2021 Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates finished 2020 with their worst winning percentage (.317) since 1952 (42-112-1), leading their fifth straight season without a trip to playoffs. Over the past 41 seasons, Pittsburgh made the postseason only six times (1990, 1991, 1992, 2013, 2014, and 2015). They have five World Series titles (1909, 1925, 1960, 1971, and 1979) over the team’s 139-year history.
Pittsburgh ranked 19th in ERA (4.68) while failing to the bottom of the league in runs (219) and 28th in home runs (59).
In a pair of deals with the Yankees and Padres, the Pirates shipped out two veteran arms (Jameson Taillon and Joe Musgrove). In return, they picked up multiple minor league arms – Roansy Contreras, Miguel Yajure, David Bednar, Omar Cruz, and Drake Fellows, along with OF Hudson Head, 2B Maikol Escotto, and OF Canaan Smith-Njigba.
1B Josh Bell was sent to the Nationals for SP Eddy Yean and SP Wil Crowe. Pittsburgh claimed C Michael Perez off waiver, and they added RP Chasen Shreve.
The top players lost free agency in the offseason were RP Keone Kela, SP Chris Archer, SP Trevor Williams, and SP Derek Holland.
Pittsburgh is left with only one upside arm (Mitch Keller) with major league experience in their starting rotation. They need to rebuild the starting staff, which will be helped down the road by their recent trades.
The Pirates don’t have the correct structure of arms to lock down games in the late innings. Every role in the bullpen should be in flux this year, focusing on developing young players to increase their chances of winning games.
The only player left in the starting lineup with future star power is 3B Ke'Bryan Hayes. OF Bryan Reynolds offers upside, but the rest of the options look mediocre at best, pointing to another empty season in runs and power.
Pittsburgh hit rock bottom last year, and they will struggle again in 2021 to win games while almost being a lock to finish in last place in the NL Central.
1. OF Jared Oliva
Over his first three seasons in the minors, Oliva hit .274 with 175 runs, 15 home runs, 106 RBI, and 84 stolen bases over 1,965 at-bats. He turned in a full season at AA in 2018 (.277 with 70 runs, six home runs, 42 RBI, and 36 steals over 447 at-bats). Last year he should have received AAA experience if the minor league season wasn’t canceled due to Covid.
His walk rate (8.1) and strikeout rate (20.7) are about league average. Oliva has minimal upside in power in his career based on his average hit rate (1.435). His contact batting has almost been identical in his three years (.358, .357, and .359), setting a reasonable floor in batting average.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His attraction to fantasy owners is going to be his ability to steal bases. Oliva had 16 at-bats (three hits and six strikeouts) in the majors in 2020. He could turn into a sparkplug at the top of the Pirates lineup if given an opportunity despite not having the ideal skill set. His ADP (566) is much too low to consider for shallow leagues. Possible stolen bases out with help in runs if he earns starting at-bats.
2. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes
Hayes made the climb of one level in each of his last three years in the minors while remaining one of the Pirates’ top prospects.
Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .279 with 254 runs, 25 home runs, 202 RBI, and 66 stolen bases over 1,731 at-bats. He will take some walks (9.4) while minimizing the damage in strikeouts (16.8).
Hayes projects to be a top defender while needing to get stronger to pump up his value in home runs.
He stole 27 bags in 2017 at High A, but he doesn’t project to offer plus speed on the bases.
With a full season at AAA in 2019 (.265 with 10 home runs, 53 RBI, and 12 steals over 427 at-bats), Pittsburgh gave him the whole month of September to prove his worth in the majors. Hayes responded with an impressive showing (.376 with 17 runs, five home runs, and 11 RBI over 85 at-bats).
His contact batting average (.492) was well above his minor league career (.346), as was his average hit rate (1.813 – 1.429).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: This season, Hayes has an ADP of 143, which almost requires him to be a .280 type hitter with 80 runs, 20 home runs, and 80 RBI. His ability to steal bases adds to his fantasy value and upside. His short-term success was so far above his minor league career path, forcing me to temper my expectations. He did control the strike zone with a slightly better than league average approach with Pittsburgh, which is an excellent sign for his future upside. I expect him to be much more productive than his minor league resume, and the bonus of speed at third base is enough for me to bet on the come with Hayes in 2021.
3. OF Bryan Reynolds
Reynolds made a slow push through the Pirates system due to boring power and minimal speed.
Over four seasons in the minors, he hit .312 with 177 runs, 28 home runs, 158 RBI, and 15 steals over 1,088 at-bats.
