Pirates Prospects Daily: How Best To Use Cody Bolton Going Forward

By the time Cody Bolton stepped on the mound this past April, it had been two years since he had pitched in a competitive game. After the pandemic canceled out the 2020 minor league season, the right-handed pitcher was forced to miss all of 2021 due to a knee injury.

Bolton got the honors of being the 2022 Opening Day starter for the Indianapolis Indians, making the jump to Triple-A after just 40 innings in Altoona.

The Pirates were obviously cautious with Bolton, but he still managed to pitch 75.2 innings across 30 appearances, 14 of which were starts.

Even with the 14 starts, Bolton remained on a strict pitch limit, and only completed at least four innings three times — with only one of those outings he finished out the fifth.

Bolton finished 2022 with a 4-2 record, posting a 3.09 ERA, while striking out 25.7% of the batters he faced (barely breaking his previous season long mark of 25.1% back in 2019).

Those numbers looked good, but a tough bout with COVID and control issues kept him from being able to stretch out any further than a couple innings at a time.

A lot of his control struggles came early in the season. He posted a 14.1% walk rate from April to the end of June. After missing most of July, he finally returned on the 27th of that month, and controlled the ball a lot better the rest of the way (9.6 BB%). There was a little bit of a trade off, as his ERA and FIP spiked a bit down the stretch.

Bolton is an interesting case for the Pirates. It wasn’t too long ago he was one of their top pitching prospects. The injuries slowed him down enough to where he has potentially been passed over at this point as a starter.

The Pirates will have Quinn Priester, Mike Burrows, and Luis Ortiz all in Triple-A next year. They also have Kyle Nicolas and Carmen Mlodzinski from Altoona who could come up and have a rotation spot.

With the signing of Vince Velasquez and Byrse Wilson being out of options, the Pirates could opt to send Zach Thompson to the minors so they can keep an extra arm on their 40-man stretched out, should they need a spot starter. They could also bring in a minor league free agent (like Jerad Eickhoff in 2022) to fill that last roster spot.

That could force Bolton back to the bullpen, where he could continue to grow into a Wil Crowe type multi-inning reliever/emergency starter type of pitcher.

There could have been a lot of factors that played into it, but Bolton did have trouble maintaining his velocity throughout games. A bullpen role may be best suited for him.

The Pirates could also give Bolton a look in the rotation to start, and see how things go, before ultimately deciding. Regardless it shows the depth that is rising through the system that a prospect as highly rated as Bolton is on the verge of being pushed out the rotation without actually playing his way out of it.

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams

**Jeff Reed says it’s time to take a deep breath, in this week’s Pirates Discussion.

**Oneil Cruz picked up two hits in the latest Pirates winter league update. Check back on Saturday at noon for John Dreker’s latest Pirates Winter Report.

**Missed yesterday? Anthony looked at how the late draft pushed 2022 draft pick Thomas Harrington’s debut into 2023.

Song of the Day

Pirates Prospects Weekly

Jeff Reed has the latest Pirates Discussion, talking about exactly how it’s difficult being a Pirates fan during the long rebuild.

Pirates Discussion: Time To Take a Deep Breath

John Dreker will have the latest Pirates Winter Report on Saturday.

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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john.benedict

Must win or high pressure situation,
I’m starting or using Bolton over

–Kraynick- protected for what?
Who would claim a pitcher rehabbing from TJ all season?
Pirates did just that for ROSTER FLXIBILITY
Never know, somone better than Sabol or Bolton might come along

–Mears- 23 inn, 25H, 5 HR, 13W, sorry can’t go on

–Ramirez- Why? one good stretch?

–Underwood- you saw the leads vanish half the time

–Hernandez-rule 5

–Wilson- Goldy doesn’t win MVP without BW

–Velasquez-really? Hedges will turn him around

–Thompson- Its OK to let go BC, we still have Nicolas and Scott

Nothing wrong with 4-5 innings

Quitana 20 starts,103 innings for Bucs
26M=Q will make $87,000 an inning
2 years 60 starts X 5 inn = 300 inn

Give Cody a shot, almost half the arms are not worthy
or their roster flex which seem to be the same to this FO

Last edited 1 month ago by john.benedict
john.benedict

Nothing wrong with piggy just not with Wilson, Peters and Beede

bradlej31

Not being added to the 40 man will make him much less likely to come up when we need a pitcher.

b mcferren

would rather see Bolton pitch than Brubaker

joesolo6181

If Bolton was such a highly rated prospect why was he made available in the rule 5 draft?

