The final rotation spot
As it stands now, the rotation looks like this:
1. Joe Musgrove
2. Chris Archer
4. Mitch Keller
As for the fifth spot, a few will enter spring training for the spot. Right now, the front-runner seems to be lefty Steven Brault, but Chad Kuhl isn’t far behind him. Veteran lefty Derek Holland is in the mix, too.
Last season, Brault showed some decent promise out of the rotation. In 78.1 innings between May 18th to September 1st, Brault was the Pirates’ best pitcher. He kept opponents to an OPS of just .679, while carrying a 2.92 ERA/3.61 FIP through these innings. However, Brault did end the year on a sour note, giving up 23 earned runs in his final 18.1 innings of the season. This was reminiscent of the beginning of his 2019 campaign when he gave up 20 earned runs through his first 25.1 innings of the year.
Kuhl is fresh off of Tommy John surgery. Kuhl has been inconsistent throughout his career. Sometimes, he looks like a solid backend starter. Other times, he looks like a Quad-A starter who was thrown into the game because other pitchers got injured. Kuhl definitely has some explosive stuff. His fastball velocity sits at the 83rd percentile, while his curveball spin is in the 96th(!) percentile. Between 2016 and 2018, Kuhl’s fastball velocity of 95 MPH ranked 14th in the entire MLB. But speaking that he lacks the makeup to go deep into games, a move to the bullpen could be very beneficial to the hard throwing pitcher.
Kuh, Brault and Holland aren’t going to be alone in the hunt for the 5th spot. Prospects J.T. Brubaker and Cody Ponce could also be vying for the last spot given a decent spring. Chris Stratton started 36 games between 2017 and 2018 is another name who, given a good spring, could be considered.