His bats flashed over 49 at-bats at AAA (.367 with five home runs and 11 RBI) in 2019, leading to a call-up to the majors.
With Pittsburgh, Reynolds performed better than expected over his first 446 at-bats (.330 with 80 runs, 16 home runs, 66 RBI, and two steals) before fading over his final 45 at-bats (.156 with no home runs and two RBI).
Last year, his once edge in contact batting average (.405 in his minor league career and .416 in his first season with the Pirates) turned into a significant liability (.273). Reynolds struggled with runners on base (RBI rate – 12), but he did push his average hit rate (1.886) to an intriguing level. His hard-hit rate (38.0) is only league average.
His walk rate (8.9) came in at the league average with a regression strikeout rate (27.4). Reynolds showed improvement in his fly-ball rate (34.4) with a mid-tier HR/FB rate (14.8).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Based on his early ADP (307), Reynolds looks to be an outstanding value. I’m concerned with the Pirates’ overall offense, but he still should hit over .300 with a chance at an 80/20/80 season.
4. OF Gregory Polanco
Last year Polanco missed three games to start the year with Covid. He struggled to make contact over his first 14 games (three hits in 43 at-bats with two home runs, seven RBI, and 22 strikeouts). After a slight uptick over the next two weeks (12-for-47 with three home runs, seven RBI, and 17 strikeouts), his bat plunged again over the final three weeks (.134 with two home runs, eight RBI, and 26 strikeouts over 67 at-bats).
Polanco missed 204 games between 2017 and 2019 due to various injuries. Over the last four seasons, he hit .237 with 47 home runs, 155 RBI, and 26 steals over 1,150 at-bats.
His strikeout rate (33.4) over the last two years has been well above his first five seasons (19.1).
Polanco suffered a broken right wrist in winter ball, but the Pirates expect him to be ready for the start of the season. Over 76 at-bats in the Dominican League, he hit .197 with two home runs and nine RBI.
In 2016, he hit .258 for Pittsburgh over 527 at-bats with 22 home runs, 86 RBI, and 17 stolen bases, which showcased his potential when healthy.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: At this point in his career, Polanco is almost a losing investment. He can’t stay on the field, and his swing looks lost. When healthy, the Pirates may very well bat him cleanup, which works well for his ADP (477). I’m sure Polanco would hit over 20 home runs with over 500 at-bats, and he may still have the speed tool in his bag. A low flying dart that failed to reach the board in 2019 and 2020.
5. 1B Colin Moran
Over the last three seasons, Moran hit .272 for the Pirates over 1,093 at-bats with 127 runs, 35 home runs, and 166 RBI. Last year he was on pace for 77 runs, 27 home runs, and 62 RBI with 481 at-bats.
His average hit rate (1.909) was well above his first two seasons (1.470 and 1.550) in Pittsburgh, while his contact batting average has been in a tight range (.345 to .372) over the past five years.
Moran saw his strikeout rate (26.0) rose the second straight season, with an improved walk rate (9.5).
His bat piqued fantasy owner's interest after a hot first eight games (9-for-28 with eight runs, five home runs, and seven RBI) in 2020, but he only hit .233 over his final 150 at-bats with five home runs and 16 RBI.
His hard-hit rate (48.0) was much higher than in 2019 (34.8). Moran finished with a weaker swing path (56.3 percent ground balls), leading to a career-low fly-ball rate (28.6). His HR/FB rate (27.8) looked out of line while being more than twice his previous two years (11.1 and 11.5).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Moran will be found in the waiver wire again in 2021 while being drafted as a final flier in some 15-team leagues (ADP – 441). He looks to be trading batting average for power while failing to hit enough balls in the air to see a significant jump in home runs. Runs will always be a problem, and Moran has a platoon feel while being misplaced as a first base option.
6. 2B Adam Frazier
Pittsburgh gave Frazier a full season of at-bats (554) for the first time in 2019, but he remains a boring fantasy option. His average hit rate (1.500) regressed from his move forward in 2018 (1.648).
Last year Frazier had a sharp decline in his contact batting average (.276 – .322 in 2019). With 550 at-bats, he was on pace for the most home runs (18) and RBI (61) of his career. His walk rate (7.4) remains below what is expected of a leadoff hitter while owning a reasonable strikeout rate (15.2).
His hard-hit rate (25.1) doesn’t support a push higher in home runs. Frazier does have an improving fly-ball rate (35.1) while posting his second-highest HR/FB rate (11.5).
