We’re over two months into the offseason and after a handful of acquisitions, how does the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen depth chart look now?
Going into the off-season, there were plenty of questions about how the Pittsburgh Pirates would improve their bullpen. It was one of their most pressing needs, but now that we’re over a month into the offseason and after a handful of additions, how does the bullpen look now?
Let’s first look at the new guys. The first significant acquisition was Dauri Moreta. Moreta was acquired in the Kevin Newman deal, a one-for-one swap. Moreta’s 2022 rookie campaign had its positives, but it certainly had its negatives.
In 38.1 innings, Moreta had a 5.40 ERA and 5.80 FIP. Moreta allowed over two home runs every nine innings, clocking in at 2.35. But on the plus side, he had a 1.17 WHIP, 24.4% strikeout rate, and 8.1% walk rate.
Moreta displayed a potent fastball/slider combo. His slider was one of the best sliders in the league, holding batters to a .103 batting average, .200 wOBA, and 25% hard-hit rate. His fastball wasn’t too far behind either, with a .190 opponent average and .280 wOBA. But his sinker was the real issue, as batters squared it up for a .378 average and .551 wOBA. His sinker is the pitch he needs to drop altogether or significantly reduce its usage.
The past week has seen the Pittsburgh Pirates add a lot more bullpen arms. The first was Jarlin Garcia. Garcia is coming off a relatively decent campaign for the San Francisco Giants. In 65 innings, Garcia worked to a 3.74 ERA, 4.27 FIP, and 1.20 WHIP. Garcia had an outstanding 6.7% walk rate, which was top 10 among southpaws in 2022 but had a mediocre 20.7% strikeout rate and a terrible 1.38 HR/9. Garcia struggled in the second half, but with decent underlying numbers after the All-Star Break, there’s a chance he can repeat the first half of 2022.
The next addition was Vince Velasquez, who the Pittsburgh Pirates signed the same day as Garcia.
The veteran right-hander only managed to post a 4.78 ERA, 4.25 FIP, and 1.23 WHIP in 75.2 innings. Velasquez’s 7.8% walk rate is a career-best, but his 21.6% strikeout rate tied for a career-worst, and he had just a 1.31 HR/9. On the plus side, he wasn’t terrible as a reliever, working to a 4.25 ERA but 3.22 FIP and 1.06 WHIP when he made a bullpen appearance.
The next recent addition was the Pirate Rule 5 pick, Jose Hernandez. Drafted with the third pick of the Rule 5 draft, Hernandez had a decent 2022 campaign for the Dodger High-A and Double-A affiliates. All told, Hernandez worked to a 3.32 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, albeit with a 4.50 FIP. Hernandez struck out well over a quarter of his opponents with a 27.8% strikeout rate and a workable 10.1% walk rate. The downside was his 1.21 HR/9. However, after adjusting for his HR/FB ratio, xFIP pinned Hernandez at 4.09.
Hernandez typically sits in the mid-90s and pairs that with a slider and change-up. He tops out at 100 MPH as well. It’s a pretty good pitch mix for the lefty. He and Garcia now make up the two left-handed pitchers in the bullpen. Hernandez ranked as the Dodger 45th best prospect heading into the Rule 5 Draft, per FanGraphs.
With the new additions, the Pirate bullpen depth chart likely looks something like this:
Yerry De Los Santos and Colin Holderman will return giving the Pittsburgh Pirates the late-inning trio of De Los Santos, Holderman, and David Bednar. Garcia, Moreta, Wil Crowe, Hernandez, Robert Stephenson, Colin Selby, and Duane Underwood Jr. will likely make up the middle relief competition.
Rounding out in the long relief, you have Velasquez, Bryse Wilson, Zach Thompson, and Chase De Jong. On the 40-man roster, there’s also Nick Mears. In total, that’s 14 guys, but the Pirates should be able to find ways to cut it down to eight.