The Pittsburgh Pirates should look into these minor league free agents that elected free agency earlier this month to boost their roster.
With the regular season concluded there were recently many players who qualified to elect minor league free agency during October and hit the open market. These players include ones who have at least 3 years of MLB service time but were not on a 40-man roster at the end of the season, ones who have been out-righted off a 40-man roster multiple times, or ones who have spent at least 7 years in the minor leagues. Some of these players can help out the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Going through the lists, there are a handful of names you may recognize as former Pittsburgh Pirates. Michael Feliz was a former reliever for the Pirates and JaCoby Jones was once one of their more noteworthy prospects. But there are a few free agents with some upside I think the Pittsburgh Pirates should go after. Today, I want to take a look at two of those players, both of which are right-handed pitchers.
Once one of the Washington Nationals’ top prospects, A.J. Cole was considered a consensus top 100 prospect. However, he never fully reached his potential as one of the Nats’ top starting pitchers, alongside their other top starters.
Regardless of that, he’s appeared in every single Major League season since 2015 with varying degrees of success. Cole mainly appeared as a swingman through his first four seasons in the majors but has recently made the full transition to the bullpen.
Even though Cole hasn’t played much in the majors the last 3 seasons, he has been effective when he has taken the mound. Since 2019, he has pitched 57.1 innings with a solid 3.14 ERA, 3.97 FIP, and 1.291 WHIP. He’s only allowed walks at a 7.4% walk rate with a 23.5% strikeout rate. Overall, he’s had a K/BB ratio just over 3 (3.14). Granted, his 1.26 HR/9 rate isn’t great, that shouldn’t be a huge surprise for a very flyball-heavy pitcher.
During this time, he’s had a fly ball rate of 50.3%, though with a strong 18.8% line-drive rate. Though when batters do make contact, they make quite weak contact. He has allowed an exit velocity of just 87.4 MPH and a 27.4% hard-hit rate. The only issue is that he’s had quite poor underlying numbers. The right-hander has just a 4.95 xFIP, 4.18 SIERA, and a career 4.76 DRA.
Now while Cole may have poor underlying numbers, he would be a solid pick-up. He has good enough surface numbers to warrant a minor league or low-risk one-year deal. The Pirates could use some extra help in the bullpen with only David Bednar and Chris Stratton as the only relievers with guaranteed spots for 2022.