Minor league signings that could make the Pirates' Opening Day roster

Let's look at some Pirates' minor league signees that could make the team's Opening Day roster.

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Eric Lauer

Eric Lauer had two quality seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2021-2022, pitching to a 3.47 ERA, 4.30 FIP, and 1.19 WHIP. Lauer mostly worked as a starting pitcher, tossing 277.1 innings and starting 49 of his 53 total games. Lauer had about a league-average 23.8% strikeout rate and 8.7% walk rate but a below-average 1.40 HR/9 rate. But after two consecutive good seasons as a starter for the Brewers, he fell well short of expectations in 2023.

Lauer pitched an injury-limited 46.2 innings, working to a 6.56 ERA, 7.41 FIP, and 1.67 WHIP. The lefty saw his K% drop to 20.4% while his walk rate increased to 11.4%. But more worrisome was his home run rate, which inflated to 3.09 per nine innings. Lauer held batters to just an 8% barrel rate in 2021 and 2022 but also saw that increase to 13.9%.

Arguably, all of Lauer’s troubles can be traced back to his massive loss in velocity. Lauer isn’t a flamethrower, averaging out at 93 MPH with his four-seamer in 2021 and 2022. But his velo fell off a cliff to just 90.8 MPH last season. His fastball didn’t even see the largest dip in velo either. His cutter lost about three MPH, as did his slider and curve. While his cutter and slider did not lose much spin, his four-seamer dropped in RPM by about 100, and curveball fell by about 60.

Although Lauer lost velocity, his pitches still had decent movement. His four-seamer lost some ride but about the same horizontal break. He also added about five inches of drop to his cutter while keeping similar horizontal break. But his slider lost the most movement.

Lauer has yet to pitch in a Pirates Spring Training game.

His signing was announced just recently, so we will likely see him in game action soon. Regaining some velocity will be key for Lauer to rebound. I’d definitely not mind him as the team’s long reliever to start the year.