By Jason Shetler
The Pirates had themselves a quiet offseason for the most part. The only significant moves was bringing back Ivan Nova for the rotation and signing Daniel Hudson to essentially replace Neftali Feliz in the bullpen.
One move that came as a real surprise was the Rule 5 selection of Tyler Webb, a left-handed pitcher who was left unprotected by the New York Yankees. This marked the first time since 2011 that the Pirates selected a Rule 5 player in the Major League portion of the draft, which is surprising, given that the team is more of a contender than a rebuilder.
Webb spent all of 2016 pitching at the AAA level for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In 72.2 innings of work with the RailRiders, he put up a 3.59 ERA with an even better 2.76 Fielding Independent Pitching. His K/9 was very impressive at 10.1, while he posted a 2.9 BB/9, which isn’t bad for someone who has the ability to miss bats. Although Webb’s fastball sits in the low-90’s, it’s considered deceptive with the movement he has on it. Because he’s 6’6, he’s able to throw it on a downward plane. Webb has a changeup, which is his best secondary pitch, and he’s not afraid to throw it in any count. He also has a slider that keeps improving.
Prior to Webb being taken by the Pirates in the Rule 5 Draft, the last two pitchers who were selected by GM Neal Huntington was Evan Meek and Donnie Veal. Even though Meek made the club in 2008 and Veal in 2009, the situations were much different, as the Pirates were in the early stages of Huntington’s rebuilding process. What also makes the selection of Webb interesting is the fact that the Pirates already had a good amount of left-handed arms in the pen. During the offseason, Antonio Bastardo was reportedly on the trade block, and could still be an option to move, if Webb is able to really impress for much of the Spring. Another scenario is designating Wade LeBlanc for assignment to make room on the roster for Webb. The Pirates don’t have much invested in LeBlanc, as he’s due to make only $800,000 for this year. I certainly think Tyler Webb has a legitimate shot to make the club out of Spring Training, but if not, he would just be sent back to the Yankees without any issue.