Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Heading to Camp: Bullpen Depth

Interesting crew collected by the FO this year; some vets, comeback kids and AAAA guys with an option or two to work with and a smattering of southpaws. The odds are one of them will break camp with the Buccos. Long guy? Lefty? Lots of choices with this gang.

Rob Scahill: Rob had a pretty mediocre set of numbers at Colorado, but it's often difficult to judge a guy that works at altitude (tho his numbers show no big divergence between home and away outings). He hasn't set the world afire in the minors, either. But he did work 28 games for the Bucs last year, putting up a 2.64 ERA, with the caveat that his peripherals weren't pretty, especially the 1.598 WHIP and 4.7 walks per game. Scahill did put together a nice 61.6% ground ball rate and throws a 93 MPH sinker, so he has a chance to break camp with the team if he can find the strike zone. If not, he still has an option remaining.

John Holdzkom: Holdzkom was a great story during the 2014 stretch, but the 2015 chapter wasn't as bright. He battled control issues, dead arm and the death of his brother. This is a new year, and we'll see how Big John and his mid-nineties heat plays. He did get a 56.3% groundball rate to go with 14 K per game in 2014 with the big club, so there's a lot to like, especially if he can add a second pitch. He is on the 40-man roster but with two options left, making it likely that the team will start him at Indy for a little rust removal unless he has a lights-out camp. The FO wants him under their eye; he was refused team permission to join New Zealand's World Baseball Classic club.

John Holdzkom 2015 (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)

Robert Zarate: Southpaw Zarate, 29, has taken an international approach to his game, having pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays system through 2008, then spending the next six years with various Nippon League & Japanese indies while wintering in his native Venezuela. He put up some nice numbers in AAA last year, with a 2.76 ERA, .197 opponent BA (.135 v LH), 1.091 WHIP and 10.7 K per game (3.3 walks). He tosses a low-nineties heater with a slider and change. Robert has also started fairly regularly in his career, so he's an intriguing boom or bust kinda character who could fill in anywhere from LOOGY to long man.

Eric O'Flaherty: The 31 year old southpaw was an effective setup man for the Braves from 2009-2012, with a ground ball rate of 57%. He had TJ surgery in 2013, bounced back with a good second half of 2014 with the A's and then was put through the wringer last year, tho he kept up his good worm-burner rate with a 58% score. Eric's a fastball (90)/slider (84) guy, with his velo down a couple of ticks from his Bravo days, as it's been since returning from TJ rehab. O'Flaherty will be a NRI at camp.

Cory Luebke: The ex-Padre lefty was a first rounder for SD in 2007, but hasn’t pitched since 2012 after going through a pair of TJ procedures. He started quite a few games for SD (25 out of 55 outings) but with his arm history, his role is TBD; we're guessing bullpen. His arsenal is (or was) a rising low-nineties fastball and good change with a hard slider and 12-to-6 hook. Cory (31 in March) will be coming to camp as a NRI. Bucco factoids - the Pirates drafted him out of Marion (OH) High School in 2004, but he opted for Ohio State. And he decided to sign here after hearing good things about the org from his old SD roomie, Clayton Richard, per MLB.com's Adam Berry.

Jorge Rondon: Rondon can hit 100 with his heater, one of four heavy pitches in his toolkit. He's a sinker ball guy on top of that velocity, and the Bucs tend to bring out the best in those arms. They'll have to; he's gotten a couple of sips of coffee in the bigs and been belted around. But he's 27 with a power arm and coming off a decent  AAA year - 2.90 ERA, 49 K in 40 IP and 15 BB; not bad by comparison to most of the field, so he's worth the flyer. Rondon does have a couple of strikes against him, tho - he's non-rostered and out of options, so it may be break camp or bust for him.

Guido Knudson: Knudson, 26, was claimed from the Tigers, released by the Bucs and then re-signed, so it appears the Pirates do have some interest in having him in the system. Guido was clocked in a brief Motown stint, but had a pretty solid  minor league year between AA-AAA. He's started a few games on the farm, and was often called upon to work multiple innings. Knudson is a high K, high BB guy (what else is new) with a 93 MPH heater and a slider to go along with it. As a guy that misses bats (and the plate) who can eat some innings; he profiles as a middle-inning organizational depth arm. If he gets a call up, he does have two options to work with.

Guido Knudson (photo via Pirates)
Trey Haley: Haley, 25, was a second round pick of Indians who put up a 2.45 ERA in 43 appearances at the Tribe's AA-AAA levels. He's another power arm with his fastball in the high nineties and a nasty hook as his main weapons. As with seemingly every new name, he has good minor league K numbers (8.6 per game) and an equally high walk rate; in fact, at 6.5 walks per game, he may be the wildest of the Bucs wild children. The Pirates are hoping their worked-to-the-bone staff of gurus can point him toward the plate. He was signed to a big league deal and placed on the 40 man. With two options remaining, they have time to develop him as long as he can hold a roster spot, so he's almost assured to open at Indy.

Curtis Partch: Partch, 28, fits the mold - 6'5", big heater (mid nineties), punch-out power arm, and treats the strike zone like a foreign object. He had a couple of stints with the Reds and spent last year in the Giants system. Aside from dubious command, the knock on his fastball is that it's flat, ala old Bucco prospect Victor Black. Curtis is a project for the Bucs; the FO loves big arms and have had some luck in reining in control issues, so he's joining the 2016 fixer-upper class.

Jim Fuller: Another lefty depth guy. Fuller, 28, is a finesse arm, tossing the upper eighties (his fastball is hard to pick up despite the low velo; one scout described it as "invisible") with a slow curve and an eighties slider. He's posted good back-to-back MiLB seasons, first in AA then following up in AAA. Jim projects as a LOOGY and should start in the minors.

Daniel Bard: The Bucs signed former Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard, 30, to a minor league deal. He's trying to rally from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, the same malady that iced former prospect Craig Hansen's career. He was once a top gun, hitting the high nineties with his fastball. He's got an interesting pedigree, and although he didn't make it out of the Cub's instructional camp in 2015, a comeback by Daniel would add some unexpected gravy to the Bucco menu.

Next up: Heading to Camp - The Catchers 

Prior Posts:
Heading to Camp: Starting Pitching, Eight Deep
Heading to Camp: Starting Pitching, On the Way & Depth Arms  

Heading to Camp: Bullpen Core

1 comment:

WilliamJPellas said...

I gotta hand it to the current front office and then some when it comes to making a truckload of intelligent signings off the junkheap (and off the radar). I well remember Daniel Bard, who was very effective in the early going of his major league career. Most of the others on your list are at least intriguing, and more of them than not could realistically see time in the majors this season and going forward. Sure, a "name" free agent pitcher or two would have been nice, but this is about as strong a "Plan B" as I have ever seen from any team heading into spring training. Well done, Neal Huntington!