Pittsburgh Pirates 2021 Outlook: Reliever David Bednar

Sep 8, 2019; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres relief pitcher David Bednar (67) pitches against the Colorado Rockies during the seventh inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 8, 2019; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres relief pitcher David Bednar (67) pitches against the Colorado Rockies during the seventh inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /
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This offseason, Ben Cherington has been busy swinging trades and added players to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. One of the players that Cherington has brought into the organization is reliever David Bednar, who was one of the five players added in the Joe Musgrove trade.

Bednar is a right-handed reliever who is originally from the Pittsburgh area. The Moon Township native, was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 35th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. Bednar would go on to make his MLB debut with the Padres in 2019.

In his MLB career Bednar has pitched 17.1 innings with the Padres. Bednar owns a 6.75 ERA and a 5.22 FIP in these 17.1 innings of work. However, these two stats do not tell the entire story on Bednar.

His lifetime 8.8% walk rate and 23.8% strikeout rate are both healthy. Where Bednar has been burnt has been by the home run ball and batting average on balls in play.

Bednar has allowed home run at a 2.08 HR/9 rate in his MLB career. However, when you are talking about a 17.1 innings sample size, a stat like this must be taken with a grain of salt. Additionally, his BAbip of .340 is well above the league average of .300. This indicates that Bednar has been victimized by bad defense and/or luck in his career.

The 26-year-old Bednar features a three pitch mix. His four-seamed fastball averaged 95.3 MPH in 2019 and 95.7 MPH in 2020. The pitch generated a 19.0% whiff rate in 2019, but this number jumped to 28.6% in 2020.

Bednar also throws a split finger fastball and a curveball. His split finger generated a 35.9% whiff rate in 2019 and a 25.0% whiff rate in 2020. Opposing batters are 7-for-29 with 12 strikeouts the past two seasons off of Bednar’s splitter.

Then there is Bednar’s curveball, which is the pitch that may excite Pirate pitching coach Oscar Marin most due to his love for the curveball. The past two seasons Bednar has thrown just five curveballs, allowing three hits and striking out a batter.

So, what does all of this mean for Bednar in 2021? Even though he has minor league options remaining, odds seem high that Bednar will be a member of the Opening Day bullpen for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

FanGraphs gives Bednar’s fastball and curveball a future grade of 60 and his splitter a FV of 50. Bednar has the stuff and ability to pitch in high leverage situations for the Pirates. With the Pirates adding Bednar in the Musgrove trade it is clear that they are high on his future potential.

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Look for Bednar to start the regular season in the Pirate bullpen. While he may start the season in a middle relief role, look for him to have the ability to pitch his way into high leverage situations as the season progresses. He may pitch his way into this role sooner rather than later.

As the 2021 season progresses the Pirate bullpen will likely see changes. Projected closer Richard Rodriguez and set-up man Chris Stratton both seem like safe candidates to be traded by the July trade deadline. This would create new opportunity, with Bednar having the ability to seize this opportunity.

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