Pittsburgh Pirates: Potential Breakout Candidate For The 2021 Bullpen


The Pittsburgh Pirates purchased Tyler Bashlor’s contract from the New York Mets last season and the reliever could be a breakout candidate heading into 2021

Over the last few years, the Pittsburgh Pirates made a handful of small moves and some have turned into some players with solid potential. Some of those include selecting Sam Howard off waivers from the Colorado Rockies, purchasing Chris Stratton’s contract from the Los Angeles Angels and flipping struggling starter Jordan Lyles to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cody Ponce.

The Bucs purchased the contract of a right-handed pitcher from the New York Mets last summer, that being Tyler Bashlor. While he has struggled in the big leagues so far, Bashlor definitely has the potential to be a solid relief arm for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Bashlor was drafted by the Mets in the 11th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. Despite never ranking as a top prospect, the hard throwing relief pitcher showed a decent amount of potential throughout the minors.

Bashlor missed all of 2014 and 2015 due to Tommy John surgery but when he returned in 2016, he put up great numbers. In 55.2 innings between Low-A and High-A, Bashlor pitched to the tune of a 2.75 ERA, 2.94 FIP and 1.24 WHIP. Bashlor struck out a ton of batters with a 30.5% strikeout percentage and allowed just two home runs. His biggest issue was his control. Bashlor posted a high 12.6% walk rate.

All told throughout 182 innings pitched throughout the minors Bashlor posted a 3.31 ERA, 2.94 FIP and 1.26 WHIP. Bashlor has continued to be a strikeout machine with a 31.1% strikeout rate and having a strong 0.4 HR/9, but continuously struggles with walks, posting a 12.1% walk rate.

The results he put up throughout the minors haven’t translated to MLB success. He’s pitched in each of the last three seasons, accumulating 62.1 innings. Throughout these innings Bashlor has posted a 5.78 ERA, 6.36 FIP and 1.42 WHIP. The walks have carried over to the majors with him carrying a 12% walk rate, but neither the strikeouts (18.5%) nor home runs (2.02 HR/9) have. Bashlor has not put up great ERA estimators as well with a 6.07 xFIP, 5.17 SIERA and a DRA above 5 in each season he’s been in the Majors.

Aside from his minor league numbers, Bashlor has a lot more going for him.

For one, he has an extremely strong arsenal of pitches. His fastball has elite potential. Bashlor has consistently averaged 95-96 MPH on the pitch, which helped him place in the top 87th percentile of MLB pitchers in 2020. It also has elite spin with 2400-2600 RPM. Last year, he averaged out at 2423 which ranked in the top 97th percentile of all pitchers.

His slider also has elite potential. Like his fastball, he can average out with over 2500 RPM on the pitch. He also is able to throw it with a lot of break. The least amount of vertical movement he’s shown with the pitch was in 2018 when he still averaged 47.7 inches, still in elite territory. Not only has he continued to add vertical movement, but he averaged 10.4 inches of horizontal break in 2020 compared to just 4 and 4.6 inches in 2019 and 2018. Last year with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bashlor started to throw a sinker. While it doesn’t come close to the amount of movement he has on his fastball, he still averages out in the mid-90s and has upwards of 2500 RPM on it.

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Bashlor’s biggest issue throughout his career has been his control. He definitely has the stuff to generate strong strikeout numbers in the majors. He should get a shot to prove himself next season. Right now, Richard Rodriguez,  Geoff Hartlieb and Stratton seem to be guaranteed to at least start the year out in the bullpen. The aforementioned Howard and fellow lefty Nik Turley also have a good shot of making the pen. Prospects Nick Mears and Blake Cederlind may start out the year at Triple-A for service time reasons, but should be regulars at the major league level soon. Still there’s a decent amount of uncertainty in the pen for the Bucs and Bashlor deserves at least a shot with the Pittsburgh Pirates given his potential.