Pittsburgh Pirates: Low-Risk/High-Reward Pitchers To Pursue Based On Stuff+

The Pirates should look into these low-risk/high-reward pitchers as they ranked highly in the eyes of Stuff+

Aug 25, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Shintaro Fujinami (14)
Aug 25, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Shintaro Fujinami (14) / Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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Collin McHugh

Collin McHugh finished a two-year deal with the Atlanta Braves last season. McHugh's last season of the contract was not great. He pitched 58.2 innings, working to a 4.30 ERA and 1.57 WHIP, albeit a more promising 4.09 FIP. His 17.5% strikeout rate fell well below his typical strikeout rate, though he still had a solid 0.77 HR/9 and 8.2% walk rate.

Those were mediocre numbers, but in the two seasons prior, McHugh was an outstanding reliever, both for the Braves and the Tampa Bay Rays. In 133.1 innings, McHugh had a phenomenal 2.09 ERA, 2.43 FIP, and 0.94 WHIP. Only six relievers in 2021-2022 had a sub-2.50 ERA and WHIP below 1.00. McHugh was one of them. He also had a strikeout rate of 28.7%, a walk rate clocking in at 5%, and an HR/9 rate of 0.54.

McHugh was elite at limiting hard contact as well. He had an 86.7 MPH exit velocity and a hard hit rate of 30%. In both years, he ranked in the 87th percentile or higher of both stats. His 3.9% barrel rate was the 7th best among pitchers with 100+ innings pitched between the two years.

Now, according to Stuff+, even though McHugh's numbers took a downturn from 2022 to 2023, his stuff did not. He had a 110 Stuff+ rating in 2022 and 111 in 2023. McHugh did not see any significant change in velocity between his sweeper and cutter from '22 to '23. His spin rate also did not have any major difference. McHugh's sweeper averaged out at 43.5 inches of vertical movement, the 43rd highest on average in 2023. Meanwhile, his cutter sat at 25 inches of break, which was 1.9 inches more than average.

McHugh had posted a sub-3.00 ERA in three of his previous four seasons heading into 2023. He may be a little older at 37, but his stuff is as good as ever. Even if he never repeats the 1.55 ERA he posted with the Rays in 2021, I'd still take the odds of him having a quality year as a long reliever in 2024. I'd take 65 innings with a 3.50 or lower ERA out of the pen from McHugh, which is not completely unreasonable.