Following a strong breakout campaign in 2023, Dauri Moreta needs to be a go to arm for the Pittsburgh Pirates in high-leverage relief situations this season
Every MLB season each team has breakout players. For the 2023 edition of the Pittsburgh Pirates, one of those players was right-handed reliever Dauri Moreta who had a strong season out of the team's bullpen.
Moreta was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason in exchange for Kevin Newman. Prior to arriving in Pittsburgh, Moreta had pitched 42 MLB innings with the Reds. While he owned an ERA of 5.14 in these 42 innings pitched, he had always flashed the tools needed to be a plus reliever.
In 2023, Moreta started to put all of that together. He had a strong start to the season, struggled in the middle part including a IL stint and a trip to the minors, and then was lights out in September. All told, Moreta posted a 3.72 ERA and a 2.93 FIP in 58 innings pitched. Moreta walked 10.0% of batters faced, but struck out a healthy 31.8% of opposing batters while allowing just 4 home runs (0.62 HR/9) and a .184 batting average against.
A big factor for Moreta last season was his slider. Moreta's slider was legitimately one of the best pitches in baseball in 2023, which is a big reason why he leaned on the pitch throwing it 64.8% of the time.
In 2023, opposing batters hit just .162 while slugging .265 off of Moreta's slider. The pitch averaged 84.6 MPH, generating a 40.8% whiff rate and a spin rate of 1991 RPM. Moreta's slider can once again carry him to a lot of success in 2024.
Outside of David Bednar, the Pirate bullpen has its question marks entering 2024. Sure, pitchers such as Carmen Mlodzinski and Ryan Borucki put down payments on high-leverage jobs with their performance in 2023, but so did Moreta. The performance from Moreta was one that should put him in line for a key spot in the bullpen this season.
As we discussed earlier this offseason, Colin Holderman struggled in high-leverage situations last season. In 2024, those 8th inning/high-leverage situations that went to Holderman in 2023 should go to Moreta instead.
Other than Bednar, Moreta may be the most talented pitcher in the Pirate bullpen. With this, comes an expectation to perform and contribute. Hopefully, Moreta will not only be given that opportunity in 2024, but he will seize the opportunity and run with it.