Pittsburgh Pirates: Two Young Bullpen Arms Who Could Have Big Roles

Pittsburgh Pirates v San Francisco Giants
Pittsburgh Pirates v San Francisco Giants / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages
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Jose Hernandez

The Pirates drafted Jose Hernandez in the Rule 5 draft, and he’s looked dominant in Spring Training. Of course, pre-season results mean very little, but his overall stuff has looked fantastic. Hernandez is consistently hitting 95-98 with his four-seam fastball and sinker. His breaking pitch, a slider, is coming in the low-mid-80 MPH range.

Hernandez pitched 59.2 innings for the Dodgers’ High-A and Double-A affiliates. There were a handful of positives for Hernandez, including a 3.32 ERA, 27.8% strikeout rate, 1.21 WHIP, and a .214 opponent average; however, there were also some red flags. This includes a 4.50 FIP, 10.1% walk rate, 1.21 HR/9, and 4.09 xFIP.

Hernandez certainly has reliever-type stuff. This was the first minor league season he worked almost solely out of the bullpen. He did make two starts, though they were more like opens, as they both lasted less than two innings. He has a big fastball/sinker and a plus slider. Command has been a point of contention for the southpaw, but if he can keep the walk rate manageable, he’ll be fine.

Rule 5 picks are always risky. Once in a while, a team will hit on a Rule 5 pick, but those hits are few and far between. The Pirates haven’t been too great at the Rule 5 draft, with the last R5 pick who produced a bWAR of at least +0.5 being Evan Meek 16 years ago. But Hernandez is probably one of the more talented Rule 5 Draft selections they’ve had in their recent history.

Hernandez will likely open the season in a middle relief role but has the stuff that he could eventually work himself into higher leverage situations. Given the team's lack of quality left-handed bullpen options, he could be their go-to high-leverage lefty reliever if he can prove himself in a lower-leverage role first.