Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Goals For The Bullpen In 2021

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 04: Richard Rodriguez #48 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during game two of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park on September 4, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 04: Richard Rodriguez #48 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during game two of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park on September 4, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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Mar 1, 2021; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Blake Cederlind (49) pitches in the bottom of the fifth inning during spring training at TD Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2021; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Blake Cederlind (49) pitches in the bottom of the fifth inning during spring training at TD Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

Goal 2: Get The Young Arms Some Playing Time

The Pittsburgh Pirates have many top relief pitching prospects coming up through the system. The first is right-hander Nick Mears. Mears has a 70-grade fastball that can reach triple digits and an above average curveball. He’s also a strikeout machine with a 37.2% strikeout rate, but does struggle with control sometimes. Overall, he’s done well in the minors with a 3.02 ERA, 2.71 FIP and 1.01 WHIP in 50.2 innings of work.

The Pirates next best relief prospect is David Bednar. The Pittsburgh-native came over as part of the Joe Musgrove trade and has one of the more interesting pitch mixes among all of the Pirates’ pitchers. This pitch mix gives Bednar the potential to be a high-leverage situation reliever for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Bednar will throw your typical mid-to-upper-90s fastball which comes in with a 60-grade and his upper-70s curveball which also has a 60-grade, but he’ll also toss a splitter too. This third pitch is seen as a future 55-grade offering. Like Mears, Bednar has also been a strikeout king throughout his minor league career with a 33.0% rate. All told, he’s tossed a total of 219.2 innings in the minors, has a 2.70 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 2.14 FIP.

Blake Cederlind was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2016 draft as a starter, but made a transition to the bullpen and broke out in 2019 in the first season he was solely used out of the pen. He pitched 59.1 innings and put up a 2.28 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 3.31 FIP. While he didn’t put up outstanding strikeout numbers with a21.9% strikeout rate and 9.6% walk rate, he allowed just 2 long balls. However, Cederlind has strikeout stuff with a 60-grade fastball that can reach triple digits and a slider that’s considered an average offering.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will also have a Rule 5 Draft pick in the bullpen. Luis Oviedo was selected with the 9th pick in the draft by the New York Mets from the Cleveland Indians. The Mets quickly dealt the right-hander to the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash.

Oviedo has mainly been a starter in the minors, but his stuff would play up in the pen. His fastball sits in the mid-to-upper 90 range and has hit 98. It’s a 60-grade offering that could see an uptick in velo out of the pen. He also uses a 60-grade curveball and 55-grade change-up to round out his repertoire. Oviedo hasn’t put up the greatest surface numbers in his professional career with a 4.66 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, but does have a good 3.14 FIP while having a sub-3 xFIP in 2016 and 2018.

Aside from those four, the Pirates should also make room for playing time for other young relief pitching prospects like lefties Blake Weiman and Braeden Ogle, Yerry De Los Santos and Shea Spitzbarth.

All four of Mears, Bednar, Cederlind and Oviedo are within the Pirates top 35 prospects and they could all be part of the Pirates next bullpen. All four also have very limited time in the big leagues. Oviedo hasn’t even played in the MLB, both Cederlind and Mears have less than 10 innings between the two and Bednar has the most, but still less than 20. The Pirates need to try and make as much playing time for their young relief prospects as possible.

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