Over the last three seasons, he hit .268 with 154 runs, 27 home runs, 108 RBI, and seven stolen bases over 1,081 at-bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: I don’t consider him a leadoff hitter, but Frazier may be the best Pittsburgh has to offer in 2021, at least early in the season. His major league career path points to a neutral hitter with a chance at 70 runs, 13 home runs, 55 RBI, and four steals with 550 at-bats. His ADP (523) makes him undraftable in almost every format this season.
7. C Jacob Stallings
The catching cupboard for the Pirates lacks talent throughout their system.
Stallings failed to make an impact over four seasons at AAA (.265 with 15 home runs and 113 RBI over 780 at-bats).
Pittsburgh gave him 316 at-bats over the last two seasons, leading to 39 runs, nine home runs, and 31 RBI with a .256 batting average.
His strikeout rate (28.0) spiked in 2020 after being better than the league over his first four seasons (19.5) with the Pirates.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Stalling fits the C2 mold in deep leagues, but he’s far from a lock to receive 400 at-bats. His batting average could end up being positive, but I don’t see him finishing with more than 50 runs, 10 home runs, or 50 RBI. Stallings is more of a week-to-week ride if his bat is hot.
8. SS Kevin Newman
The Pirates drafted Newman in the first round in 2015 with the 19th pick.
Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .287 with 15 home runs, 146 RBI, and 62 steals over 1,630 at-bats. Newman was tough to strike out (10.3 percent) with some weakness in his walk rate (7.0) in his minor league career.
After playing well in 2018 at AAA (.302 with four home runs, 35 RBI, and 28 steals over 437 at-bats), he proved to be a better player in his first full seasons with Pittsburgh in 2019 (.308 with 61 runs, 12 home runs, 64 RBI, and 16 stolen bases over 493 at-bats).
In 2020, he struggled to find his way, leading to a bust season (.224 with one home run, 10 RBI, and no steals over 156 at-bats). His season ended late in September with a left knee injury.
Newman maintained his low strikeout rate (13.3) in his time in the majors while losing some value in his walk rate (5.5).
His hard-hit rate (24.4) ranked 438th in baseball in 2019 while showing minimal improvement last year (28.3). He has a high ground ball rate (49.8) with a weak HR/FB rate (7.2).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Newman is a decent major league player who can help in batting average and steals when on top of his games. In 2020, he was mispriced in drafts as many fantasy owners couldn’t see beyond his counting stats. Only a backend bat with job loss risk if he stumbles out of the gate. Newman has a waiver wire ADP (542) in the early draft season. Possible .280 with below 10 home runs and a chance at 20-plus stolen bases.
SS Kevin Kramer
Kramer played well at AAA in 2018 (.311 with 15 home runs, 59 RBI, and 13 steals over 476 at-bats), but he regressed in 2019 (.260 with 10 HRs and 54 RBI over 393 at-bats) at the same level.
Pittsburgh drafted him in the second round in the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft.
Over five years in the minors, he hit .286 with 35 home runs, 220 RBI, and 40 steals over 1,757 at-bats. His walk rate (8.7) is just above the league average, with a neutral strikeout rate (19.7).
Kramer struggled in his limited at-bats in the majors over the two years (.152 with no home runs and nine RBI over 79 at-bats).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Kramer missed all of 2020 with a labrum injury in his right hip that required surgery. He’ll compete for playing time in the outfield with experience at second and shortstop.
OF Cole Tucker
The Pirates selected Tucker 24th overall in the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft out of high school.
Over six seasons in the minors, he hit .266 with 25 home runs, 159 RBI, and 137 steals in 2,081 at-bats. His best success came in 2017 between High A and AA (.275 with six home runs, 50 RBI, and 47 steals in 444 at-bats).
Tucker had an above-average walk rate (9.4) with a reasonable strikeout rate (18.4) in the minors.
He didn’t make an impact at AAA in 2019 (.261 with eight home runs, 28 RBI, and 11 stolen bases over 310 at-bats) while failing to stick in the lineup in two seasons with Pittsburgh (.215 with three home runs and 21 RBI over 256 at-bats). He missed the end of 2020 with a concussion.
His approach (strikeout rate – 25.8 and walk rate – 5.5) had weaknesses with the Pirates.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Pittsburgh moved Tucker to the outfield last year, but he remains in the mix for action in the infield. Stolen bases are his only attraction to a fantasy owner. Tucker does have the pedigree to steal the starting job at shortstop.
Michael Perez (C): Perez will compete for at-bats with Pittsburgh this season. Over nine seasons in the minors, he hit .247 with 61 home runs and 328 RBI over 2,168 at-bats while showing growth at AAA (.270 with 20 home runs and 77 RBI over 411 at-bats).
