P2Daily: Relief on the Horizon

The Pirates have fallen flat at every aspect of baseball this year, and that certainly includes the bullpen.  Despite great showings by David Bednar, Wil Crowe, and Dillon Peters, their relievers rank 26th in MLB in ERA after the team’s latest embarrassment on Sunday.  Last year they were 23rd; no word yet on whether the drop to 26th should be considered “encouraging.”

The need for personnel changes is glaringly obvious . . . . . . well, to most people, anyway.  Despite the problems in 2021, Ben Cherington made no meaningful effort to improve the ‘pen in the offseason.  He added Heath Hembree, who’s been a disaster, and a few depth guys.  The latter have performed the way Cherington’s bargain bullpen additions generally do.  Aaron Fletcher got torched in the majors, as he has in all of his previous opportunities.  Eric Hanhold and Austin Brice are both pitching poorly in Triple-A.

Happily, there are a lot of relievers in the system who weren’t acquired by Cherington, and who could eventually be helpful in the majors.  Cherington also accidentally acquired a few who are doing well.  I’m going to stick with the guys who’ve been primarily relievers in the minors, which among other things means I’m not going to look at starters who might move into the 2- to 3-inning model to which the Pirates have shifted so sharply.

To an extent this may be self-defeating, as pitchers who come up through the minors as relievers have a low success rate in the majors.  That’s a caveat to keep in mind here.  Still, the Pirates only need a small percentage of these guys to succeed in order to make some headway on those low bullpen rankings.


To begin with, the Pirates have — finally — taken a step in the right direction by calling up Yerry De Los Santos.  As you all know, he’s been dominant in Triple-A, as he has been throughout his time in the full season minors.  The numbers are enough here:  1.72 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 1.1 BB/9, 11.5 K/9.  He’s gone two innings in three of his last five outings, so that may help keep him out of the Oviedo Memorial Closet.

The other two most prominent relievers at Indy are Cristofer Melendez and lefty Cam Alldred.  Like De Los Santos, Melendez re-signed with the Pirates as a minor league free agent last fall.  He mostly rides an upper-90s fastball that often hits triple digits.  His control deserts him now and then, but he’s improved steadily as he’s moved up.  He’s also been pitching often in two-inning stints of late.  We’re all familiar with Alldred because he got an abbreviated callup earlier.  He’s soft-tossed his way to a 1.33 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in Triple-A.  Alldred’s been death on left-handed hitters (3-for-32), which still matters despite the three-batter minimum rule.

A couple other Indy relievers could be candidates to move up at some point.  Hunter Stratton started striking hitters out at a crazy rate last year and he’s still doing it — 15.2 K/9 this year.  Control is an issue, as he’s walked 14 in 19 IP.  He also tends to work up in the zone, so gopher balls could be a problem.  Stratton’s opponents’ OPS has gone from .866 in April to .539 in May, and it’s entirely the longball.  His numbers are extremely close in the two months except he allowed three homers in April and none so far in May.  Cam Vieaux, another finesse lefty, has fared much better this year, having switched to relief.  He doesn’t miss many bats, but he has a 1.47 ERA and 0.71 WHIP.  There is a lot of BABIP magic in there; .125 is probably not sustainable.


The Curve started the season with an exceptionally interesting bullpen, but a lot of the more intriguing relievers haven’t performed well.  Unfortunately, this includes Tahnaj Thomas and J.C. Flowers, who’ve both been mediocre.  Austin Roberts, Will Kobos and Enmanuel Mejia have all struggled, and Bear Bellomy has had a terrible time.

