Pittsburgh Pirates: Long-Term Left-Handed Reliever Options


The Pittsburgh Pirates have a handful of potential long term options for the bullpen, but very few left-handed bullpen options.

An excellent left-handed reliever is something every team needs but very few have. Back when the Pittsburgh Pirates made three straight Wild Card appearances, they had some very competent lefty bullpen arms, including Tony Watson, Antonio Bastardo, and Justin Wilson. With many of the Pirates’ top prospects in the upper levels of the minor leagues, they could be back in contention within the next 1-2 years.

The bullpen already has a handful of potentially reliable long-term arms. David Bednar, Colin Holderman, Wil Crowe, Yerry De Los Santos, and Duane Underwood Jr. are a solid quintet. Johan Oviedo may also be part of that group, depending on how he performs as a starter. But all of them are right-handers. So how can the Pirates find a reliable lefty?

Internally, the Pittsburgh Pirates best long-term lefty reliever is Tyler Samaniego. The southpaw has been great this season, registering a 1.89 ERA, 3.01 FIP, and 0.78 WHIP in 39.2 innings of work with Greensboro and Altoona. Nick Dombkowski has also been a highly productive lefty, having a 2.55 ERA, 3.26 FIP, and 1.09 WHIP in 49.2 innings. Dombkowski has quickly risen the Pirates’ minor league system, starting the year with A-Ball Bradenton and currently pitching for Double-A Altoona.

If the Pirates want an immediate solution, Cam Alldred is readily available. The Pirates already gave Alldred his major league debut but optioned him afterward. Despite that, he’s pitched extremely well at Triple-A Indianapolis. In 45.2 innings, Alldred has a 2.80 ERA, 3.21 FIP, and 1.20 WHIP. His strikeout rate might be below 20%, but he has allowed just 7% of batters faced to reach via free pass and has given up a single long ball.

Trey Mcgough and Omar Cruz could end up in the Pirates’ bullpen in the future, but more as a long-reliever/spot-starter. Neither bring anything worthwhile to the table but do have plus command and solid change-ups. They’re 6th starters you rely on for multiple innings out of the pen, or they can give you a start in the event of a last-minute injury.

But are there any lefties on the upcoming free agent market that the Pirates could sign? The Pittsburgh Pirates could sign now division rival Taylor Rogers. Rogers has a 4.25 ERA but an excellent 2.73 SIERA and 2.38 FIP. Although his ERA might not be great, he has a 27.5% K-rate and 5.1% walk rate and has allowed just one home run in 42.1 innings. The former long-time Minnesota Twins reliever is having a good season despite what his surface numbers might say.

A slightly riskier option would be Brad Hand. The former All-Star is in the opposite boat to Rogers, having a strong 1.99 ERA but a poor 4.76 xFIP and 4.40 SIERA. Since his breakout 2016 campaign, Hand has been putting up career worsts in strikeout rate (20.3%) and walk rate (12%). He hasn’t allowed a home run despite average batted ball rates. Granted, Hand’s 26.2% hard-hit rate is a career-best.

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Samaniego and Dombkowski are the team’s best lefty relief prospects, but I do think Alldred is very slept on, even by the Pirates themselves. He’s a ground ball guy who prevents walks and home runs, despite the lack of K’s. However, there’s definitely one potential long-term lefty among them. It would be nice to see them go after at least one of the free agent lefties too. Rogers would be the more expensive of the two but provides a better high-leverage arm. However, Hand has consistently been good.