Projecting the Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day Bullpen
By Marty Leap
Three pitchers who are out of minor league options
Every spring you see it throughout baseball. Players making an Opening Day roster, largely due to being out of minor league options, and fans of that team being upset. Well, for fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates, this applies as much as it does to every other team.
There are three relief pitchers the Pirates have in camp who are out of minor league options, who, as a result of being out of options, will likely find themselves with a spot in the Opening Day bullpen. These three pitchers are Clay Holmes, Chris Stratton and Dovydas Neverauskas.
Earlier in the offseaosn, Noah wrote about Holmes as a potential breakout candidate in 2020. Holmes has some nasty stuff out of the bullpen, and with refined pitch usage could be a solid reliever. During Grapefruit League play, Holmes appeared to be turning a corner as he did not allow a hit, a run, did not walk a batter, and struck a batter out in 2.1 innings of work before breaking his foot. Fortunately for Holmes, due to the delayed start to the season he will not have to start the season on the injured list now.
As for Stratton and Neverauskas, the arguments to keep them around may not be as warm to some fans. Especially Stratton who struggled in Grapefruit League play. However, he, like Feliz, had a better season in 2019 than most realize outside of one poor outing. Additionally, his fastball spin rate ranked in the 93rd percentile in all of baseball while his curveball spin rate was in the 99th percentile. Lack of stuff is not an issue for Stratton.
As for Neverauskas, Pirate fans have seen plenty of him in recent seasons and I’m sure most fans would like to forget about it. But this is a new regime which gives Neverasukas a fresh start. Prior to Grapefruit League play being suspended, Neverauskas had allowed a pair of runs on five hits, no home runs, two walks, and seven strikeouts in 5.2 innings of work. Combine this strong showing with a lack of options, and there is a good shot he gets one last opportunity in Pittsburgh.