But that’s not everybody.  Maybe the most interesting is lefty Zach Matson.  The Pirates got him in the minor league phase of Rule 5.  He’s 26 now and hasn’t reached Triple-A, but he’s taken a big step forward after struggling in Double-A last year.  Matson has a 1.84 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 10.4 K/9.  In 7.2 IP in May, he’s allowed two hits and a walk, and fanned 11.  Righty Colin Selby has been very similar to Matson.  In fact, his numbers are close to identical except he’s had slightly more trouble with walks.  Selby had Tommy John surgery in 2020, which is mighty good timing if that sort of thing has to happen.  He returned in 2021, moving to the bullpen and increasing his velocity to the mid-90s.  He was terrible for two months, then very good for the last three.  So far this year he’s stayed good.

Two Altoona pitchers have been very successful in long relief.  Noe Toribio, who’s still only 22, is a right-hander with modest velocity and a slightly odd four-pitch mix of four-seamer, sinker, slider and splitter.  Despite the lack of great velocity, he’s fanned 30 in 24 IP this year, with an 0.92 WHIP.  Toribio’s typically pitching about three innings at a time, which the Pirates might like.  Travis MacGregor recently moved to relief after lengthy struggles as a starter.  His opponents’ OPS went from 1.062 starting to .598 in relief.  That’s only from three starts and five relief appearances, but MacGregor is worth watching.  He looked like a solid prospect before having Tommy John in 2018.


Low minors relievers are incredibly speculative, which is pretty obvious when you look at the Grasshoppers.  Eddy Yean has been awful, so it looks like Cherington whiffed on that one.  Oliver Mateo, who was unhittable in the second half last year, hasn’t been able to throw strikes.  Ricky DeVito, who came in the Richard Rodriguez trade, has been erratic, but he’s fanned 25 in 20.1 IP after missing much of last year.  Cam Junker has also been a little erratic, but his overall numbers are good.  Michell Miliano was the least-known player in the Adam Frazier trade.  He came with a track record of a very good arm and serious control issues.  The control issues were really serious after the trade, but he’s done well over his last four appearances, allowing just two hits and three walks in five innings.

Two lefties could be the most interesting relievers with the Hoppers.  Tyler Samaniego has been dominant.  He has good size and throws around 94.  Opponents have managed just three hits in 15.1 IP against him, although he’s walked nine.  He’s also fanned 22.  He really needs to be tested at higher levels.  Nick Dombkowski is a very different sort.  Signed out of college as a non-drafted free agent, he only throws in the upper-80s.  He’s still managed to fan 18 in 11.1 IP for the Hoppers, with a WHIP of 0.97.  We’ll have to see whether his stuff plays at higher levels.


At this level, bullpens are mostly a matter of figuring out which pitchers have reached the point where they can get through a whole inning without walking everybody.  If anybody from this staff makes it as a reliever, it’s likely to be from among the starters.  Carlos Jimenez, Luis Peralta, Valentin Linarez and Joelvis Del Rosario all have good arms and could make it as relievers.

Among the current relievers, the best shot might belong to Cristian Charle.  He throws 94 mph with a good change.  He’s had a couple bad outings among his first ten, but has pitched well in all the others, going as many as three and a third innings.  He’s fanned 21 in 16.2 IP, with a 1.20 WHIP.

Pirates Prospects Spotlight

Despite His Recent Success, Noe Toribio Isn’t Done Making Changes

Pirates Links

Prospect Watch: Matt Gorski Caps Off an Unreal Week with a Three-Homer/Walk-Off Win; Altoona Puts Up 19

Daily Video Rundown: Andres Alvarez, Tucupita Marcano, Liover Peguero

Pirates Discussion: Pirates 4, Cardinals 18

P2Daily Articles:

Other Pirates Coverage:


Williams: The Build Begins in Altoona

With His Bat on Fire, Liover Peguero Looks to Fix Throwing Issues

Mike Burrows Looks Like He’s Taking Another Step Forward This Year

Prospect Roundtable: Which Altoona Prospect Will Have the Best MLB Career?

Kyle Nicolas: Pitch-Mix Has Transformed Righty Into Starting Prospect

Jared Triolo: Leadoff Spot Allowing Hitting Skills To Shine Through

Despite His Recent Success, Noe Toribio Isn’t Done Making Changes

Williams: Are We Seeing the Real Nick Gonzales Yet?

