My Plan for the Pirates Starting Rotation, Right Now

Mitch Keller

Things have changed this season. Injury, ineffectiveness and lack of depth have been on full display and in some cases, I’ve seen enough. 2020 has been called a season of evaluation by many but at times it looked more like they don’t know what they’re doing instead. That’s probably unfair as it’s most likely been more about adjusting a plan to fit circumstances but if I take off my plugged in writer hat and put on my fan who just wants to see my baseball team play reasonable baseball cap, it feels just about right.

So, no illusions here, this is my plan, not theirs, I don’t think they’ll do it entirely, but it’s what I’d do, and I’ll explain why after we discuss my idea.

Now, obviously Keller at the moment isn’t healthy, and there is no guarantee he will. If so, bump everyone up one.

This shouldn’t be confused with a ranking of who I think is best at the moment, or even who has the brightest future necessarily, it’s more about the Pirates future. As a bonus the Pirates actually showed shortly after this tweet that they are doing exactly this with Derek Holland.

This won’t take starting off the table for any of those three, there will be double headers, there will be stretches of games, and with this team, there will undoubtedly be more injury.

Now, why do I want to do this?

2020 isn’t going anywhere, and I’d rather find out about the options that might be ready in 2021.

Let’s talk about the for sure pieces of the rotation next season, Mitch Keller. OK, that about covers it.

Jameson Taillon is recovering from his second Tommy John procedure, that’s a very low percentage recovery. I don’t say that to sound pessimistic as much as honest. Because the Pirates have little choice but to count on him returning. Even if he does, take a look at how they’ve handled Chad Kuhl returning from his first and hopefully only surgery. At the very least Taillon is not going to be a workhorse, I think that’s safe to assume and infer.

For the sake of argument let’s pencil him in anyhow shall we?

So that makes two. Two pieces who we can assure will be here in 2021. You have to figure Musgrove, Kuhl, and Williams will all be potential trade pieces in the off season. Now I don’t think all of them will be moved, in fact I can’t even say definitively any of them will be dealt. I find Kuhl to be the least likely followed by Musgrove and Williams. But we must face the reality any of them could go, you could even toss Brault in that group if you like.

If they don’t move any of them I’m fairly certain I know the Rotation next season. Taillon, Kuhl, Musgrove, Keller, and Williams. What I’m suggesting is perhaps it’s time to see if Brubaker or Ponce are a better option than Williams or Brault.

I don’t think Brubaker will get a real shot next season if all these players remain, so I’d like to see the club give him a real shot right now. See what he can give the team, he’s looked more put together than Williams much of the season. I toss Ponce in for the same reason, he’s provided one of the very few six inning outings by a starter this season and looks very in control of his stuff. He’s got more to give and again, I don’t see him getting a shot next year, so the opportunity is now.

Again, I think its fair to assume the team will at least shop those three or four pitchers I referenced, wouldn’t it be nice to know those two can handle themselves? Make Cody Bolton the only untested entirely rookie that potentially factors in next season.

Want more? Ok, I think Williams, Brault and Holland are better suited to the bullpen and it’s not like that’s a unit that doesn’t need help too. Williams is a perfect candidate in my eyes, he has good pitches but just can’t get deep into games because he doesn’t have enough swing and miss stuff. A move to the pen and a focus away from providing length could add some much needed velocity. Ever see Williams get really mad and hit 95-96 on the gun? Imagine that regularly with his other stuff for an inning or two.

Brault is much the same. Neither should be facing lineups three times, that’s evident by the fact it tends to come up by the fifth.

Hey, I’m not nuts, I know they won’t do this but the most important part of player development is quite possibly admitting you may have slotted a guy in the wrong place. Williams, even if he returns to the fabled form of his second half in 2018 is still topping out at 5 or 6 innings. That is fine if he’s a number five starter, but he may have more impact in the pen.

Holland is an easy call, there’s a reason he was relegated to the bullpen on his past two clubs, it’s what he is at this point.

The Pirates would lose nothing but perhaps perceived loyalty here, and there is hardly room for that when building a roster.

So for right now,
Musgrove, Kuhl, Brubaker, Ponce, Brault for me until Keller is healthy then use Brault to back him. I want to see this club start to diagnose and cure problems rather than perpetuate them.

Unless I miss my guess, they aren’t signing Trevor Bauer in the off season, so we might as well figure out what is already here.

That said, I’m just a guy, what do I know?

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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