Friday, February 12, 2016

Heading to Camp - Starting Pitchers On the Way & Depth Arms

The list is heavy on young guns working their way up and light on immediate help, but the MLB staff is not very deep this year, so performance/injury issues could push the timetable if the FO doesn't bring a couple of more arms to camp. For the curious, the list is of all the spring training invitees, both 40-man roster guys and Non-Roster Invitees (NRI).

  • Jameson Taillon: Taillon, 24, has missed two years with TJ surgery followed by a hernia, so working off the rust and managing the innings/pitches he tosses should logically keep him on the farm this year. But the Bucs' FO has made noises that he may be in play if the rotation requires a patch, so we'll see. Jameson has gotten back on the horse, working out at Pirate City during the fall instructional period. Even so, JT only has 37 IP at Indy and none since 2013, so he needs some work. It's all gravy if he's strong enough to see some big league time this year; we're betting on 2017.
  • Chad Kuhl: Kuhl, 23, had a pretty good year at Bradenton in 2014 and a breakout campaign at Altoona last season, going 11-5 with a 2.48 ERA and being named the Altoona PoY. He's not much of a swing-and-miss guy, but uses a mid-nineties power sinker to put up a 58% ground ball rate. Chad got a taste at Indy last year, and that's his likely destination this season as he tries to develop a plus second pitch; both his slider and change need work. But that sinker could earn him a call up as a September reliever. If he doesn't come up with a secondary pitch, he could end up on the same track as Tony Watson & Jared Hughes, both converted starters with heavy sinkers. He's a NRI to camp.
Chad Kuhl Bradenton (photo Eric Seibert)
  • Steven Brault: Part of the Travis Snider deal, southpaw Brault used three pitches - a low nineties fastball, improving changeup and slider - mixed with decent control to put up a 13-4 record with a 2.43 ERA between Bradenton and Altoona. Without a knockout pitch, he profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter, ala Jeff Locke. Our guess is he'll start the year at Altoona, although he may land an Indy slot. He's also a NRI to spring training, with a 2017-18 ETA.
  • Trevor Williams: Williams, 23,  was a second round pick of the Fish in 2013 out of Arizona State with just 14 IP at the AAA level, cobbling together a workmanlike but not dazzling minor league body of work. He  features a mid-nineties fastball with a curve and change, but isn't a very big swing-and-miss guy.The righty is considered a back-end depth arm, and will likely start out the season at Indy.
  • AJ Schugel: Schugel, 26, has a low nineties heater, a plus change and is in search of a breaking ball.  He made a couple of not very successful stops at Arizona, and didn't have much more success at the AAA level. The Bucs themselves seem a little unsure; they claimed him, DFA'ed him, then re-signed him with as a NRI. He looks more like a development piece than a depth option right now and has two remaining options.
  • Wilfredo Boscan: Boscan, 26, is riding a strong season at Indy, going 10-3 with a 3.07 ERA.   But all you need to know is that the Bucs called him up three times last year and never used him. He was re-signed as a NRI, and with a crowded Indy rotation may be relegated to bullpen duty.
Wilfredo Boscan 2015 Pirate Photo Day (photo Getty Images)
  • Kelvin Marte: Another lefty, Marte, 28, has a 90 MPH fastball, a decent change and a curve.  He had been with the Giants since 2007 before the Bucs signed him to a NRI deal. Kelvin has only six games at the AAA level, and as a little guy (5'9") tends to wear down quickly. He's primarily a starter, but has the look of a bullpen guy in the Pittsburgh system.
  • Jesse Biddle: He was claimed despite October TJ surgery and won't be a factor this season. Biddle, 24, was the first round draft pick of the Phils in 2010, but his performance hit a wall in 2014-15. Pittsburgh is betting that the fall off was injury related. He has two options left; the Pirates have a variety of avenues to address him being dead weight on the 40-man, the simplest being to just place him on the long-term DL.
  • Nick Kingham: Kingham also had TJ surgery in May, and should be available some time this summer. He'll end up at Indy and isn't likely to be in the mix this season. Nick was a Top 100 prospect before hurting his arm, with a low-to-mid nineties fastball and good control, so he could be part of the 2017 transition (he did spend parts of two season at Indy).
Next: Heading to Camp - The Bullpen Core

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