Altoona Highlights the Aggressive Base Running in the Pirates Farm System

Prospect Roundtable: Who Will Be the Pirates Shortstop in 2025?

Tuesday: Greensboro

Song of the Day

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Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.

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Does it seem like there’s an abnormally high amount of injuries to pitchers within this organization? Or with how hard pitchers throw now is this the new reality?

I find myself getting frustrated that they’re not really developing top pitching talent, only to remember that just about any pitcher I’ve been hoping would take that next step is constantly on the DL.


I think Clay Holmes would improve the pen.


I liked the return they got for Holmes but there is no doubt that the Yankees could get a better return now, which makes Holmes another example of poor evaluation by Cherington (who must have thought he was trading Holmes at his high point in value). Of course the Yankees won’t trade him because they’re trying to win.


Let’s throw Marin into the equation too. His credentials were being a Milb pitching coach. And one year as a bullpen coach in Texas. Does he have the skills to relate to MLB pitchers, those at the highest level in the game? Are they going to buy-in with their careers at stake to someone who has never done this successfully at this level? Or if they do buy-in and trust him, is he able to improve anyone?


Marin has done nothing to show me why they hired him. I want to give Haines some more time, but I’m not seeing evidence that he was a good hire either.


Marin is turning into Searage part two without the previous success. In forcing pitchers like Brubaker and Wilson to pitch up in the zone even though their best FB are sinkers.
Best example today is Kuhl, back to throwing his sinker slider combo, dishing the 4 seamer and having success.

Last edited 1 year ago by PirateRican21

A few very high profile misses aside, coaching and development were little more than scapegoat for this organization’s failures.

The entire idea that the player development arm of the org has enough opportunity for improvement to turn the latter Huntington clubs into World Series champs is laughably naive.

The old crew simply wasn’t that bad.


They held on to Searage longer than they should’ve.


Very much agreed.

And yet, that clearly hasn’t turned out to be the panacea that cancelling him was promised.


It was a really bad trade. Holmes is worth 0.8 fWAR right now in only 21-2/3 innings. He’s walking 2.6 % of batters faced!!!! Yankees control him for 3 more years beyond this season.

Castillo and Park have combined for -0.3 fWAR

I believe Cashman said that both Park and Castillo were going to be removed from the 40 that off-season. It’s never a good idea to take another teams spare parts.


It was a bad trade. At the time I liked it but had been fooled into thinking that Holmes had maxed out by forgetting that we’re still not showing evidence of helping pitchers reach their potential in the majors.


I’m taking an L on this one, too.

Thought, and still do think, Castillo was a savvy acquisition but there’s no doubt the Yankees have developed more out of Holmes than the Pirates have out of Castillo.


Seven weeks ago I pronounced that we had won the trade! LOL how things change. And I was on the BOD of the Holmes Fan Club. Still Castillo’s only 24. So I would grade the trade as Yankees won 2021 and first 7 weeks of 2022……but there’s still along way to go.


Oh, it can still change many times over.

I rem when I thought the Rays won the Arozarena trade
I also rem when I thought the Padres won the Grisham trade


Holmes was pitching very well after the ugly outing against the Reds for 2 months till the ugly outing against the Brewers last year. Allowed 2 ER in those 2 months. He was then inconsistent until the trade. Right now he is on a streak again. Hope for his sake that he keeps it going. Time will tell.


Not Disputing what he has done. Just was pointing out he has had great streaks before and I did say that I was hoping that he did not have a bad outing, and he will as they all do, and he does not turn inconsistent as he did after the bad outing against the Brewers. I was bummed that he was traded as I liked how he pitched when he was on. So so good, scratch that, so great!


