Worst position group in 2020 – the bullpen
While the best position group was a tough decision make, the worst position group is not. That is because it appears the Pittsburgh Pirates will have a hot mess of a bullpen during the 2020 season.
Entering the season the team’s two most proven, reliable relievers were Keone Kela and Edgar Santana. Well, Kela has not worked out with the team at all during summer camp and is one the 10-day injured list while Santana will miss the season due to an 80-game PED suspension. These are two big blows to the bullpen.
Nick Burdi appears to have endless potential at the back end of the bullpen, but he needs to prove he can stay healthy. After outstanding 2018 seasons, Kyle Crick saw his walk rate spike to 15.5% in 2019 and Richard Rodriguez saw his home run rate grow to nearly 2.0 HR/9. Neither pitcher pitched well in the Grapefruit League or in exhibition games against the Indians, making their 2018 seasons look like flash in the pan type seasons.
Clay Holmes and Michael Feliz both have quality stuff, but neither have found consistent success at the MLB level. Chris Stratton, like Holmes and Feliz, has the stuff, but not the track record. Geoff Hartlieb had an ERA of 9.00 and a FIP of 5.56 last season, and Dovydas Neverauskas owns a career 6.71 ERA and 5.99 FIP. Robbie Erlin was a minor league free agent signing for a reason, and JT Brubaker has never pitched at the MLB level. Oh, and top relief prospect Blake Cederlind has the coronavirus.
Did I miss anything?
Last season the Pittsburgh Pirates went to battle with a bullpen that finished 21st in the Majors in home run rate (1.47 HR/9), 22nd n FIP (4.80), 23rd in ERA (4.91), 25th in fWAR (0.6), and 27th in walk rate 10.9%. The only thing that has changed between last year’s bullpen and this year’s is the loss of Kela, as well as a former dominant closer who is now in prison. So, two moves that make the bullpen worse.
When Shelton goes to the bullpen this season… grab the rosaries, take your heart pills, chug some whiskey, say a prayer, and buckle up, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.