The Pittsburgh Pirates received right-handed reliever David Bednar as part of the Joe Musgrove trade, could he be their closer of the future?
One of, if not the biggest strength of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2013 through 2015 was their bullpen. Led by former All-Stars such as Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon and Tony Watson, it was so strong, it earned the nickname “The Shark Tank.”
The Pittsburgh Pirates have many different relief pitcher prospects including Nick Mears, Blake Cederlind, Blake Weiman and potential arms who will likely move to the ‘pen in Luis Oviedo and Jose Soriano. One arm they got was right-hander David Bednar. He was part of the return for Joe Musgrove and could be the Pirates’ closer of the future.
Bednar, a Pittsburgh native, was selected out of Lafayette College in 2016. He was picked with the 35th overall pick, but has been excellent throughout the minors. Through 219.2 innings, Bednar has put up a strong 2.70 ERA, 2.14 FIP and 1.17 WHIP.
Bednar hasn’t been an all-strikeout, all-walk kind of pitcher either. He’s gotten plenty of strikeouts posting a strong 33% strikeout rate, but he’s only allowed free passes at a 7.7% rate. Home runs have been a non-issue as well giving up just 10 for a 0.41 HR/9 rate. He’s also put up decent ground ball rates as well.
The last time Bednar pitched in professional games was with the Padres’ Double-A affiliate. He racked up 58 innings in 44 games putting up a 2.95 ERA, 2.47 FIP and 1.16 WHIP. He allowed just 4 home runs while striking out batters at a 35.8% rate. His walk rate also sat at a strong 7.5% mark. Overall, his 2.47 xFIP shows he used his skill, rather than luck to get outs.
Bednar uses three pitches. A fastball that averages out in the 92-95 MPH range but can reach the upper-90s while having 2400 RPM, a curveball that has 2500 RPM and a splitter. Both his fastball and curveball are already 60-grade pitches according to FanGraphs and his splitter is currently an average offering with the future of a 55-grade pitch. Bednar only has a 35-command grade with a future of 40.
There’s also a large difference between each of his pitches. While his fastball can reach into the upper-90s, his curveball sits in the mid-70s. Then his splitter sits somewhere in between at the mid-to-high 80 MPH range.
So far, he’s been great as a late inning, higher leverage pitcher. During 2019, he closed out 14 of the 15 save opportunities he had while finishing out 33 of the 44 games he played in. All told, he’s finished out 97 of the 157 games he’s played in and has racked up double digit save totals in 2017 and 2018.
Bednar came into Spring Training looking to lock down a role in the bullpen with the Pittsburgh Pirates and set himself up for higher leverage situations throughout 2021. So far he’s looked beyond outstanding in his first two games, getting six outs, five on strikeouts.
Bednar has a real shot of becoming the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates at some point in the next few seasons. He does have some heavy competition between Nick Mears, Blake Cederlind, Yerry De Los Santos and potentially Luis Oviedo. However, I think he has better stuff than Cederlind, De Los Santos and Oviedo and better control than Mears. Plus he has the most experience of the four in high leverage situations. I could see the right-hander in the closer role before the end of 2021 even.