Speaking of Oviedo, he’s doing very well in AA for the Guardians with the exception of a walk rate that is too high–5 H and 11 K’s in 9.2 innings with an ERA of 0.93 and an OPS of .528. The sample size is very small, but he’d certainly be a pitcher of interest if he was still in our system. To think we gave him up for guys like Hembree and Fletcher is a bit troubling.


I actually liked Oviedo. He obviously had no business being in the majors, but he showed flashes of potential. That being said, holding onto him for an entire year only to DFA him certainly didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.


Shelton’s handling of Oviedo convinced me he had no idea how to handle young pitchers. He put the 21 year old in the worst situations when he first began using him and then it was almost like Shelton decided he himself was in over his head on his usage he began using him every 7 to 10 days or locking Oviedo in the closet as Wilbur so aptly pointed out. It appears now that Shelton simply can’t manage a pitching staff regardless of their age or ability.


He was DFA’d again by Cleveland last week….. would rather use the 40 man sports for guys like de los Santos, Mitchell, Bae, etc as we are jettisoning guys like Hembree, Fletcher, etc.


That’s interesting–I hadn’t seen that. I agree that those other candidates for 40-man spots are better choices. But also, with all the things we did last year to keep Oviedo, it’s frustrating to lose him to make room for the bullpen options we brought in.


Just read where Luis cleared waivers and is now outrighted to AA. I believe that the Bucs were hoping for the same thing but the freaking Clevelands snagged him back.


Hembree surprising looked like a good sign for the year before the late April game with Milwaukee. No so much afterwards Fletcher was meh. At least there are guys in the minors like de los Santos that are stepping forward and will take the spots in the pen. I hope some other guys will following.


For those seeking a more positive outlook on the Pirates just listen to Cherington’s recent statements. He said he sees progress and is encouraged with preparation and decision making. Now simply put on your rose-colored glasses, ignore reality and you’re all set. Have a nice day.


I read articles all over regarding the Buccos. Nobody is a dark and snarky as Wilbur. It’s who he is and it’s ok


His “darkness” makes all this bearable for me, so I love it. I mean Oviedo Memorial Closet!,!,!, priceless!

Last edited 1 year ago by PirateRican21

Didn’t we have an almost identical article to this a month ago?


Anyone by chance paying attention to some of the other ongoing long, slow, tanking rebuilds around the league?

Orioles are a year further into theirs and they are still atrocious. Tigers even further and they continue to fail to launch. Reds went so poorly they said fuck it and tried to win for two years before retrenching back into obscurity. Even the Blue Jays and White Sox are seeing their young cores continue to struggle with consistency several years into their careers, leading to mediocre records for the big club.

This just isn’t the modern way to build successful franchises. It’s old tech applied to a new era.


I think that exposes the inherent flaw of the entire concept of a rebuild. You’re essentially banking on prospects working out which as we all know doesn’t happen very often. The fact that the Astros and Cubs struck gold at roughly the same time made it fashionable but those two examples are the exception, not the rule. Granted there are times when a full scale tear down is necessary or inevitable as well.


That’s not necessarily true. Look at the last time the Pirates had a playoff run. A lot of those guys came from savvy major league acquisitions. Sure, they had some help from the farm, like Cutch, Alvarez, Cole, and Marte, but those complemented guys like AJ, Wilson/Cervelli, Liriano, Grilli, etc. You don’t need a lineup entirely made up of prospects from the farm to compete.


Actually, the O’s have turned the corner. They won two walk-off games vs Rays over the weekend. Elias, their GM, told the fan base in 2019 that there were going to be several bleak years ahead. Quite a different approach than BC and Shelton. Brandon Hyde stated in his presser that they are once again playing competitive AL East Baseball.
Mancini called Friday night’s 13-inning walkoff probably the best win he’s been a part of.
Their lineup is so much better than the Pirates. So things are turning in Baltimore fwiw. And they had that massive albatross of Davis around their neck too.

Rob Baran

Baltimore started their rebuild a year or two before the Bucs right?


