Post by John Toperzer
Gerrit Cole: What could’ve been. He showed that he could be an ace in 2015, but struggled in 2016 and was up-and-down last season. Who remembers his career debut against the Giants at PNC Park when a tremendous walk-up crowd was delayed by crowd safety screening measures? That mattered little, though, when Cole pitched the Pirates to victory (albeit with only two strikeouts). He even delivered a two-RBI single in his first at-bat. The promise of a future ace was great. Even now, Cole is still only 27 with two years of arbitration left. I will say I don’t liked how he appears to show up his fielders after errors. I’m sure Pedro Alvarez feels the same.
Felipe Rivero: Rivero dropped agent Scott Boras for Francis Marquez in November. That’s worthy of a round of applause all by itself. Teams are giving up boatloads for high-leverage pitching and Rivero falls into that category. With four years of contract control remaining, he makes for “financial flexibility” on any team. Rivero came up as a starter. He discovered better command of four pitches in 2017. Those kinds of hurlers look great in starting rotations. Will the Pirates turn him back into a starter? My crystal ball says “decidedly not.” Should they consider it? It might not be a bad idea.
Rivero was a hammer when he finally moved into Tony Watson’s closer role, but keep in mind he compiled a 4.15 ERA and 1.34 WHIP after Aug. 2. Even with that blip, he remains one of the team’s bright spots for 2018.
As far as dealing Rivero, if Huntington decided to tear his team down then the lefty would likely return a king’s ransom. The term “overpay” would apply here, because the Bucs aren’t dealing a stud with four years left – unless, of course, they’re getting that same level of control back.
Mitch Keller: Keller looks like the real deal, a right-handed starter with a mid-90s fastball, good curve and improving changeup. He handled himself well at Double-A Altoona. In the championship game, he boosted his fastball speed in the last inning of work. I’ve always admired those types of pitchers, from Bartolo Colon (the Bartolo from the early 2000s) to Justin Verlander.
Josh Bell: The thing that impresses me about Bell is his approach in the batters box. He doesn’t guess pitches, he looks for location. He’s so cerebral, there’s reason to believe the switch-hitter will also improve from the right side of the plate. Bell is still pretty bad on defense – his throws are more shot-put than baseball – but every player has his personal kryptonite.
It’s ironic that now that Pittsburgh has its first baseman of the future, there’s a number of players available on the market, like that guy from Slippery Rock – oh wait, Matt Adams apparently just signed with Washington.
Jameson Taillon: I kept thinking the team would shut him down before season’s end last summer but it never happened. Good thing because Taillon threw well in four of five September starts. Can you believe the righty can’t become a free agent until 2023? That’s a good thing, a really good thing. Taillon’s walk rate more than doubled from 2016 to 2017 (1.5 BB/9 to 3.1 BB/9). That may be the single biggest “tell” with Taillon, his walks. He’s shown more perseverance than most people twice his age, let alone a professional baseball player, and I wouldn’t bet against the 2010 first-round pick from becoming a top-10 pitcher in the National League.