First Pitch: Pirates Rate Well in Relief Pitcher Rankings

A quick article this morning, with a special feature planned for a little later in the day. This history section below has some very interesting trades made on this date, which helped lead to a World Series title.

Fangraphs recently released their fantasy rankings of the top 72 relievers in the game and the Pittsburgh Pirates did fairly well in this category, especially compared to some of the previously released positions.

They have Keone Kela rated 26th overall, followed closely by Kyle Crick in the 33rd spot and Richard Rodriguez at 67th overall. Having three among the top 72 spots is a little better than average (you can’t really have 2 1/2 relievers make the list), while two of the top 33 is also above average.

If Edgar Santana can return to form after his Tommy John surgery, then he should be considered for this list as well. You also have the unknown case of Chad Kuhl and how he will be used, as well as the potential with a healthy Nick Burdi throwing 100 MPH.

There’s clearly potential for a strong bullpen, but bullpens are also the most volatile area in baseball. You really should never be completely confident in your pen, but you can have a group on paper that gives you more confidence than some previous years.


No meaning behind the song today, it was just on the front page of Youtube this morning.



Here’s a video about the hometown of Johnny Cash, which came up when the song of the day was playing


By John Dreker

Two trades of note, plus five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.

On this date in 1979, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded minor leaguers George Hill and Martin Rivas to the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Mike Easler. There was also cash involved in the deal, going to Boston. This trade brought back Easler before he could play a game for Boston. He was sold to the Red Sox on October 27,1978 after spending two years in the Pirates organization. At the time, Easler had already played parts of five seasons in the majors (three with the Astros, one with Angels) totaling just 57 games. During the 1979 World Series winning season for the Pirates, Easler was the ultimate bench player, getting three starts over the entire year and 52 appearances off of the bench. He had one at-bat in the NLCS and two plate appearances in the World Series. Easler played for the Pirates until the end of the 1983 season, when he would be traded to the Red Sox. While with the Pirates, Easler was a .302 hitter, twice batting over .300, including his 1980 season that saw him hit .338 with 21 homers. He was an All-Star during the 1981 season.

On this date in 1977, the Pirates and Oakland A’s hooked up for a nine-player deal. The Pirates acquired Phil Garner,Tommy Helms and Chris Batton. They gave up six players, including Tony Armas, a 23-year-old rookie in 1976 that would go on to win two home run crowns and have a productive 13-year career. Also included in the deal was Doc Medich (who the Pirates just gave up three players for prior to the 1976 season), Mitchell Page, Rick Langford, Doug Bair and longtime reliever, Dave Giusti. Garner was the key return and he was a big part of their 1979 title run, batting .293 in 150 games, with 32 doubles, 17 stolen bases, 76 runs scored and 59 RBIs.

Steven Jackson, pitcher for the 2009-10 Pirates. He was originally signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks after being selected in the tenth round of the 2004 amateur draft. Arizona sent him to the Yankees, along with Ross Ohlendorf, as part of the trade for Randy Johnson in 2007. The Pirates picked Jackson up off of waivers on May 18, 2009 after he posted a 1.88 ERA in 14.1 innings at Triple-A for the Yankees. He made his big league debut two weeks later, making 40 relief appearances for the Pirates before the season was over. He had a 2-3, 3.14 record in 43 innings. In 2010 he bounced between Triple-A and the majors, getting called up four different times during the season. In 11 appearances, he had an 8.74 ERA in 11.1 innings pitched. The Pirates let him leave after the 2010 season and he signed with the Dodgers in March 2011. Los Angeles released him two months later, then he signed on with the Reds, who traded him back to the Pirates one month later. He had a 5.86 ERA in 39 minor league games in 2011, pitching for four different teams. That was his last season of pro ball.

