Bullpen – Richard Rodriguez, Chris Stratton, Kyle Crick, David Bednar, Chasen Shreve, Sam Howard, Luis Oviedo, Duane Underwood Jr., Michael Feliz
This prediction is being made with the assumption the Pirates will carry nine relievers to start the 2021 season. While the team has not officially announced their plans on how many relievers they will carry, it appears they will start the season with nine.
Quietly, the Pirate bullpen could be strong. Richard Rodriguez, Chris Stratton and David Bednar all have the stuff, and in Rodriguez and Stratton’s cases the past experience, to be strong back end of the bullpen arms. Chasen Shreve has quietly pitched well in his MLB career and Sam Howard should pair with him to give the Pirates a quality pair of left-handed relievers.
While the fastball velocity has not returned to its pre-2020 form, Kyle Crick has pitched well this spring and his slider has been as wicked as ever. Duane Underwood Jr. and Michael Feliz are both out of options but have stuff that is too good to get an opportunity. Underwood Jr., like Fowler, is a player the Pirates traded for when he was DFA’d, indicating they see a role for him.
The wild card here is Luis Oviedo. The Pittsburgh Pirates traded for Oviedo during the Rule 5 Draft and he must remain on their active roster throughout the season or else they will have to return him to the Cleveland Indians.
That said, the Pirates could always look to work out a trade with Cleveland to keep Oviedo and allow them to start him in the minors. Oviedo has pitched in just two games this spring. If he does not make the roster, then that spot could go to the aforementioned Crowe or righty Geoff Hartlieb.
In addition to the bullpen quietly being a strength this season, the Pirates could also have some strong trade chips from the bullpen come July. Rodriguez, Stratton and Shreve, among others, could be good trade pieces for the Pirates.