The Pittsburgh Pirates Should Give Starts To James Marvel

WILLIAMSPORT, PENNSYLVANIA - AUGUST 18: The Pittsburgh Pirates bench looks on in the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs during the MLB Little League Classic at Bowman Field on August 18, 2019 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
WILLIAMSPORT, PENNSYLVANIA - AUGUST 18: The Pittsburgh Pirates bench looks on in the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs during the MLB Little League Classic at Bowman Field on August 18, 2019 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect James Marvel has more than earned the right to make starts this month

There have been few bright spots in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization this season. One of those bright spots has been pitching prospect James Marvel. The success Marvel has had in the minor leagues this season could result in him making his MLB debut.

Marvel is currently with the Pirates. However, he has not been added to the 40-man roster. This is because the Pirates are waiting to see if Mitch Keller will be able to make his scheduled start on Sunday or not. Even if Keller is capable of making this start, the Pirates should still look to get Marvel onto the mound this month.

The remaining games for the Pirates should be about one thing and one thing only – preparing for 2020. One of the things they can do to prepare for 2020 is to get a first look at Marvel pitching at the MLB level.

Hopefully, Keller is able to make his scheduled start on Sunday and does not miss any time the rest of the month. If that happens, then Marvel should be making starts over Dario Agrazal.

It is obvious that Agrazal is not a long term starting rotation option. In 12 games (11 starts) Agrazal owns a 4.94 ERA and a 6.21 FIP in 54 1/3 innings pitched this season. His 10.8% strikeout rate is entirely too low to be successful at the MLB level, and his 1.85 HR/9 is alarmingly high. His 26.7% hard contact rate and average opponent exit velocity of 86.0 MPH are both among the highest in the National League.

If Agrazal has a future at the MLB level, and that’s a big if, it is not as a starting pitcher. Continuing to give him starts therefor makes little sense. Those starts should go to Marvel.

In 28 starts between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis this season Marvel owned a 2.94 ERA and a 3.56 FIP in 162 1/3 innings of work. He walked just 7.0% of batters faced, and his 20.7% strikeout rate was a new career best. He also limited the long ball allowing home runs at just a 0.55 HR/9 rate.

The increase in strikeouts for Marvel this season is the biggest reason for optimism. Especially since he was able to add strikeouts while keeping his walk and home run rates below league average.

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The Pirates may have a solid middle or back of the rotation arm in Marvel, and it is time for them to start to find out. There is zero reason for Marvel to not get an opportunity to start this month, regardless if Keller is healthy or not.

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