When looking ahead to the future of the bullpen for the Pittsburgh Pirates fans need to make sure they do not overlook Nick Mears, both in 2021 and beyond
Entering the 2020 season fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates were excited to see relief pitcher prospect Blake Cederlind make his MLB debut. After Cederlind flashed in spring training, the excitement for Cederlind only grew.
There was another hard-throwing relief prospect that made his MLB debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2020. He is also another reliever who is a key part of the future of the Pirate bullpen. This reliever is Nick Mears.
FanGraphs ranks Mears as the 13th best prospect in the Pirate organization. This is 15 spots ahead of Cederlind. The best pitch Mears has is his fastball. The pitch carries a 70 future grade from FanGraphs. This means it is projected to be an elite pitch.
His fastball can touch the triple digits and sits in the mid-to-high 90s. During his brief MLB stint in 2020, Mears threw a fastball that averaged 95.7 MPH. While opposing batters slugged .583 off the pitch, it had a strong 2389 spin rate and a 35.3% whiff rate.
Mears also throws a curveball. FanGraphs gives his curveball a future value of 50. A FV of 50 projects the pitch to become an above average pitch.
Mears threw 36 curveballs with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2020. Opposing batters recorded just one hit – a single – off the pitch. His curveball had a spin rate of 2501 and carried an impressive 57.1% whiff rate.
During the 2020 season, Mears logged just 5.0 innings with the Pittsburgh Pirates. While he allowed just four hits and struck out seven batters, he also walked seven. Those walks were the main driving force behind his 5.40 ERA and 7.19 FIP.
Control is not something that should worry fans about Mears, though. In his minor league career Mears posted a 9.2% walk rate. While you would like to see that number come down a percentage point or two, it is manageable. Especially for a pitcher that racks up strikeouts (37.2% strikeout rate in the minors) the way Mears does.
Mears is a pitcher we have discussed on the site before. Back in the spring, Noah wrote about Mears as a potential future closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. To readers of Rum Bunter reading good things about Mears should be nothing new.
Mears has the stuff and ability needed to be a high leverage MLB bullpen arm. He should be given an opportunity to start to flash that stuff and ability with an extended look at the Major League level during the 2021 season.
While Mears will likely begin the 2021 season at Triple-A Indianapolis, he will rejoin the Pirate bullpen at some point during the season. When he does he is a pitcher that fans should watch with excitement and have high long term hopes for.