Ryder Ryan could become a great pick-up for the Pirates

The Pirates signed right-handed reliever Ryder Ryan to a minor league deal this past off-season, but he has the potential to be a great low-cost pick-up for the Bucs.

Jul 30, 2021; Yokohama, Japan; Team United States pitcher Ryder Ryan (28) throws against Israel in
Jul 30, 2021; Yokohama, Japan; Team United States pitcher Ryder Ryan (28) throws against Israel in / Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates seem to have a knack for finding good bullpen arms from unlikely sources. Last year, Ryan Borucki and Angel Perdomo were minor league signees who eventually worked themselves into higher-leverage roles. A few years before that, Richard Rodriguez put together three and a half quality seasons with the Bucs, and he was also a minor league signee. Even going back a decade ago, when the Pirates made three straight Wild Cards, Jason Grilli was signed to a low-cost one-year deal, Tony Watson was a 9th-round pick, and Mark Melancon had an ERA over 6.00 when the Pirates acquired him.

The Pirates could once again have another diamond in the rough find this year with right-handed relief pitcher Ryder Ryan. The Bucs signed Ryan to a minor league contract this past winter. He made the Pirates’ Opening Day roster, and his debut was extremely promising, enough that I think he has the stuff to stick in the Major Leagues.

Last year, Ryan pitched most of the season for the Seattle Mariners’ Triple-A team, working to a strong 3.76 ERA, 4.17 FIP, and 1.24 WHIP. He limited walks with a 9.6% BB% while also having an above-average 24.3% strikeout rate. Home runs also were a strong suit of his, with a 0.65 HR/9 through 55 innings of work. Keep in mind that this was in the ultra-hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, where the league average ERA was nearly 5.70, the average walk rate was over 12%, and the average HR/9 was 1.31. Among pitchers with at least 50 frames, Ryan ranked in the top ten in ERA, FIP, and WHIP.

In Ryan’s 2024 debut, he pitched 1.2 innings and struck out two batters. That’s a good start to his season but not the most important thing to focus on. That would be his sinker. Ryan threw his sinker 94.1 MPH, which is slightly above average. However, the horizontal movement Ryan throws his sinker with is elite. He averaged 21.8 inches of horizontal break with the pitch. Since Statcast began tracking pitch movement in 2017, only two pitchers have ever had a sinker averaged over 21 inches of break. They were Peter Moylan and Luis Perdomo, both back in 2017. Only three in total have averaged 20+ inches of horizontal break with at least 100 sinkers thrown in a season. The third is Sergio Romo, which was also in 2017.

Ryan has some nasty stuff and I think he might get a chance to stick in the Pirates’ bullpen this year.

He certainly has the potential to be another great bullpen pick-up by the Pirates. Of course, it’s only one game, but he displayed strong stuff during Spring Training as well and pitched well in arguably the most hitter friendly environment in professional baseball in the United States.