What could the bullpen look like for the Pittsburgh Pirates Triple-A affiliate the Indianapolis Indians this upcoming season?
Yesterday, we took a look at what the Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day bullpen could look like. You can read those 1,000+ words here. Today, we will take a similar look at the potential bullpen for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians.
Before we get started it should be noted this article builds directly off yesterday’s about the MLB bullpen. This means that the bullpen projection for Indy is based on the Pirates having the Opening Day bullpen that was projected on the site on Sunday.
As as discussed in Sunday’s article, the Pirate bullpen could quietly be a strong one. Part of this is due to what should be some quality bullpen depth at Triple-A. Leading the way of this quality depth is the Pirates top three relief pitching prospects who the organization views as three core members of the Pirate bullpen long term. These three pitchers are Blake Cederlind, Blake Weiman, and Nick Mears.
Cederlind, or ‘Baby Thor’ as he has been dubbed this spring, has a limitless potential as a reliever. He possesses a power fastball that sits in the high 90s and routinely touches 100+ MPH. While his slider could still use some work, it is more than good enough to be a quality second pitch.
So far this spring Cederlind has been one of the top stories of camp allowing just an unearned run on no hits, four walks, and nine strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work. He has also flashed some serious swag along the way. 2020 will be his first full season at the Triple-A level, and he should join the Pirate bullpen at some point before the end of the season.
Like Cederlind, the 2020 season will be the first time Weiman has started a season at the Triple-A level. This spring, the lefty has allowed three earned runs on a home run, two walks, two hit batters, and three strikeouts in 5.1 innings of work. Again, like Cederlind, Weiman should make his MLB debut at some point in 2020 as he becomes a key member of the Pirate bullpen core.
As for Mears, it is not a guarantee he will make his MLB debut in 2020. However, he is still viewed as a key cog in the future of the Pirate bullpen. This spring he has struggled to the tune of six runs allowed on seven hits, two walks, a home run, and four strikeouts in 3 innings of work. In these outings, however, Mears has flashed a power fastball that can routinely touch 100+ MPH.
Mears reached the Double-A level for the first time in his career last season and logged just 5 innings of work. That said, he is already 23-years-old so there is still a good shot he will start the season at the Triple-A level. But he will likely be in a bigger need of innings and work at Triple-A than Cederlind and Weiman.
Another key member of the Indy bullpen in 2020 will be righty Geoff Hartlieb. Owner of a power fastball and a potentially deadly slider, Hartlieb made his MLB debut in 2019 but struggled to the tune of a 9.00 ERA in 35 innings of work. However, following off-season surgery Hartlieb is feeling healthier than last season.
Like Hartlieb, Montana DuRapau made his MLB debut in 2019 but struggled. However, also like Hartlieb, DuRapau has the pure stuff to be a quality MLB reliever. As injuries, ineffectiveness, trades, etc. occur, both Hartlieb and DuRapau should see time with the Pirates in 2020.
Another righty that will occupy a spot in the Indy bullpen in 2020 is Cody Ponce. Last July the Pirates acquired Ponce from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Jordan Lyles. In 4.2 innings this spring Ponce has allowed two runs on a home runs, six hits, two walks, and five strikeouts. Now that he is pitching in relief full time, he is an intriguing arm to watch this season.
Lefty Sam Howard, who is on the 40-man roster but has minor league options remaining, as well as minor league free agent signing Miguel Del Pozo will likely join Weiman as lefties in the Indians bullpen. Due to being on the 40-man roster, it would not be a surprise to see Howard earn a MLB call up at some point this season. Lefty Williams Jerez could be in the mix as well.
Two other potential bullpen candidates for Indy are righties Luis Escobar and Yacksel Rios. Both Escobar and Rios pitched for the Pirates in 2019, but both were also removed from the 40-man roster this off-season.
While Escobar has not allowed an earned run this spring, Rios has struggled to the tune of a 9.00 ERA in 5 innings pitched. It is possible that either pitcher could start the season with Double-A Altoona, or even be released into minor league free agency.