Twenty Sixteen is winding to a close and it’s safe to say that there won’t be a Buctober party this season. It obviously sucks, but truthfully it’s probably what we expected all along when John Jaso and Josh Harrison were placed into the everyday starting lineup and tasked to replace Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker. The first two names are much better defensive players than the latter two, but you couldn’t replace the home runs with those guys.
Home runs were something the Pirates desperately needed more of because the starting pitching staff was atrociously bad heading into the year. After shedding the contract of Jon Niese and moving Jeff Locke and Juan Nicasio to the bullpen, the Pirates were able to experiment with three prospects: Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, and Tyler Glasnow.
Taillon’s MLB debut has been set back a couple years due to injuries. I personally believe that Taillon’s major league career will turn out better than that of Kuhl and Glasnow. The stuff Taillon has is disgusting and he’s had his control down for years. He was major league ready before Tommy John surgery delayed his MLB aspirations for longer than he had anticipated.
Kuhl was the unexpected surprise for the Pirates. After posting stellar numbers in AAA for the Indians as part of the staff that held the lowest combined ERA in that ranking of minor league ball, he was called up for his first start on June 26th.
As if making your first start isn’t enough of an adrenaline rush, try facing Clayton Kershaw in a Sunday Night Baseball primetime game for a national audience. He went five innings and got a win. Yes, an unheard unheard-of-before-the-season-started prospect beat Kershaw on ESPN in his first start. He even got the final out of the fifth inning after throwing a wild pitch and covering home to make the inning ending tag.
Clear As Glass?
Then there is the ever evolving story of Glasnow. He’s considered the Pirates top prospect by Baseball America but has shown some real signs of not being a major league ready prospect quite yet.
In two straight AAA starts, he had a no-hitter going through six innings. He was pulled in the sixth in both of those starts. The reason being his pitch count was too high. He had combined to walk TEN batters in those twelve innings combined. His control is a major issue but his stuff is right up there with Taillon. If he can figure that out over the winter…look out Cubs and Cardinals.
These three prospects are joined by Steven Brault, but he hasn’t proven major league ready enough in his couple spot starts throughout the season. Although, his presence and limited MLB experience was worth the mention for the point of this article.
A rotation next year seems like it will consist of four locks in no specific order: Taillon, Glasnow, Kuhl, and Gerrit Cole.
The Pirates have long waited to see Glasnow’s stuff and with enough work, they can have him ready to be a starter for next season’s team. Cole will have the entire winter to rest up for next season. Taillon and Kuhl have been so consistent that they will be guaranteed rotation spots next season unless an unearthly regression happens come Spring Training.
I want nothing more than to see the three aforementioned young guys continue to thrive within the rotation. Sprinkle in a healthy and dominant Cole with another veteran presence (que a hopeful Ivan Nova resigning), the Pirates become a scary team. With the emergence of Josh Bell and the flourishing of Gregory Polanco, this team will be loaded and primed for a huge run in 2017. It may not be a 100-win team quite yet as they will still be pretty young, but competing for a Wild Card will certainly be in this team’s DNA.
To be quite honest, it may be a few years until the loaded Cubs roster becomes impossible to afford and they come down to everyone else’s level. But the triple threat of young, rejuvenating prospects is something that the Pirates can look forward to for quite some time. Pirates minor league player of the year Mitch Keller isn’t too far behind either.