We are only a couple of weeks away from mid-June, which is when top prospects magically have all figured out what they needed to learn in the minor leagues and are called up within a few days of each other. It totally has nothing to do with the Super 2 deadline. Nothing at all.
The Pirates’ pitching staff has been a work in progress since jump street this year. Many fans are eagerly awaiting the arrivals of top prospects Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow, plus the potential arrival of lesser prospect (but quite effective) Chad Kuhl. Here’s one man’s opinion of how and when it will all shake out.
I’ve staked out June 11th as Tyler Glasnow’s glorious ascension from Triple-A Indianapolis to Pittsburgh, so I’ll stick with that. Glasnow is already on the 40-man roster, so no corresponding move will have to be made in that respect. However, to get him on the 25-man roster, I would either put Ryan Vogelsong on the 60-day DL (if the Pirates are feeling charitable) or outright release him (if they are not). Vogelsong is only making $2M this year, so the Pirates would be eating a shade over $1.2M in salary. Even before his gruesome orbital bone fractures from being hit by a pitch, it was clear that Vogelsong is kind of running on fumes. As for what Tyler Glasnow’s role would be, I would insert him directly into the rotation and…
…move Juan Nicasio to the bullpen. Stick with me, Jeff Locke haters (97.8% of all Pirates fans). Here’s a look at all the Pirates’ starters for the month of May (thru games on May 24th):
It looks like Gerrit Cole is rounding off the rough edges, but the rest of the rotation has been sub-standard. By just ERA, Nicasio has been atrocious, even though his FIP is showing him more in line with the rest of his awful rotation mates. Nicasio is only averaging 5 innings per start and his velocity has been wavering from inning to inning in his starts. I feel that by moving him to the bullpen, you could strengthen the bullpen by installing him as the 7th inning guy along with Neftali Feliz.
When Jameson Taillon is deemed ready to arrive in Pittsburgh, whether that’s at the same time as Glasnow or plus/minus a few days, I would also insert him into the rotation…for a little bit of time, at least. Taillon would replace either Niese or Locke, most likely Locke as it would be a tough public relations pill to swallow for the front office if the player directly traded for Neil Walker is relegated to the bullpen so quickly. The Pirates, though, are carefully monitoring Taillon’s 2016 workload, as evidenced by them skipping his most recent Triple-A start to preserve his arm. Taillon is also already on the 40-man roster, so no corresponding move would be made, but to put him on the 25-man roster I would either option A.J. Schugel back to Indy or come up with another phantom DL stint for Arquimedes Caminero (if he has not returned from Wednesday’s DL stint for a “strained quadricep”). If Caminero, who is out of options, is DFA’ed, he will get snapped up by someone hoping to coax some control out of that 100 mph arm.
I would use Taillon in the rotation until the August 1st trade deadline is reached. If the Pirates can obtain a solid starter at the deadline, I would then move Taillon to the bullpen. It’s hard to project what the composition of the bullpen and their health may be on August 1st, but one of Schugel (if not already optioned)/Caminero (if not already dealt with)/Boscan could be the corresponding move to free a bullpen spot. At that time, the full pitching staff could look like this:
- SP1 — Gerrit Cole
- SP2 — Francisco Liriano
- SP3 — Tyler Glasnow
- SP4 — Trade deadline pickup
- SP5 — Jon Niese
- Closer — Mark Melancon
- Setup — Tony Watson
- 7th inning — Neftali Feliz
- 7th inning — Juan Nicasio
- Fireman — Jared Hughes
- Floater — Jameson Taillon
- Long man — Jeff Locke
On paper, that is a much stronger bullpen than currently exists and a rotation (depending on the hypothetical deadline pickup) that is much heartier than the one that exists at the end of May.
And none of this scenario even involves Chad Kuhl, who could be a strong addition to the bullpen and maybe an improvement to the rotation. Kuhl would involve a 40-man roster move (I’d take Trey Haley off the 40-man), but his 25-man move would be intriguing. The Pirates could forgo the trade deadline pickup person and just slot him into the staff that way or else they could be bold and move Jon Niese or Jeff Locke in a trade. But that is one bridge too far for this exercise, as it’s hard for me to envision the Pirates bringing three rookie pitchers into the heat of a playoff chase.
The Pirates are going to bring up Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow. Their talent is simply too strong to deny for much longer. The real game will be to see the machinations of the roster moves and the roles that they will be asked to play.