I wanna know how long exactly Williams and Nutting will give Cherington?

He’s not going to turn this around in 5 years, we’re in year 3 and this is the worst Pirates baseball I can rem watching.

This is what Cherington wanted and he’s way in over his head.


One of the things that worries me about Cherington is that he has emphasized wanting the challenge to build an organization from nothing. But how many years does he think that will take, and how realistic is it anyway?


I just don’t see it working here for Ben. I hope I’m dead wrong

He’s misevals are pretty telling


I agree, which is why I liked your comment about “in over his head”. He wants to be Billy Beane or any one of the recent Rays’ GMs but I’m not seeing evidence that he can be at that level.


I’m in no way defending BC, but all this is on the cheap ass owner, he was surely asked to work with a non existing budget and he is doing what he can’t with it.


To some degree I agree. However, it can be pretty cheap to build a decent bullpen and Cherington has shown little interest or ability to do that.


Sure, but bad teams don’t have good bullpen, if they do is only for half a season. They punted on this season in November, I was furious in November now I just accepted since I can’t seem to quit them!


Why i was the one guy liking the NH model🤷‍♂️🤣, shoot for .500 and hope for magic👍👏👍🙏🤷‍♂️


NH was ridiculed for *competing*


I was fine with that model too, they just needed to spend a little more in FA or take on bad contracts like they did in the early teens to get Burnett, Liriano, Volquez, and Martin. For whatever reason, the spending dropped from a reasonable figure to something that couldn’t sustain the model they were operating under. I’m guessing that was Nutting but it also could have been the FO thinking they were smart enough to win with a lower budget (which I think is one of Cherington’s problems).


The model was fine, but he shit the bed when he didn’t traded prospect when the team was contending and needed a few pieces, then traded the future for a push to finish 500.


I agree on the latter point. I’m in the minority (of maybe one) who doesn’t hold not trading prospects in 2014-2015 against him. We had the roster to win it all but the bad luck in running up against Cy Young winners in the WC game each year. You could make the case that a trade would have won us the division in 2015, but the roster was good enough to finish with the second best record in MLB so it’s not like we had a big hole to fill in.

Where things started to go wrong imo was giving up Morton for practically nothing and then, which I still don’t understand, doing nothing meaningful to replace him in the rotation. Had they not settled in 2016-2017 for pitchers that had no place in a MLB rotation, then maybe they wouldn’t have “needed” to trade for Archer in 2018.


I mean my God I know the Pirates have been bad this year but do we need all that snark? Reading this was worse than watching SportsCenter.


The snark has been building for a few years now. I am worried that Wilbur might explode at some point.

Last edited 1 year ago by john_fluharty

Is that still a thing – Sportscenter?


He has a knack for making depressing issues even more depressing. It’s like media fearmongering. Misanthrope


The daily prospect threads will be more to your liking, i think mate🤷‍♂️, not as dark👍


For the record, I don’t need anything to be sugar coated. If a prospect or a team or whatever isn’t performing, then tell me. But that can be done in a way where it doesn’t sound like I’m listening to 93.7 The Fan or Mark Madden.

“Accidentally acquired”? So he gets all the blame for the players doing poorly and no credit for the ones doing well?


Of the current 26-man roster, the CAREER WAR of each player is:
Negative (9) – Perez, Castro, VanMeter, Brubaker, Keller, Wilson, Crowe, Beede, de Jong.
0.0-2.0 (13) – Heineman, Tsutsugo, Vogelbach, Chavis, Castillo, Suwinski, Thompson, Peters, Hembree, Underwood, Stratton
2.1+ (4) – Hayes, Reynolds, Quintana, Bednar

Last edited 1 year ago by hoptown
Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

Yean has at least been a little better lately, mostly with the fact he’s limited walks.

What makes me scratch my head the most with Yean is, he’s still only 20, turning 21 next month. Are they worried about Rule 5 or something? Cause he’d have still been one of the youngest pitchers on the Bradenton staff if he had stayed.

