Pittsburgh Pirates Make Their First Cuts of the Spring
By Noah Wright
The Pittsburgh Pirates made their first round of cuts of the spring on Monday morning when they optioned three players to Triple-A and reassigned three more to minor league camp
As we head into our second week of Spring Training, the Pittsburgh Pirates have made their first cut of players from the camp. This cut includes six different pitchers:
Out of this bunch, I personally think JT Brubaker was the most surprising. The Pirates have lost three pitchers, two due to injury, and one from straight up retiring. Brubaker was a dark horse candidate for the final rotation spot. Obviously, that’s no longer the case with Brubaker being optioned and Derek Holland seemingly far out in front for the spot, but Brubaker has posted strong numbers at Triple-A so far. Across 140 career innings, Brubaker has a 3.02 ERA, 3.43 FIP, and 1.29 WHIP. In Spring Training, Brubaker pitched 2.1 innings, all out of the pen, and gave up 1 earned run on two hits, a walk, and he struck out three batters.
Cody Ponce and Blake Cederlind being optioned is not as big of surprise. Both pitchers have not seen many innings at the Triple-A level yet in their young careers. The 25-year-old Ponce was acquired by the Pirates nearing the deadline last season for Jordan Lyles. Ponce’s role is still up for debate. When the right hander came to the Pirates’ organization, the Brewers had used him as a relief pitcher for all of 2019 up until then, but was primarily a starter from 2015 to 2018.
After a short stint in Altoona, and then being sent to Indy, Ponce was slotted back into the rotation, and struggled in the 18.2 innings he had out of the rotation. During the Arizona Fall League, the prospect started all five of his games and posted very good bottom line results. In Spring Training, Ponce was used out of the pen, and pitched 4.2 innings, giving up 2 runs on six hits, including a home run, two walks, and he struck out five batters.
Cederlind is considered a future bullpen ace for the Pirates. Ranked as the team’s 28th best prospect by MLB Pipeline, Cenderlind pitched most of his innings in 2019 from Altoona’s bullpen. He posted a 1.77 ERA, 3.06 FIP, and 1.03 WHIP across 45.2 innings of work. Cederlind was not hit by the longball, almost at all. He gave up just one and recorded a 48.3% ground ball rate. However, Cederlind could work on either his strikeout rate, or walk rate. Despite his fastball being given a 65 grade by FanGraphs, the right-handed pitcher struck out just 8.29 batters/9, while walking them at a solid 3.2 per 9 rate. Cederlind did see a bit of time in Triple-A last year and struggled, but take it with a grain of salt. It was just 6 innings.
In Spring, Cederlind was making a serious case to make the team’s bullpen. He had kept opponents scoreless across 4.2 innings of work, and struck out nine batters, but walked four. The only men he allowed on base were his 4 walks, as he didn’t give up a hit.
Montana DuRapau, Luis Esocbar, and James Marvel were non-roster invitees, and were designated for assignment at different points during the 2019-2020 off-season. Each of the three have minimal Major League experience, but likely weren’t going to play any large role in 2020, or anything close to what Brubaker, Ponce, or Cederlind are projected to do in the coming season. Regardless, the three provide a few solid pieces of depth. Marvel and DuRapau posted solid numbers at the Triple-A level, both having a sub-3 ERA at Indy. Escobar has the least amount of experience among the three with less than 30 games played at Triple-A, but was considered one of the Bucs’ more promising farm hands. He ended the 2019 season ranked as the Pirates’ 16th best prospect, but was unranked in 2020.