Nellie King, pitcher for the 1954-57 Pirates. He was originally signed by the St Louis Cardinals in 1946, before joining the Pirates farm system two years later. He went 20-13, 3.14 in 284 innings his first year with the Pirates, spending that season in Class D ball. Moving up two levels the next year, he had 16 wins and a 2.25 ERA in 214 innings. After the 1950 season, which saw him reach Double-A, King spent all of 1951-52 serving in the military. When he returned, he went to a relief role, pitching 50 games in A ball, posting a 2.00 ERA and a 15-3 record. Nellie started the 1954 season with the Pirates, but after four games he returned to the minors where he won 16 games. He began the 1955 season with the Pirates and pitched well, with a 2.98 ERA in 54.1 innings, but again he finished the season in the minors. King would finally play an entire major league season in 1956, throwing 38 games and 60 innings, all in relief. He injured his arm during that 1956 season, and although he pitched all of 1957 with the Pirates as well, he was forced to retire due to the injury following that year. After his playing days, he became a radio announcer for the Pirates, from 1967 until 1975.

Whitey Wietelmann, infielder for the 1947 Pirates. He played eight seasons with the Boston Braves prior to coming to Pittsburgh in a six-player deal on September 30, 1946 that also included future Hall of Fame second baseman Billy Herman, who finished his career in 1947 with the Pirates as a player/manager. Wietelmann wasn’t much of a hitter during his nine-year career in the majors. His highest batting average was .271 in 1945, and his career average prior to coming to the Pirates was .232, with just six homers in 532 games. In 1946 he hit .205 in 44 games, receiving only 92 plate appearances all season. Whitey played 48 games for the Pirates in 1947, seeing time at all four infield positions (shortstop was the position he played the most during his career). He batted .234 with seven RBIs in 128 at-bats that year. That would be his last season in the majors, but his playing days were far from done. He played another nine years in the minors before finally retiring.

Fred Bennett, outfielder for the 1931 Pirates. Prior to joining Pittsburgh, he had just seven games of Major League experience, all off the bench for the 1928 St Louis Browns. Bennett was a great minor league hitter, who never got a full chance in the majors. His lowest batting average over his first six seasons in the minors was .345, which he reached during each of his first two seasons. The 1930 season that earned him an Opening Day job the following year with the Pirates was actually well below his norm. Playing for Milwaukee of the American Association, he hit .302 in 92 games. He also hit just four homers after hitting a total of 153 home runs over the previous five seasons. For the Pirates, he sat the bench almost all of April and May before getting more time in June. He ended up playing 32 games before being released to the minors in July. Bennett hit .281 with seven RBIs and seven walks in 97 plate appearances, during what would be his last season in the majors. He played minor league ball until 1939, finished with a career .342 average over 1,369 games.

Bill Hallman, outfielder for the 1906-07 Pirates. He had played two previous seasons in the majors prior to joining the Pirates, 1901 for the Milwaukee Brewers and 1903 for the Chicago White Sox. He began the 1906 season in the minors, playing for the Louisville Colonels of the American Association. In 147 games that year, Hallman had 196 hits and a .343 batting average. The Pirates purchased his contract in August and over the last 23 games, he hit .270 with 15 walks and 12 runs scored. In 1907, he split his playing time over all three outfielder positions, getting into 94 total games. He hit .222 with 21 stolen bases and 33 walks. He was returned to the American Association in 1908, playing for the Kansas City Blues, which started a stretch of seven more years in the minors before he retired as a player. Hallman played a total of 18 years in the minors. He batted .235 in his 319 major league games. His uncle, also named Bill Hallman, played 14 seasons in the majors and had a pro career that stretched from 1886 until 1909.


John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

Support Pirates Prospects

Related articles

join the discussion

Share article

Pirates Prospects Daily

Latest articles

Pirates Prospects Weekly

MONDAY: First Pitch

TUESDAY: Article Drop


THURSDAY: Roundtable

FRIDAY: Discussion

SATURDAY: Pirates Winter Report

SUNDAY: Pirates Business

Latest comments