I have been a life-long Pittsburgh sports fan..through and through. I’m also at the age where a lot of high school friends were Dallas Cowboys fans when the moniker “America’s Team” was just starting to incubate. I do take the hard-line stance that if you live in Pennsylvania, you should be rooting for either the Steelers or the Eagles. I’ll give those a pass if they want to hang their loyalties on Buffalo, Washington, NY Giants or the NY Jets. But never to Baltimore or Cleveland, as you can surely understand. But how sweet it was to have the Steelers win four Super Bowls during my Junior and Senior High School days, especially two against those Cowboys. It was savagely sweet to see your “Cowboy loving” best friend actually breakdown to “bawling” tears while watching the Super Bowl together that January night in 1979. My Steelers are always in the playoff hunt and the Penguins keep things going for me once football comes to an end. But once the hockey season ends, that let-down feeling creeps through the door, knowing that I have to sweat through a Pirates’ 162-game season. We all know the history, the toils of the Pirates. My last cries of jubilation came in October 1979. What a braggart I was that year… Super Bowl and a World Series title in one year. Now, I have to get excited for a possible Wild Card play-in game, which seems will be the norm with the Cubs’ dynamo now churning.
I can’t explain whether it’s the close relationship as a Pirate fan or if my system has been working, hard hitting on Pirates UTR’s. The battle cry of my fellow Pirate fan nephew the last several years has been..”the calvary is coming.” He’s mainly been referring to the lumber, but I’vebeen waiting on the arms. Top drafts picks like Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon could finally see a full season as rotation-mates at PNC Park this season, but a whole bevy of UTR pitchers are about to arrive to help round out the staff. 2014 UTR’s Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl will be the first to arrive. My system actually latched onto Glasnow during my writings at MLBDepthCharts in his 2012 debut season. He solidified my stance the following year with LoA West Virginia and became my #1 ranked TPS Pirates pitcher on my UTRMinors.com debut list in 2014. Glasnow had a ridiculous combined score FS/TPS score of 15/.059 that season, and was on his way to becoming the Pirates #1 prospect. Kuhl joined the OAS list behind Glasnow at #3 at 12/ .130 going 13-5 with a 3.35 ERA. According to RosterResource, Kuhl should occupy the #4 rotation spot coming out of Spring Training, after 14 decent starts in 2016. If Kuhl should falter in 2017, there are other UTR-OAS right behind him awaiting the opportunity. Both are not homegrown Pirate farmhands. Steve Brault was the Baltimore Orioles top OAS in 2014 and was traded to Pittsburgh in 2015. Trevor Williams could be the real sleeper in 2017. He came over to the Pirates in 2015 after becoming one of my Organization All-Stars for the Marlins in 2014. The wait list doesn’t stop there with: Nick Kingham, Casey Sadler, Brandon Cumpton, Josh Lindblom. These pitchers were all once touted by me before the launch of this site. I had predicted Lindblom as a future relief arm for the LA Dodgers, which occurred in 2011 and part of 2012 before being sent to Philadelphia. The Pirates acquired Lindblom after his successful conversion to a starter in the Korean Baseball League.
A new crop of UTR-OAS began to emerge for the Pirates over the last two seasons. In Tyler Glasnow fashion, my system immediately hit on Mitch Keller during his debut year with the GCL Pirates. He posted a nice .085 TPS that season, then took his lumps in the APPY League the next year, before going down with a forearm issue. He returns as a UTR-OAS for 2016, taking the top spot. 2016 “One to Watch” Yeudy Garcia had a worthy season with HiA Bradenton this past season, but just missed making the list. Austin Coley (2016 Pre-Season “Just off the Scope”) does repeat in 2016, thanks to a strong month of May, but faded the last month of the season.
The relief side of things for the Pirates upcoming are the likes of 2013 “One to Watch” Dovyadas Neverauskas. The 24-year old keeps the ball in the park (5 HR’s in his last 126.1 IP and 16% FB rate in Triple-A) and should finally make it to PNC in 2017. Also look for Montana DuRapau and Jhondaniel Medina to arrive in Pittsburgh, especially if Tony Watson is dealt, which will shake-up the whole Pirate bullpen. An intriguing arm within the Pirates stable is ex-Red Sox top pick in Pat Light. I predicted Light as a bust when he somehow chiseled his way into the Boston 2014 UTR-OAS roster. He made a renaissance this past season in the relief role at the Triple-A level with Boston and Minnesota, but it never carried over to his MLB stints. Let’s see if Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage can conjure-up the magic to harness Light’s mechanics and his fastball (up to 100 mph) into a closer, should Watson be sent packing.
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
1. RHP Mitch Keller – 21 / .089 *Solid Stash*
20 years old – (LoA West Virginia / HiA Bradenton)
2nd round – 2014
Keller missed most of 2015 with forearm issues, but returns to the OAS circle after a terrific 2016. TPS tapped Keller during his pro debut in 2014 with the GCL Pirates, scoring a .085 metric. The Pirates rewarding Keller with a late start at HiA Bradenton where he pitched six shutout innings with 7 strikeouts and only 1 walk. That ratio was about par for the 124.1 innings at LoA West Virginia, paralleling to a 7.28 K/BB ratio. Many scouts rave about Keller’s control over his command, exciting news for a kid only 3 seasons removed from high school. Keller was the Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
22 years old – (LoA West Virginia / HiA Bradenton)
6th round – 2015
Brubaker was also challenged with a promotion to HiA Bradenton mid-season, and endured a roller-coaster ride. The took the ball in the Florida State League Championship and pitched his first scoreless HiA outing that secured the FSL title for the Marauders.
Sendelbach started his first full season with West Virginia as hot as any Pirate minor league pitcher. In five April starts, Sendelbach threw 27.1 innings allowing 4 earned runs, 3 walks and 14 strikeouts. He then battled inconsistencies for the rest of the season, especially an increase in his flyball rate. He has a way to go to reach a possible ceiling as a back-end starter.