In limited at-bats in the majors, Perez hit .221 with two home runs and 26 RBI over 204 at-bats with risk in his strikeouts rate (28.5).
Wilmer Difo (IF): Difo saw his opportunity with the Nationals drop to 131 at-bats in 2019 (.252 with 15 runs, two home runs, and eight RBI) while only seeing 14-at-bats (one hit) last year.
His bat was steady at AAA (.300 with 48 runs, four home runs, 30 RBI, and 13 steals over 233 at-bats) in 2019.
In 2017 and 2018, he hit .249 with 102 runs, 12 home runs, 63 RBI, and 20 stolen bases over 740 at-bats with Washington.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Based on his career path and some success in the majors, I expect Difo to jump ahead of Erik Gonzalez on the depth chart in spring training. His overall game may very well offer the most value for Pittsburgh at shortstop in 2021. Sneaky player to follow this spring.
Erik Gonzalez (IF): Gonzalez finished with a career-high in at-bats (181) in 2020, but he only hit .227 with three home runs and 20 RBI. His strikeout rate (26.4) remains too high to earn a starting job.
Over five seasons in the majors, Gonzalez hit .250 over 585 at-bats with 66 runs, nine home runs, 53 RBI, and 10 steals.
He did play better over 10 seasons in the minors (.271 with 45 home runs, 369 RBI, and 105 stolen bases over 3,008 at-bats).
1. SP Mitch Keller
Keller had a respectable outing in his 2020 debut (one run over five innings with two hits, three walks, and two strikeouts). He left his second game after 2.2 innings (two runs and six base runners) due to an oblique issue that led to six weeks on the injured list.
After returning to the starting rotation in mid-September, Keller allowed three runs, six baserunners, and two home runs over three innings in his first start. He didn’t allow a hit over 11 innings in his final two games, but Keller did give up an earned run due to 10 walks.
The Pirates drafted Keller in the second round in the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft out of high school. Over six seasons in the minors, he went 36-22 with a 3.12 ERA and 556 strikeouts over 539.1 innings. His walk rate (2.8) and K rate (9.4) played well in the minors.
Keller solved AA (11-4 with a 2.83 ERA and 121 strikeouts over 120.2 innings) while needing more work at AAA (10-7 with a 3.98 ERA and 180 strikeouts over 156 innings). In his second chance at AAA in 2019, he posted a 3.56 ERA and 123 strikeouts over 103.2 innings.
His major league career started with five disaster outings in 2019 over his first nine starts, leading to an 8.29 ERA, 1.868 WHIP, .355 BAA, and six home runs over 38 innings. Keller ended the year with two solid games (three runs over ten innings with 14 strikeouts).
Keller has two breaking pitches of value (slider – .158 BAA and curveball – .130 BAA). His AFB came in at 95.5 and 94.3 MPH in two seasons with the Pirates. His next step is locating his four-seam fastball (.378 BAA) in and out of the strike zone better.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Fantasy owners in the high-stakes market had him priced like a breakout arm (ADP – 235) in 2019, but his command issue last year led to a more valuable price point (ADP – 310).
Keller failed in his rookie year with Pittsburgh due to the mindset that his fastball could get him out of trouble. He needs better location in the strike zone while still lacking a trusted changeup. His fastball/curveball combination will be dominating at times.
After tossing 151.2 innings in 2019, Keller should reach 180 innings with a full season of starts. Look for a 3.75 ERA with a run at 200 strikeouts.
2. SP Chad Kuhl
Kuhl missed all of 2019 with a right elbow injury that required TJ surgery in September of 2018.
Over three seasons in the minors, he went 33-17 with a 2.75 ERA and 300 strikeouts over 445 innings. His walk rate (2.1) was elite while struggling with strikeouts (6.1 per nine).
In 2020, Kuhl worked out of the bullpen for his first two games (one run over five innings with five strikeouts). Other than one disaster start (nine runs, 11 base runners over 2.1 innings on September 13th), he pitched well enough in eight games (2.76 ERA over 39 innings with 34 strikeouts) to help fantasy teams.
His two big negative were his high walk rate (5.4) and struggles with home runs (eight over 46.1 innings).
Kuhl went 20-23 with a 4.36 ERA and 320 strikeouts over 359.1 innings in his four seasons with Pittsburgh.