Zack

Bolton is definitely one I’m rooting for in 2023. Middle reliever or starter, he seems to have solid upside and I think he’ll be a nice contributor in the later parts of 2023.

SouthernBuc

I’d like to see him get a chance to start with no restrictions. 2022 seemed to be a recovery / see where he is year. If his stuff is on par with Mlodzinski et al, then it seems like a lost opportunity if he is not given a chance. i know piggy backing is not as much of a thing in AAA, but looking at it simplistically I am not sure why 2 players can’t share a rotation spot alternating who starts. If both pitch well, then the pitcher whose turn it is to relieve, stays ‘after work’ to get their starters workload completed.

leefieux

Cody Bolton will let us know what to do with Cody Bolton. 2023 is key for him. Personally, I hope he forces himself to the majors, but wouldn’t be shocked if he fails. This is why teams need LOTS of pitchers.

TNBucs

“but a tough bout with COVID and control issues kept him from being able to stretch out any further than a couple innings at a time”

Do/did the Pirates have a vaccine mandate for their minor leaguers? In any case, this is a reminder that even someone in peak physical health can be hit hard enough to have a long-term impact.

MB21

I hope not. Myocarditis is a real thing with these shots, particularly among young men. These guys are in peak health and though some might get sick, the greater danger of heart problems in elite athletes should at least give pause to freedom-loving players on whether or not to take the shot.

Scam likely

Oh he will be in the rotation at AAA, I think he has a shot at being a mlb pitcher .His stuff is solid but lets see if it can jump another level next year.

skliesen

The fact he was left exposed to other teams in Rule 5 draft, and him not being taken, indicates to me he isn’t highly thought of by MLB organizations. I would think the combination of his injury history and his control problems are red flags.

TNBucs

I think this implies that other teams see his upside as a 5th starter or long reliever. But we’re also not talking about all 29 teams because several had full rosters or are not in a situation where they can develop a player at the potential cost of a couple of extra losses.

When I read Fangraphs’ summary of the Rule 5 Draft, I was struck by how many of the picks had descriptions similar to our pick–relievers with electric arms to have high upside (but of course with low probability of reaching that upside). Bolton seems to be someone with a higher floor than many of the picks but not the upside.

emjayinTN

A very reasonable way to view Cody Bolton, and the fact that he has to be on the active MLB Roster would chase a lot of teams.

Although about 50 innings less than the qualified SP’s at AAA, the 3.09 ERA is impressive, especially coming back after 2 years of inactivity. Rehabbing his knee and also issues with Covid, and he still did that well?

Anthony

Nunez and Gorski weren’t taken either, but I wouldn’t say they’re not highly thought of by MLB organizations. They’re really just prospects with a low probability of sticking on an MLB roster for an entire season. Bolton and Thomas are no different; they are not ready and need more time to bake.

Rule 5 is over-glorified mainly due to the cognitive biases associated with loss aversion and the endowment effect. Every team is in a similar situation with relatively similar players. The probability needs to high that the player selected can stay on the roster AND minimally contribute for a whole season; otherwise, the exercise is pointless and only taxes your team by having to maneuver around a dead-spot on your roster for a full season.

My long-winded point, I wouldn’t necessarily judge a player’s overall value by whether or not he was selected in the Rule 5.

Last edited 1 month ago by Anthony
skliesen

Nearly all players contributing 2+ WAR on MLB rosters were never exposed to other teams via Rule 5. It’s very rare organizations don’t know what they have by this point in their professional career.

bradlej31

This

emjayinTN

Thanks AM for the look at Cody Bolton. I think the jury is still out on him until we see how his body responded to the work in 2022 after 2 years off, and whether he was able during the off season to build himself up adequately for 2023.

I think his work at AAA in 2022 was nothing short of extraordinary. It was obvious he was not able to carry a game through more than 4 innings, but to do so with a 3.09 ERA, with 82K’s in 75.2 IP is an indication that he has the stuff and mental toughness to possibly help the Pirates in 2023. That right knee is where a RHP pushes off. How long – physically and mentally – before he starts to feel that push is as automatic as it always was before the injury.

Glad he made it through R5 and I think he has enough bulldog in him to turn some heads in 2023.

Aurorus

Durability is a key to starting in baseball today, and I don’t see Bolton as durable enough to be starting pitcher. I don’t like his delivery. He puts a lot of torque on his knee and elbow with his whirlwind motion instead of a more direct motion to the plate. I think the best move for the team and his career is to place him in the bullpen.

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