3 best tools acquired by the Pirates this offseason

Pittsburgh Pirates v Miami Marlins
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Fleming's Sinker-Cutter Combo

Josh Fleming might not be the go-to lefty in the Pirates’ bullpen all season; in fact, he’s not even the best lefty in the ‘pen right now. That would be Ryan Borucki and/or Aroldis Chapman. When Bailey Falter inevitably tumbles out of the starting rotation, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fleming put out on waivers or shopped at the Trade Deadline. Until then, though, he has made himself at home with Pittsburgh.

Fleming has made appearances in half of the Pirates’ games so far, including a three-inning save in the second game of the season. Over five innings in three games, Fleming has struck out five batters and induced an average exit velocity of 82.5 mph. Some of this success can be attributed to the reintroduction of his cutter, a pitch that he abandoned last season. The cutter’s horizontal movement, which breaks in on a right-handed batter, plays well off his sinker, which breaks down and away.

Don’t expect Fleming to continue producing these strikeout numbers. He’s a textbook ground-ball pitcher. In fact, I could see the cutter getting him into trouble; if he elevates a pitch with relatively little downward break, it could spin right into the sweet spot. Fleming’s launch angle is the highest it has been in his career, but opposing batters have yet to barrel up his pitches. The cutter, currently an asset, might prove to be a liability as opponents’ scouting reports catch up to Fleming’s current repertoire.