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Predicting the Pirates’ 2020 bullpen

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MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

With less than two weeks until the start of the 2020 MLB season, it will be interesting to see how a lot of roster related questions are addressed.

How will teams construct their 30-man rosters? Now more than ever, teams will have the ability to get creative with the inner workings of roster construction. Is there potential to see some teams carry an 18-man pitching staff?

For the Pirates sake, I am interested in seeing how they put together their bullpen. In 2019, Pittsburgh had the sixth-worst bullpen in baseball according to fWAR. A lot of their production came from a man who is now in jail for doing despicably terrible things. The Pirates could easily again have one of the worst bullpens in 2020.

That said, bullpen production can fluctuate from bad to good in any given year. A 60-game season magnifies that. So who knows?

I am going to guess that the Pirates carry 15 total pitchers out of Spring 2.0. How might a 10-man bullpen look for them?

Closer - Keone Kela

Kela will be the closer for the Pirates in 2020. Although he has not yet shown up to camp, Manager Derek Shelton is not worried and expects that he will be ready for Opening Day.

Setup - Kyle Crick, Nick Burdi

Crick was awful in 2019 but his stuff remains solid. With some adjustments, I believe he can return to his 2018 self. Burdi was nasty (42.5 strikeout percentage) in his limited time last year before an arm injury ended his season. I am all aboard the Burdi train and would love to see him close games at some point.

Middle relief - Richard Rodriguez, Michael Feliz, Chris Stratton

Not much to see here. Rodriguez was pretty bad last season (although lucky) while leading the team in appearances. Feliz had a K rate of 30.5 percent in 2019, a career-high. He might have setup man potential in the future. Stratton was pretty okay with the Pirates in 2019 as a relief arm.

LOOGY - Robbie Erlin

He’s the only lefty option in the bullpen besides Steven Brault. Brault will more than likely start or piggyback starts.

Piggyback Starter - Chad Kuhl

Speaking of piggyback starters, Brault and Kuhl will be doing that. One will start for three or four innings. The other will take the next three or four innings. Hopefully, together as one, they can form a competent major league starting pitcher.

Other arms - Clay Holmes, Dovydas Neverauskas

Holmes has solid stuff so his potential as a reliever isn’t terrible. He also has some piggyback potential. If he can control the walks, he will be good. As for Neverauskas, well, I’ve never seen someone throw a more hittable 97-mph fastball.