Pirates Non-Roster Invitees who could make the Opening Day bullpen

Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates
Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages
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3. RHP Ben Heller

For some fans, Ben Heller may be a name that has been completely forgotten about this Spring, and I don’t blame them. As of writing this article, Heller has not pitched a single inning after signing a minor league deal with the Pirates back in early December. Heller was also offered an invite to join the Pirates Spring Training roster as a non-roster invitee but hasn’t played due to a suspected injury (which hasn’t been formally announced by the Pirates). However, there are some things to like about Heller’s game, which could lead to him making the Opening Day roster, if healthy.

Last season with the Atlanta Braves, Heller posted a 3.86 ERA, and 5.02 FIP, struck out 19.5% of batters faced, and had a 1.45 WHIP across 18.2 innings of relief. Those numbers don’t immediately scream “lockdown reliever”, but the Pirates aren’t asking Heller to post elite numbers out of the bullpen. Heller’s calling card is his ability to generate groundballs as a sinker-baller and limit home runs, which would translate well in PNC Park. He also has one of the nastiest sweepers in the entire league (78.6 Whiff%), which was a nightmare for opposing batters. Last season, Heller’s elite breaking ball was UNHITABLE, holding batters to a .000 batting average and striking out 11 hitters.

While Heller isn’t the most likely candidate to make the Opening Day roster, his repertoire speaks for itself and he shouldn’t be removed from consideration. Keep your eyes peeled on Heller this Spring, if he actually pitches.