Williams will start on Thursday in San Diego while Jordan Lyles will take the ball on Friday. Manager Clint Hurdle has yet to announce anything with the rotation after this. Saturday night’s game is one where the team could use Brubaker.
To be honest, if he were not injured, odds are, Brubaker would already be in the starting rotation. He likely would have made either the two starts that Brault has or the two that Kingham has. He also would have been given an opportunity to pitch his way into a long term spot in the team’s rotation.
Hopefully, Brubaker can get healthy and bounce back. If so, the opportunity will still be there for Brubaker to make an impact for the Pirates, and likely sooner rather than later. Here’s to hoping for a speedy recovery for one of the Bucs top pitching prospects.