By Jason Shetler
Since becoming Pirates general manager in 2007, one of Neal Huntington’s most recognized work has been drafting quality players, and infusing talent into a farm system that was ranked 26th by Baseball America prior to Huntington’s arrival. While there’s no denying that Huntington has done well in drafts, an argument can be made that his ability to put together a bullpen is his best work as a GM. It’s not a coincidence that the Pirates bullpen has been a strength each of the last three seasons they’ve contended. Entering 2016, the bullpen looks to be a strength again.
Assuming that he isn’t traded, Mark Melancon will return as the closer with Tony Watson in the setup role. Arquimedes Caminero gives them a very powerful arm out of the bullpen while Jared Hughes is one of the best groundball relievers, and has shown the consistency to come in and strand inherited baserunners. Free agent signing Juan Nicasio is coming off a career year with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. Not only is he a strikeout pitcher, but he can also provide multiple innings if needed. Despite an injury, Rob Scahill had himself a decent season. Antonio Bastardo likely won’t return, so I would expect them to bring in a reliable, veteran lefty reliever to take his place. The Pirates bullpen depth appears to be deeper, as Huntington has been able to obtain hard-throwing arms this offseason. Curtis Partch, Guido Knudson, Jorge Rondon and Robert Zarate are relievers who can throw the fastball mid-90’s or better. Another intriguing reliever is Yoervis Medina. He was claimed by the Pirates from the Chicago Cubs in December, and just a couple years ago, was a fixture in the Seattle Mariners bullpen. Then there’s John Holdzkom, who was the Pirates rookie sensation in 2014. He dealt with a shoulder issue last year, and should be fully recovered heading into Spring Training. If Holdzkom can pick up where he left off before the injury, then he gives the Pirates another power arm option.