They probably feel the stuff plays, just needs to see some success? Although he has a 7.63 ERA, he does have a 4.40 FIP and 4.45 xFIP (per FG), which is better than Bradenton, along with better K rate, BB rate, and HR rate. So, as I’m typing this, I’m thinking maybe he’s turning a corner? Cause of his 13 appearances, he was abysmal in 3 of those where all the damage has come from. 11 of his 13 ER’s came in those 3 outings, and 5 of his 8 walks came in his first 2 outings. Could just be seeking more consistency, which again, he’s still only 20.


I agree that he is very young still and am sure that is some of his issues. I am still hopeful that with age he will get more confidence in his stuff and will learn to pitch more than just throw. Takes awhile for guys to learn that there is a difference in throwing and pitching.


Finding & developing below-the-radar quality relievers was one of the greatest strengths of the Huntington era. This has not carried forward under Cherrington with the notable exception of the Bednar


Thumbs up (not sure how to see who liked a post), it certaintly has not…


Put the cursor on the number in the likes column and a list pops up.


Thx mate👍👍, will try again tmw👏👏


It worked, thx jon6er👏👏👏


I found it by accident last week 😂


Can any of these guys hit? Shutout twice by Cubs after being no-hit by Reds. And then the cherry on top of the shit sundae on Sunday, getting shutout thru 8 innings by Cards after they lost their SP after 4 pitches.

Might be the worst stretch of hitting by a Pirates team I can remember.


Its a really bad team, as you know mate, but, hopefully, will look so much different by August as the MiLB hope continues to swim upstream in the next 3 months…. pls wake us all up for glimpses of that for the final couple months and 2023 spring training🤷‍♂️🤣🤣


Thanks for the glimpse of the future WTM👍. Glad for the promotions ystd and I’ll stop being cynical, my comment on Gorski thread, that these deserved promotions are tied to distracting fanbase from further talk of how terrible our MLB team is, because these are well deserved👏…. Though i will probably roll my eyes on the upcoming day we lose a 3 game series by 25+ runs and Bae and Mitchell are summoned to the big team thereafter🤷‍♂️🤣


The cynicism is appropriate when just about everyone on here or who follows the Pirates closely has been raising concerns about the Pirates pitching for weeks while Contreras and De Los Santos were pitching well in AAA.

Rob Baran

Appropriate? Their Bucco fans. Which means they hate life.


Or love rooting for underdogs. I’ve actually abandoned teams when they’ve become too successful, though I don’t think that would happen with the Pirates (not that I need to worry about that).


I still remember you writing a huge piece like a month into the 2021 seasons arguing that we might be seeing an organizational improvement in hitting approach…and then the club promptly made that look foolish.

You’re going out of your way to look for spots, nooks, crannies, ANYTHING to build on.

It just ain’t there.

Trying any harder will inevitably drive you into being the propaganda arm of the org, like justifying “build” narratives for absolutely no reason.

Last edited 1 year ago by NMR
Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

I mean, you’re probably not wrong. The big club has been abysmal, and they have to know the fanbase right now is PISSED. Even DK, who would shine Ben’s shoes with his tongue, has started to go FULL blown pre-Ben regime angst.


Ben must not be delivering DK the content he whores his takes out for. Bad move Benny.


Glad to hear that DK is starting to raise concerns. Mackey seems to be doing the same. Maybe that will catch Williams’ attention because to this point all he seems to care about is coming up with clever marketing campaigns while being oblivious to the quality of the product he’s marketing.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

Yeah, that’s why I’ve personally started to bring up, “Why is no one talking about Travis Williams?” He seems a HUGE issue in all of this.




I’m pulling for Dombkowski, lefties ALWAY play up; it will be interesting to see how/(if) he is still “crafty” when he gets to Altoona.
Think his name would play in Pittsburgh?? They could even rename one of the pierogi “Dombo”

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