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Pirates Spring Training starting pitchers: Who are these guys?

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Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The second part of Who Are These Guys? will cover starting pitchers.  The full series can be found here.

The Pirates' rotation, disappointing as it is, appears to be set for now with Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Jon Niese, Jeff Locke and Ryan Vogelsong.  The odds of these guys lasting as a group until the cavalry arrives in June, or even through spring training, are probably not terribly high, though, so depth is going to be important.  I'm going to include some pitchers who appear to be potential starting depth, even though they may end up as relievers.  I'm not including pitchers who made significant contributions in 2016, so Cole, Liriano and Locke aren't listed.

Uniform numbers are included, except in some cases where they aren't available.  Left-handers are indicated by *.  And I'm going to try not to use the "S" word.

UPDATE:  A.J. Schugel, discussed below, has indeed cleared waivers, been outrighted to AAA, and received a non-roster invitation to spring training.

Jesse Biddle* (81): A classic lottery ticket, Biddle is a big lefty with swing-and-miss stuff who's struggled with injuries and control problems the last couple years after looking like a top prospect in the low minors.  He'll miss all of 2016 as a result of Tommy John surgery and, thus, probably won't be much in evidence this spring.  The big question, if/when he gets healthy, is how much of his problems in 2014-15 stemmed from his control issues and how much from health issues.  There's a good chance the Pirates will try to sneak him through waivers at some point rather than keep him on the 40-man roster all year and burn an option, or clear a roster spot by putting him on the 60-day disabled list and burn a year of service.  If they choose the option route, Biddle will enter 2017 with only one option left.

Chance of contributing in 2016:  None.

Wilfredo Boscan (69): Boscan is a finesse righty who's had a mediocre minor league career, last appearing on any prospect list way back in 2009.  The Pirates signed him a year ago and, even though he'd never pitched especially well even in AA, he had a very good year for Indianapolis, mostly starting.  The Pirates brought him up three times when they were short on arms, but he never got into a game.  He's back on a minor league deal and figures to serve as deep depth in AAA.  With Steven Brault, Tyler Glasnow, Chad Kuhl, Kyle Lobstein, Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams and possibly A.J. Schugel seemingly in line to start in AAA, though, I'm not sure how the Pirates will find a rotation spot for Boscan.

Chance of contributing in 2016:  Low.

Steven Brault* (65): A product of the Travis Snider deal, Brault pitched well in high A last year and even better after a mid-season promotion to AA.  He's a finesse lefty with very good command who profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter.  He's received a non-roster invitation, which is a good sign that he'll open 2016 in AAA.  As a bonus, he appears to be a good hitter; he went 7-for-16 in 2015.  Brault won't overwhelm anybody and the Pirates no doubt will want him to get plenty of time in AAA.  A big showing there could put him in line for some sort of emergency callup, but he's very unlikely to arrive before 2017.

Chance of contributing in 2016:  Low.

Tyler Glasnow (--): One of the top pitching prospects in the minors, Glasnow is ticketed for AAA to open the season.  The Pirates apparently have decided to start off with a rotation that's obviously inferior to those of many other contenders; this decision may have been based on the conviction that Glasnow will arrive on a white horse around June or so.  He does, however, still have control issues to overcome, so his arrival isn't a sure thing.

Chance of contributing in 2016:  High.

Nick Kingham (62): Kingham's expected 2015 arrival was torpedoed by Tommy John surgery.  He won't return to the mound before late 2016; like Biddle, he'll be in camp because he's on the 40-man roster.  He's likely to arrive in MLB in 2017.

Chance of contributing in 2016:  None.

Chad Kuhl (66): Kuhl's situation is similar to Brault's.  He spent all of 2015 at Altoona and had a breakout season, ratcheting his velocity up from the low- to the mid-90s, topping out frequently at 96-97.  He doesn't have great secondary stuff and is more of a control pitcher than a swing-and-miss type.  He'll also be in camp on a non-roster invitation, which again hopefully means he'll start the season in AAA.  Like Brault, he's more likely to reach the majors in 2017 than 2016.  If his velocity increase holds, though, he might be a good candidate to pitch in relief in September if there's a need.

Chance of contributing in 2016:  Low.

