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Pirates spring training starting pitchers: Who are these guys?

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World Series - Houston Astros v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Six Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Now for the starting pitchers. Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl appear to have spots locked down. It seems very likely that Joe Musgrove will get the other spot, but just in case, all of the candidates, and other starters who’ll be in camp, are below. (Lefties . . . well, all one of them . . . are noted by *.)

Previous installments:

Catchers
Infielders
Outfielders

Dario Agrazal (No. 76): Something of a breakout season in 2017 got Agrazal a spot on the 40-man roster. He throws in the mid-90s with very good control but no swing-and-miss pitch. He had a lot of very efficient outings for Bradenton, which got him a mid-season promotion to Altoona. Unfortunately, he immediately went out for the year with an oblique strain. As you’d expect, as with all pitch-to-contact guys, the big question will be how his stuff plays at higher levels. He should return to Altoona and could reach AAA.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Low

Steven Brault* (No. 43): Brault was one of the best pitchers in AAA in 2017, although his peripherals didn’t quite match his 1.94 ERA. At the major league level, he’s had trouble with deep counts resulting from nibbling around the strike zone. The Pirates have said they’ll consider Brault for the bullpen and that’s probably his best chance of making the team out of camp. It’d be an upset if the Pirates’ starters stayed as healthy in 2018 as they did in 2017, though, so Brault has a strong likelihood of getting time in the rotation. He has one option left.

Chance of contributing in 2018: High

Tyler Eppler (No. —): The Pirates have pushed Eppler aggressively despite mostly so-so performances; in fact, he just plain struggled in 2017 in AAA. That’s probably because he’s 6’6” with mid-90s velocity and sometimes better. He’s a flyball pitcher, though, and had serious problems with gopher balls in AAA, and with extra base hits in general. The size and velocity didn’t get him selected in the Rule 5 draft, so he’s in camp as a non-roster player. He still needs a lot of time in the minors.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Low

Luis Escobar (No. 77): With a mid-90s fastball and two other potentially average-or-better pitches, Escobar has a good ceiling. His command has a long ways to go, though. He’s had very high K rates so far, due to low-level hitters being unable to lay off his breaking stuff, which can be nasty. He’s on the 40-man roster now, so he’ll have to make it through three more levels on three options.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Low

Tyler Glasnow (No. 24): Glasnow’s story is well known. He’s dominated throughout the minors like no other pitcher within memory, but his major league trials so far have been disasters. To some minor league honchos, he’s a major breakout that could still happen and to others he’s a guy that might just make it in the bullpen. His situation is exactly the same as Brault’s: one option, a shot at the bullpen, and probably some starts at some point. He could mean a lot more to the Pirates, though, than any other pitcher in the organization, even Mitch Keller, if he could harness his stuff.

Chance of contributing in 2018: High

Clay Holmes (No. 68): Holmes is a hard guy to get a handle on, as his repertoire and profile keep changing, sometimes during the season. The latest incarnation has a fastball that gets into the upper-90s, an extremely high groundball rate, a decent K rate and sometimes pretty significant control problems. He’s got two options left and will undoubtedly return to Indianapolis in search of greater consistency. I keep fantasizing about him as a super-powered Jared Hughes out of the bullpen.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Moderate

Nick Kingham (No. 49): If it seems like Kingham has been around forever, he pretty much has. He’s 26 now, has yet to reach the majors, and will be working on his fourth option when he inevitably heads back to Indianapolis at the end of March. His velocity isn’t quite what it was before Tommy John surgery and he had some stretches in 2017 in which he really got hammered. He still looks like a potential fourth starter, but getting him a shot in the majors as a starter is going to be a challenge for the Pirates. It needs to happen at some point this year.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Moderate

Alex McRae (No. 84): McRae pitched well in the Altoona rotation in 2017, but he doesn’t miss bats and opponents hit 32 points higher against him than the league average. He’s not on the roster and was passed over in the Rule 5 draft last December. He could open this year in Indianapolis or Altoona, and could ultimately play a role similar to Casey Sadler.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Low

Joe Musgrove (No. 59): Musgrove is probably close to a lock to be in the Pirates’ rotation. A lot of observers remain very high on him despite the fact that he lacks an out pitch. It’s hard not to be concerned about the fact that he got ripped for a 306/356/526 line in 15 starts in 2017. In relief, opponents hit just 196/244/321 against him. He did have a very solid K rate of 8.1 per nine innings on the season. He has two options left, but with him having thrown over 170 innings in the majors it’d be a bad sign if one of them had to be used.

Chance of contributing in 2018: High

Casey Sadler (No. 65): Sadler managed just under 80 innings in 2017 as he worked his way back from Tommy John surgery. He only reached AAA briefly, so it’s hard to say how fully he’s recovered, but the Pirates saw fit to bring him back on a minor league deal for 2018. He could conceivably return to his role as both starting and relief depth, but there are a lot of guys ahead of him in both roles.

Chance of contributing in 2018: Low