If you don’t follow the Pirates closely, you probably don’t know about the trade that they made this past Sunday, August 2nd. And even if you do, you probably don’t know much about that pitcher outside of the name.
Due to the recent rash of injuries to Pirates pitchers Clay Holmes, Kyle Crick, Michael Feliz, Mitch Keller, and most recently closer Nick Burdi, the Pirates are being forced to turn to largely inexperienced pitchers like Geoff Hartlieb, Sam Howard, Miguel Del Pozo, and Cody Ponce in close game situations.
In response to these injuries, the Pirates added to their pitching depth by acquiring the recently DFA’d Tyler Bashlor from the New York Mets for everyone’s favorite player, cash considerations. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Pirates also designated Robbie Erlin for assignment.
Bashlor, who went to Calvary Day Baptist School in Savannah Georgia for high school, was drafted all the way back in 2013 after his sophomore season at South Georgia College. He went 5-3 with a 3.20 ERA. He was also a strikeout machine, posting 79 strikeouts in just 50.2 innings. That is a very impressive 14.2 K/9. He also batted .308 with 2 home runs and 22 RBIs. He’s had two at-bats since getting drafted to the Mets in the 11th round, 326th pick overall in the 2013 MLB Draft, a hit not too long ago in 2017 and a strikeout with the big-league Mets in 2018.
After he was drafted, Bashlor started his professional career at the rookie level, with the Kingsport Mets of the Appalachian League. Bashlor struggled pretty badly in his 13 appearances. He had a 5.74 ERA in 15.2 innings, and he also walked 12 in that span. He did add 18 strikeouts along the way. Part of his 2013 struggles may have been due to the fact that he was injured, starting the worst years of Tyler Bashlor’s career.
Bashlor had the ever-feared Tommy John surgery on May 13, 2014. He had not made a single appearance in any level of baseball up to that point, and was shut down for the rest of the year. Bashlor did start throwing again during extended spring training the following year in 2015, but he came across setbacks during a bullpen session. Bashlor’s original thought was that he tore a ligament, but he was instead dealing with scar tissue, an injury that would sideline him for all of 2015, again delaying his development an extra year.
During the 2016 year, Bashlor returned and started at full-season Class-A, in the South Atlantic League with the Columbia Fireflies. After missing the past two seasons, it didn’t seem like he had a ton of rust to shake off. He began dominating hitters, striking out 68 in 50.1 innings to go along with a 2.50 ERA. This performance earned him a promotion to the advanced level of Class-A, with the St. Lucie Mets in the Florida State League. Bashlor only got into 4 games, and he allowed 3 earned runs across 5.1 innings. This was too small of a sample size to determine anything, and the Mets kept Bashlor in St. Lucie to start 2017.
Bashlor’s 2016 struggles ended up carrying over to that 2017 season, where he had a 4.89 ERA over 35 innings. One stat that really stuck out was his ability to not only strike out guys, but strike out guys at a rate at which would be considered elite among many. He struck out 61 over 35 innings, which is 15.7 strikeouts per 9. The control from Bashlor wasn’t great, as he walked 21 in his time in St. Lucie. Despite those not great numbers, he was still called up to the Mets’ Double-A affiliate Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Bashlor must have figured something out as he pitched 14.2 scoreless innings, striking out 23 and walking just 4.
When he started the next season back in Binghamton, Bashlor didn’t continue to be perfect, but the numbers were still good. In 24 innings, he had a 2.63 ERA. His walk rate was high with 12 base on balls, and he added 30 strikeouts as well. Although Bashlor was still at the Double-A Level, the big league Mets had just come off a series in which they used a ton of their bullpen, so they called him up to provide another relief option.
Tyler Bashlor made his major league debut on the day he was called up (June 25, 2018), and he was playing against, ironically, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bashlor pitched 2 innings, walked one, and gave up two runs on a home run to Josh Bell in his first inning of work. He stayed in the Mets’ bullpen for the remainder of the season, finishing with a 4.22 ERA overall. In 7.1 innings pitched in September, Bashlor had his best month, giving up 2 earned runs while getting 10 K’s and walking 2. Of course that’s not a bad ERA by any means, but Bashlor’s FIP was 5.22, meaning his ERA may be better than he actually pitched.
Bashlor started 2019 at Triple-A Syracuse but quickly returned to the big leagues by May. His numbers from 2018 did seem too good to be true, as Major League batters quickly figured his stuff out. He was up and down all year and although he had a 3.41 ERA at Syracuse, his ERA in the MLB skyrocketed up to 6.95 in 22 innings. So, what was the difference between his 2018 season and his 2019 stint? Well, for one he walked 17 in ten less innings than 2018 where he walked 12. He also gave up 6 home runs in both years and just got hit around more in general in 2019 compared to the 2018 season. Bashlor’s control seemed to be his main issue, but his pitches were good enough to be effective in the MLB.
Pitch wise, Bashlor has two main ones: the hard fastball and a movement pitch in a slider. He also has a changeup, but doesn’t use it nearly as often as the other two. According to a tweet by BUCNProblem, Tyler Bashlor throws his fastball 62% of the time with an average speed of 96 MPH. Bashlor goes with the slider about a quarter of the time, 26% at 82 MPH on average, and lastly he throws that changeup for just 12% of his pitches, at an above average speed of 87 MPH. Bashlor’s fastball spin is rated as great at a 97 out of a possible 100. The velocity for that pitch is also way above average, rated at an 85.
So where does Bashlor fit in on this current Pirates team? Well, the Pirates obviously don’t think he’s good enough to be part of the current bullpen situation, sending him straight to the alternate training camp site in Altoona. Now that rosters are shrinking, that creates more of a roadblock for him to get to the MLB. In my opinion, Bashlor’s velocity is there but he is way too wild with his pitches. This situation actually sounds a lot like that of Dovydas Neverauskas, who struggled with control earlier in his career, but seems to have found something that works for him in his few appearances in 2020. Bashlor also hasn’t pitched since spring training, so he most likely wouldn’t be prepared for Major League games yet. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see with this everchanging bullpen. At the rate injuries are occurring right now, Bashlor could be up as early as next week. I see a ton of upside in his arm and would give him a shot.
Note from Gary Morgan: We’re excited here at Inside The Bucs Basement to welcome Anthony Difilippo to the site as a part time contributor. This is his first piece for us and he has a nice Podcast called City of Bridges, do check it out and give him a follow at @Cityofbridgesp on Twitter.