For the first time since 2013, the Pittsburgh Pirates missed out on a playoff spot and for good reason. For a better part of the season, the Pirates struggled with their rotation. Whether it be health, or not being able to go deep in games, the rotation was iffy for a better part of the season. This year’s rotation will only feature one player who was in the rotation to start last season and that is Gerrit Cole, who will be looking for a major bounce back season after what amounted to be his worst career year yet. The Pirates need more than him, as other young guns need to step up as well to make this season count and make a playoff push. The following is what I perceive to be the starting rotation coming out of Spring Training, with the first three rotations spots already locked. There will be at least five other guys competing for two other starting jobs in Pittsburgh.
Gerrit Cole: To start out, Cole must step up and be the “ace” of the team, the anchor of the rotation, and remain consistent all season if he hopes to get the kind of money he’s looking for in future contracts. Cole isn’t helping himself out by showing up out of shape and looking sloppy. In fact, he didn’t look like he could even be ace materiel for a majority of the season. He will finally have a chance to step out of Francisco Liriano’s shadow and be the number one guy for the whole season. This will be the make it or break it season for Cole.
Jameson Taillon: Taillon made his MLB debut last season, which had been set back due to Tommy John surgery and a sports hernia, but he made the most of the opportunity. Taillon was the second overall pick in 2010 behind Bryce Harper, and before Manny Machado, so he’s got a lot to live up to. In limited starts in 2016, Taillon finished 5-4 with a 3.38 ERA and definitely proved he could be a force in the Pirates rotation for a long time if he can stay healthy. He had flashes of excellence and could end up being the ace of this Bucco’s rotation.
Ivan Nova: Another trade deadline deal that made GM Neal Huntington look like an absolute genius. On August 30th, 2016 the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees finalized a deal that sent pitcher Ivan Nova to Pittsburgh for outfielder Tito Polo and southpaw Stephen Tarpley. At first, like most of Bucco’s nation, I wasn’t too fond of the deal, but Nova proved he would be a nice addition to the rotation to finish the season and hopefully for a season or two more if Huntington could strike a deal this offseason. And that’s exactly what he did. A couple days after Christmas it was announced the Bucco’s brought back Nova on a three-year deal for $26 million. Nova’s addition to a hopefully revitalized Cole, and Taillon could lead to a very solid rotation.
Tyler Glasnow: Highly touted prospect Tyler Glasnow made his MLB debut in 2016. In fact, I witnessed his PNC Park debut. He was subpar during his time in the majors and looks to step up and become the guy in Pittsburgh. Glasnow has electric stuff but just needs to work on his control and his mental game. There will be times he won’t get a call and it affects him negatively, and ultimately affects the outcome of an inning or a game. In 2016 he finished 0-2 with a 4.24 ERA in the majors while only pitching in 23.1 innings last season. He’s proved himself at every level in the minors and now it’s time for him to prove he came do it in the majors.
Chad Kuhl: Just as Taillon did in 2016, Chad Kuhl made his Major League debut and made the most of his opportunity, finishing the season 5-4 and an ERA of 4.20. With some more time to work with the wizard Ray Searage, and ultimately perfect his craft, he could easily slot perfectly into this rotation, whether it be the fourth or fifth spot. After watching some of Kuhl’s earlier starts where he pitched well, for the most part, it seems he just needed to work on delivering the big “knock out pitch.” The kind of pitches that just rip momentum away from the opponents, whether it be a strikeout with runners on second and third, or a ground ball to induce the double play with the bases juiced and one out. Either way, I think Kuhl has what it takes to crack the rotation out of camp.
Like I mentioned earlier there will be five guys competing for two spots. The ones in which I left out of the potential rotation are as follows:
Steven Brault: The lefty was another one of the handful of pitchers to make their debuts in 2016 for the Pirates. I wanted so badly to put Brault in the rotation just to get the southpaw in there but looking at his limited stats as well as everyone else’s stats he just missed the cut
Trevor Williams: Williams was a player picked up as compensation for a couple front office members that the Miami Marlins signed in the offseason. He was one of the top prospects in the Marlins system and pitched so-so in his time in Pittsburgh in 2016. He’ll need to pitch better in camp if he hopes to make it in the rotation or the roster in general.
Drew Hutchison: Hutchison was part of a deal that had Pirates fans scratching their heads last season. In the deal that brought Hutchison to Pittsburgh, the Pirates shipped Francisco Liriano and prospects Reese McGuire, and Harold Ramirez to the Blue Jays. Hutchison has yet to be effective at the Major League level and will need to step up big time for this trade to make sense. Unless there are countless injuries or Hutchison can out do some of the pitchers ahead of him, he’ll more than likely start the season in the minors.
There you have it, my projected starting rotation and the ones just missing the cut. Unless a player the Pirates give a camp invite to performs way better than expected, I wouldn’t expect to see any other names really competing for a rotation spot. But I’ve been wrong before. This season more so than before the Buc’s need their rotation to step up if they want to make the Postseason.