Right-handed pitching prospect Miguel Yajure has earned a spot in the starting rotation of the Pittsburgh Pirates
Through the first 38 games of the 2021 season the starting rotation has been a pleasant surprise for the Pittsburgh Pirates. As a group Pirate starters rank 11th in the National League in ERA (4.62), FIP (4.38) and strikeout rate (21.0%). The group is 9th in the NL in innings pitched (187.0) and 8th in home run rate (1.20 HR/9).
While these numbers are nothing special, they are better than what was expected entering the season. Additionally, outside of the struggling Mitch Keller, Pirate starting pitchers have an ERA of 4.09 this season.
Part of the pleasant surprise for the Pirate starting rotation this season has been right-handed pitcher Miguel Yajure. Acquired in the Jameson Taillon trade, Yajure has shot up prospect boards becoming one of the top pitching prospects the Pittsburgh Pirates have in their farm system.
Friday night Yajure made his second start of the season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 5 shutout innings of work, Yajure held the hot San Francisco Giants to just 1 hit, he walked a batter and struck out 4. He also did this while throwing just 57 pitches.
Yajure’s first start came back in April as part of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. In that start Yajure allowed 4 runs on 4 hits, 2 home runs and 4 strikeouts in 4.1 innings of work. However, he pitched better than his final line in that start as he was burnt by poor defense and 2 of the 4 runs he allowed easily could have been unearned.
At the Major League level Yajure owns a 23.5% strikeout rate, 8.8% walk rate, 3.86 ERA and a 4.96 DRA in 9.1 innings of work. He’s limited opposing batters to an average exit velocity of 84.6 MPH, which is 2 MPH lower than league average, and a 26.1% hard hit rate which is 20% below league average.
Yajure has been able to use a four-pitch mix to find success against MLB hitters. He has thrown his slider 16 times and his curveball 9 times, opposing batters are combined 0-for-7 against these two pitches. He’s thrown 32 cutters, allowing just 1 hit off the pitch, and he’s allowed just 2 hits off of the 31 changeups he has thrown. Of the 172 pitches he has thrown this season, 62% of them have been for strikes.
Now, obviously, all of this has come in a small sample size for Yajure. That said, everything he has shown in his small two start sample size with the Pirates points toward Yajure being a pitcher who belongs in a MLB starting rotation.
Sandwiched between these two starts was an excellent start with Triple-A Indianapolis. In his lone start in the minors this season Yajure allowed 1 run on 4 hits, 2 walks and he struck out 6. This came in 6 innings of work.
Yajure looks like a starting pitcher who is ready for full-time MLB action. He is a key piece for the Pittsburgh Pirates moving forward and is part of what the organization is hoping will be a new core that leads to long-term success for their MLB club.
Making room for Yajure in the starting rotation should not be a difficult move to make. If Keller struggles again in his next start on Sunday afternoon against the Giants, there will be an argument to be made to option him to Triple-A to allow him to try and figure things out there. That said, it remains in his best interest to continue to take the ball every five days for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In that scenario, the Pirates could then move veteran Trevor Cahill to the bullpen to allow Yajure to remain in the rotation. Also, a six-man rotation could be an option as well. Regardless of how it’s done, the Pirates need to find a way to keep Yajure in the starting rotation.