Pittsburgh Pirates: 2021 Make or Break Season for Kyle Crick

In January of 2018 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded the face of their franchise – Andrew McCutchen – to the San Francisco Giants. In return the Bucs acquired outfielder Bryan Reynolds, who has become a key piece of the organization’s new core, as well as reliever Kyle Crick.

Crick quickly made an imapct with the Pittsburgh Pirates by being one of the team’s go to bullpen arms in 2018. However, following a strong start to the 2019 season Crick has hit an extended rough patch. This make the 2021 season a make or break one for the righty.

From the start of the 2018 season through his outing on June 2nd, 2019, Crick pitched 80.0 innings for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Crick was terrific in these 80.0 innings pitched posting a 2.25 ERA, 3.12 FIP, 9.9% walk rate, 25.8% strikeout rate, and a home run rate of 0.34 HR/9. Since then, however, Crick has struggled mightily.

Since this stretch to start his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Crick has pitched 35 innings. In these 35.0 innings pitched he’s struck out a healthy 26.6% of batters faced, but his walk rate has ballooned to 16.4% while his home run rate has risen to an alarming 2.57 HR/9. This has led to Crick posting a 6.17 ERA and a 7.07 FIP during this stretch.

The most concerning part of Crick’s struggles was his drop in velocity. His average fastball velocity was 95.8 MPH in 2018 and 95.3 MPH in 2019 but dropped to 90.9 MPH in 2020. His slider saw a similar drop, falling to an average 77.1 MPH in 2020 after checking in at 81.5 MPH in both 2019 and 2018.

This screams of serious issues with Crick’s arm. The fact Crick only pitched five times after coming off the injured list in 2020, including not pitching at all after September 12th, is also a major red flag about how the Pirates view him moving forward.

Even though Crick entered the offseason as a non-tender candidate, he was one of nine players that the Pittsburgh Pirates avoided arbitration with last Friday. Crick will earn $800,000 in 2021 and will enter Spring Training with an opportunity to earn a spot in the Pirate bullpen.

Entering 2021 Crick still has one minor league option remaining. Due to this, if he does not pitch well in Spring Training he will likely start the season at the Triple-A level. Even if Crick makes the Opening Day roster it will likely be in middle/long relief, not the high leverage situations he appeared to be solidifying himself in during the 2018 and early in the 2019 seasons.

Without a strong showing in the Majors in 2021, Crick’s future with the Pittsburgh Pirates could be in doubt. This makes 2021 a vital season for him.