Assessing the Southpaw Situation

3-10-23 – By Michael Castrignano – @412DoublePlay on Twitter

The old adage of “never having enough arms” is never more true than when your only proven left-handed relief pitcher goes down with an injury in spring training. Jarlin Garcia, signed this past off-season, appears slated to start the season on the injured list. 

In recent years, this setback would kick off a series of dumpster-diving waiver claims by GM Ben Cherington, picking off scraps like a vulture, piecing together a patchwork of pitching options to try forging forward with no clear long-term plan.

Currently, the only other LHRP on the 40-man roster is Rule 5 pick Jose Hernandez. And while he has looked at least intriguing so far this spring, he’s far from a sure thing. Regardless, you want to have other options out of the pen until Garcia returns. Who knows how long the stint could be but let’s look at potential options to replace him:

Non-Roster Invitees

Angel Perdomo 

2023 Spring Training016.754004.031.50
MiLB Career Stats30263.24202736552.26891.28
MLB Career Stats108.24220019.2331.93
  • Perdomo signed as an international free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011 before bouncing to the Brewers, Rays and finally signing a minor league deal with the Pirates in December.
  • He had small major league appearances during his stint with the Brewers but has mostly been on the minor league circuit and has fared pretty well over that time.
  • The 6’8” 28 year-old relies on a traditional fastball/slider combo with occasional changeup. He has had excellent strikeout rates in the minors but some troubling walk numbers as well with a career K/BB rate of 2.44

Caleb Smith

2023 Spring Training003.382002.220.75
MiLB Career Stats34253.19120893490.14711.20
MLB Career Stats20304.55147640447.04781.31
  • Coming into camp, it appeared the team was gearing Smith up for starting opportunities with Indianapolis. Given current circumstances, the most experienced member of this group may be convinced to seek another bullpen role after moving to relief in 2021 with the Diamondbacks.
  • Smith has made appearances in MLB games in each of the past six seasons, compiling a 4.55 ERA over 447 innings in that time. 
  • Unfortunately, neither his standard nor advanced stats indicate that he would provide positive results. His strikeout and walk numbers are both moving in the wrong directions and he hasn’t posted a FIP under 5 since 2018.
  • On the positive side, he generates soft contact at an elite rate, has a starter’s pitch mix and has looked solid this spring. It would be a very low-risk move to add him to the bullpen and see what he can do.

Daniel Zamora

2023 Spring Training004.504004.011.25
MiLB Career Stats16123.70226422304.03631.27
MLB Career Stats314.50370022.0271.36
  • Most recognizable by his 1970s-style mustache – which is somehow becoming a trend in MLB again – Zamora was a 40th round pick by the Pirates in 2015. He was traded in 2018 to the Mets for LHP Josh Smoker. 
  • Later that season, he became the first player drafted in the 40th round to make the majors since the draft was shortened to 40 rounds.
  • Despite below average velocity on both his fastball and slider, Zamora has nevertheless been able to post excellent strikeout numbers at every level with a 28.4% strikeout rate versus a 9.5% walk rate in his MLB career. 

Rob Zastryzny 

2023 Spring Training000.003004.151.38
MiLB Career Stats30354.612051054644.26131.41
MLB Career Stats204.66241038.2341.47

The last member of the NRI list, Zastryzny is the only one no longer in camp – not because he’s been cut, but due to the fact he is on the Canadian World Baseball Classic roster so we likely won’t see him again for at least a few weeks.

  • Zastryzny bounced around between a number of organizations – Cubs, Dodgers, Orioles, Marlins, Mets, Angels – as well as a stint with Independent League team, the Long Island Ducks, before landing a minor league deal with the Pirates this off-season.
  • He has a fastball, changeup and curve with an occasional cut-fastball. His velocity ranges from low-90s on his 4-seamer to upper-70s on his changeup, which could make him an interesting name to watch in this race – even as he watches the team from afar.

Internal Depth Options

Tyler Samaniego

  • Part of a magical 2021 draft class including Henry Davis, Bubba Chandler and Anthony Solometo, it would really be something if 15th round pick Samaniego debuted in Pittsburgh before any of them. The southpaw out of South Alabama tore through the minors, posting a 2.30 ERA with 62 strikeouts to 22 walks over 54.2 innings of work.
  • He spent most of last season in Altoona and could be an option out of the pen for Indy to start the season. With a batting average against of only .120 and a miniscule
    WHIP of 0.80, it also wouldn’t be a surprise if they continued with an aggressive push straight to the bigs.

Nick Dombkowski 

  • If anyone can rival the rise of Samaniego, it’s Nick Dombkowski. Signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2021 draft, Dombkowski went right to work with a 3.86 ERA over 18.2 innings pitched in Bradenton. 
  • Last year, he somehow improved upon that mark with a 3.07 mark over 3 levels in 2022, pitching 67.1 innings with 86 strikeouts to only 19 walks. As with Samaniego, he likely will be in Indianapolis to start the season but he was throwing bullpens at LECOM as recently as last week and the sky’s the limit for this rising southpaw.

Kent Emanuel

  • A third round draft pick by Houston in 2013, Emanuel’s lone season in the major leagues came in 2021, where he posted a 2.55 ERA over 17.2 innings of work with 13 strikeouts and zero walks. Unfortunately, an elbow injury ended his season and his tenure with the Astros. 
  • He signed with the Phillies but elbow issues continued to plague him during his season in the organization before signing on with Pittsburgh on a minor league deal last month. 
  • It may be hard to gauge what’s left in the tank given the missed time and injury concerns (as well as a PEDs suspension in 2020) but the 2021 glimpse provides at least some potential for Emanuel.

Cam Alldred

  • Alldred was drafted in the 24th round by the Pirates in 2018 and has continued in rise in the only professional organization he’s ever known. Following a brief 1 game/1 inning appearance with Pittsburgh – in which he allowed just 1 hit and notched his first strikeout – Alldred was sent back to Indianapolis before being designated for assignment two weeks later. Baseball can be a cruel mistress.
  • From his highest-high to his lowest-low, he cleared waivers and remained with the Indians, posting a serviceable 4.07 ERA over 66.1 innings of work. None of his “stuff” jumps off the page and while he could find himself back on a major league roster in the same way he arrived last season, look for him to mostly be depth at this stage.

Braeden Ogle

  • A 4th round pick by the Pirates in 2016, Ogle was traded to Philly in the July 2021 deal which brought catcher Abrahan Gutierrez to the organization. He returns this season after struggling with a slew of injuries and ineffectiveness in triple-A Lehigh Valley last season.
  • Ogle has mediocre strikeout numbers paired with elevated walk numbers. Not a great combination when you also have a poor ground-ball rate. He is likely a depth option as well.

In addition to these players, there are still a number of outstanding free agents who could be had for a modest deal. Zack Britton, Mike Minor, Jose Alvarez and Jake Brentz each have major league experience and may be worth a shot to shore up this bullpen. This move seems unlikely given the history of how Cherington has operated in the past but rule nothing out at this stage.

Even so, there are a myriad of options available, ranging from the borderline-fringy to the very talented for the Bucs to choose from in the event Garcia has an extended stay on the injured list. Either way, the depth at this position is in a much better position than in previous years.

Let’s hope, for all of our sakes, that the dumpster-diving days are in the past. Lets Go Bucs!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: