A key bullpen arm for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017 and 2018 is set to return from Tommy John Surgery and is a pitcher fans should be keeping a keen eye on this spring
Last season, the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen faced its fair share of struggles. A big reason for this is because the bullpen was without one of its top arms from the previous two seasons. The key arm they were missing was the right arm of Edgar Santana.
The 28-year-old Dominican native missed all of the 2019 season due to Tommy John Surgery. However, he is now healthy and ready to compete for a spot in the Pirate bullpen in 2020. If he truly is healthy this spring, then it is difficult to imagine him not being part of the Opening Day bullpen.
Santana made his MLB debut in 2017. Led by a terrific slider, Santana quickly became a key cog in the Pirate bullpen. Between 2017 and 2018 Santana posted a 3.31 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 6.8% walk rate, and a 21.0% strikeout rate in 84.1 innings of work. In these 84.1 innings of work, he generated a 45.6% ground ball rate and allowed just nine home runs.
During the 2018 season Santana was a key high leverage reliever for then manager Clint Hurdle. Santana’s ability to play fire man when needed was a big reason why the 2018 Pirate bullpen was one of the best in the National League on the teams way to recording their fourth winning season in a six year stretch.
In that 2018 season Santana owned a minuscule 4.4% walk rate to go with a 0.95 HR/9. Opposing batters slugged just .244 off of his slider, while swinging and missing 47.9% of the time. His fastball limited batters to a .258 batting average while averaging 94.8 MPH. All signs pointed toward him solidifying himself as an anchor of the Pirate bullpen for a long time.
Unfortunately, the injury bug had a different idea. Despite missing the 2019 season, Santana still has an opportunity to solidify himself as a bullpen anchor for the Pirates. That all starts with a strong, healthy showing this spring.