Kyle Lobstein* (--): Lobstein is a soft-tossing lefty who didn't develop the way the Rays hoped when they made him the 47th overall pick in the 2008 draft.  He had stints in the majors in 2014-15, pitching passably until he missed about half of 2015 with shoulder inflammation.  He got bombed after returning in September.  For some reason, I haven't seen any discussion of possible health issues, despite his rough return from the shoulder trouble.  Lobstein and Juan Nicasio are probably the top candidates to join the rotation early in the season in the event of an injury or some other major issue.  There's also been some speculation that Lobstein could become the second bullpen lefty and he's generally had a large platoon split.  He has almost no experience in relief, though, and would have to get stretched out if he was needed as a starter.  Nicasio has no options left, so he has to open the season in the bullpen if he's not in the rotation.  I think that makes it highly likely that Lobstein, who has two remaining options, will start the season in the AAA rotation.

Chance of contributing in 2016:  Moderate.

Kelvin Marte* (76): I'm not sure why Marte got a non-roster invitation.  He's a small, crafty, 28-year-old lefty who has almost no experience in AAA and seems to have topped out in AA.  But then, that's what I thought about Boscan a year ago.  When Marte signed, the obvious implication was that he'd have a shot at a lefty bullpen role, but he's been mostly a starter so far.  I guess he'll serve as depth in some capacity at Indianapolis, most likely relief because the rotation is looking crowded.

Chance of contributing in 2016:  Low.

Juan Nicasio (--): One of the most interesting of the new pitchers the Pirates have brought in, Nicasio had early success as a starter after being called up from AA.  He ran into injury problems, though, and struggled through the 2012-14 seasons before bouncing back fairly well as a reliever in 2015.  It also may help that he's not in Colorado any more.  The Pirates have explicitly said they think he's an option to start.  The attraction isn't hard to see, as Nicasio throws hard, gets groundballs at a pretty good rate, and has some history of missing bats.  He has no options left and the Pirates gave him a $3M contract, so he'll definitely be on the opening day roster in some capacity, barring injury.

Chance of contributing in 2016:  Definite, barring injury.

Jon Niese* (--): The Pirates' big, off-season rotation addition, Niese figures to be the third starter.  Hopefully, somebody (ahem) can help him return to his very solid 2012-14 form.  He at least figures to help a little on offense, as he draws remarkable numbers of walks for a pitcher.

Chance of contributing in 2016:  Definite, barring injury.

A.J. Schugel (--): Schugel was a puzzling waiver wire pickup, a 26-year-old who doesn't miss bats or get ground balls.  He also has yet to show he can handle AAA, with a 7.99 ERA in 28 starts at the level.  Some of the attraction seems to be the idea that, because he hardly pitched at all prior to being drafted, he might still have a lot of ceiling left.  The Pirates presumably regarded him as rotation depth, but they designated him for assignment a couple days ago.  If he isn't lost on waivers, he presumably will be in camp on a non-roster invitation, since they liked him well enough to carry him on the 40-man roster briefly.

Chance of contributing in 2016:  Low.

Jameson Taillon (--): Still one of the Pirates' top prospects, Taillon has missed two years with injuries.  Even in his limited AAA time, he had modest control issues.  Nevertheless, the Pirates have sounded very optimistic that Taillon will contribute in 2016, although he'll need significant time in AAA first.  I have trouble seeing him doing more than getting into some games in relief in September, but the Pirates seem to be expecting more than that.  It'll be interesting to see how they manage his workload this season.

Chance of contributing in 2016:  Moderate.

Ryan Vogelsong (--): Vogelsong is now slated to replace Charlie Morton in the rotation and serve as the fifth starter.  It was a puzzling exchange, but Vogelsong did have an odd 2015 season.  He was terrible early and late, and very good in between.  He also saw a velocity increase--very unusual for a 38-year-old pitcher--that, judging from the chart at Fangraphs, didn't just result from a move to the bullpen late in the season.  I guess the Pirates think you-know-who can do something with that.

Chance of contributing in 2016:  Definite, barring injury.

Trevor Williams (64): The return from Miami for Richard Mitchell Jim Benedict and Marc DelPiano, Williams gets his fastball up to the mid-90s and gets lots of groundballs, but doesn't miss bats.  He's a non-roster invitee, but he has only 14 innings in AAA so far, so he won't likely be ready for the majors before late in the season.  He's in roughly the same position as Brault and Kuhl, except he hasn't pitched nearly as well as they have so far.

Chance of contributing in 2016:  Low.