The Pittsburgh Pirates need some of their young relievers to step up for the upcoming season. One of those pitchers got a taste this past season.
For a long time, Nick Mears has been viewed as one of the Pittsburgh Pirates “better” relief prospects. Mears, who was brought in by the previous regime, was always viewed as a hard thrower with good spin rates. His 2019 season put him on the radar striking out well over 40% of hitters he faced and holding an ERA in the low 3s.
Mears, who was originally an undrafted free agent, has quickly climbed the ranks of the Pirates’ minor league system after a solid 2019. Mears split the 2021 season between Triple-A Indianapolis and the major leagues. Mears had a 5.30 ERA at Triple-A. However, he struck out 30.1% of all batters faced, had a 0.96 HR/9, and 11.% walk rate. This culminated into a solid 3.84 FIP and 4.07 xFIP.
His stint in the majors wasn’t as kind to the right-hander. He had a 5.01 ERA as well as a poor 5.66 FIP. Mears’ struggles with command further plagued him as he had a 12.1% walk rate. However, his strikeout rate, nor his home run prevention carried over. Mears struck out just 21.5% of batters faced while allowing home runs at a near 2-per-9 pace. One of the few bright spots is that he induced a ton of soft contact. Opponents managed just an 86.6 MPH exit velocity and 29.6% hard-hit rate.
Mears truly had a mixed bag in terms of results in 2021. There were things to like, with hitters not making a lot of hard contact. Also, his stuff was there throwing in the mid-90s and showing a strong breaking pitch. The question for Mears in 2022 will be whether or not he is able to harness his arsenal and improve his command. If he can, then Nick Mears could be looking at establishing a role in this team’s bullpen for years to come.