Pittsburgh Pirates: Projecting Bullpen Roles for the Start of 2024

Sep 2, 2023; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher David Bednar (51) reacts
Sep 2, 2023; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher David Bednar (51) reacts / Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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High leverage situation arms - righties Dauri Moreta, Colin Holderman, Carmen Mlodzinski

When necessary, Shelton could go to Hernandez or Borucki in a high leverage situation against left-handed hitters. However, righties Dauri Moreta, Colin Holderman, and Carmen Mlodzinski should get a majority of the team's high leverage spots when the season begins.

After being acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for infielder Kevin Newman, Moreta had a breakout season with the Pirates in 2023. Moreta ran into some trouble in the middle of the season, but started the season strong and capped it off with a dominant September.

All in all, Moreta posted a 3.72 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 10.0% walk rate, 31.8% strikeout rate, and allowed just 4 home runs (0.62 HR/9) in 58 innings pitched. Led by a slider that developed into a dominant pitch (.162 batting average, .265 slugging percentage, 40.8% whiff rate) it did not take Moreta long to become an arm Shelton trusts in high leverage situations. That's where he should begin the 2024 season.

Like Moreta, Mlodzinski burst onto the scene in 2023. Making his MLB debut, the 31st overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft looked like a budding bullpen star for the Pirates. Mlodzinski pitched 36 innings, posting a 2.25 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 11.8% walk rate, and a 22.4% strikeout rate. He limited opposing batters to a .211 average and he allowed 3 home runs (0.75 HR/9).

Mlodzinski's four-seamed fastball, changeup, and sweeper were all plus pitches last season. If that can continue, then the Pirates will have a very good back end of the bullpen option on their hands for a long time with Mlodzinski.

Out of these three, Holderman played the largest role in 2023. He started the season as the setup man to closer David Bednar. When healthy, Holderman was consistently used in high leverage situations. He did, however, miss time due to a wrist issue. For the season, he posted a 3.86 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 8.3% walk rate, and a 24.2% strikeout rate in 58 innings pitched.

While Holderman will undoubtedly begin the season in a high leverage role, it may not stick. He really struggled in high leverage situations last season and appears to be better suited for a middle relief role. However, he is working on adding a new pitch this offseason which could help him find more success in high levergae spots.