His AFB (94.1) fell short of his peak in 2017 (96.9) while offering more life than his minor league resume showed based on his low number of strikeouts (6.1 per nine). Kuhl has a great slider (.183 BAA) and winning low-volume curveball (.111 BAA). His quest for greatness will come with better command of his sinker and reinventing his changeup.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Kuhl should open up as the number two starter for Pittsburgh this season. He needs to throw more strikes and eliminate the damage in home runs. An outside chance at 175 strikeouts with a sub 3.75 ERA if Kuhl throws more strikes and makes 32 starts.
3. SP JT Brubaker
In 2019, Brubaker battled an arm injury (forearm and right elbow) for most of the season, which led to only 27.2 innings pitched.
Over five seasons in the minors, he went 31-28 with a 3.60 ERA and 43 strikeouts over 514.1 innings. His walk rate (2.7) was favorable while delivering a low number of strikeouts (7.6 per nine). Brubaker had his best output at AAA (10-5 with 3.02 ERA and 116 strikeouts over 140 innings).
Pittsburgh gave him 11 games in 2020, leading to success in six of his final eight starts (3.46 ERA and 30 strikeouts over 26 innings). He allowed 12 runs, 18 baserunners, and four home runs over 10.1 innings in his two bad games over this span.
His walk rate (3.2) came in above his minor league career while gaining life in his strikeout rate (9.1).
Brubaker averaged 93.7 MPH with his fastball. His slider (.204 BAA) and curveball (.182 BAA) graded well.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: I fear TJ surgery with Brubaker, and his fastball doesn’t project as high as it did earlier in his minor league career. His AAA success does create some intrigue, along with his best moments with Pittsburgh in 2020. He seems like a lock to make the rotation, but there will be peaks and valleys until Brubaker solves lefties (.287 BAA in 2020 with 13 of his 17 walks over 101 at-bats) and develops a trusted changeup. His early ADP comes in at 538.
4. SP Miguel Yajure
Over four seasons in the minors, Yajure went 14-13 with a 2.47 ERA and 246 strikeouts over 291.2 innings. He blew out his right arm at age 19, which led to TJ surgery and a missed season in 2018.
In 2019 while pitching at High A and AA (two starts), Yajure went 9-6 with a 2.14 ERA and 133 strikeouts over 138.2 innings. He walked only 1.9 batters per nine innings. His strikeout rate (8.6) was the best of his short minor league career.
Last year the Yankees gave him three relief appearances, which led to one run and three hits over seven innings with five walks and eight strikeouts.
His AFB (92.8) came in below the league average. Yajure's path to success comes from a plus changeup while also mixing in a four-seam fastball, cutter, and curveball. His ability to work off four pitches and not relying on a big fastball bodes well for success early in his career.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: The Pirates may have stolen an elite arm with Yajure. His velocity should improve once he fills out, which in turn creates even more of an edge with his changeup. I expect he’ll emerge as a backend starter for the Pirates in 2021 while flying under the radar of many fantasy owners (ADP – 742).
5. SP Steven Brault
The Pirates gave Brault his best chance to start in his career in 2019, which ended with a 5.16 ERA and 1.500 WHIP over 113.1 innings.
Last year He pitched well over his final eight starts (2.87 ERA, .191 BAA, and 1.115 WHIP over 37.2 innings with 33 strikeouts). Brault did issue 17 walks over this span while offering one highlight game (one run and two hits over a complete-game win with eight strikeouts).
Over seven seasons in the minors, he had a 37-27 record with a 2.59 ERA and 491 strikeouts over 550 innings.
His AFB (92.7) is below the league average. His changeup (.191 BAA in his career) is a plus pitch, but he doesn’t get many swings and misses. Brault threw his slider (.235 BAA) with more success in 2020.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Brault probably has a better arm than most would give him credit for, but he can’t be trusted based on his high walk rate (4.6). His strikeout rate (8.0) is serviceable if he can pitch deeper in games. Brault will be found in the free-agent pool in all leagues, but he’ll somehow land on the legendary Stephen Jupinka’s championship team while the other fantasy snobs snub their nose at him. It’s all about more strikes thrown as Brault does have the secondary pitches to get batters out.
SP Wil Crowe
Crowe wandered through three seasons in the minors with a 4.03 ERA and 241 strikeouts over 290 innings. He had no answer for batters at AAA in 2019 (0-4 with a 6.17 ERA and 41 strikeouts over 54 innings), leading to the Nationals gift wrapping him to Pittsburgh in the deal for Josh Bell.
Washington gave him three starts in 2020 that ended with crooked numbers across the board (11.88 ERA, 2.640 WHIP, and five home runs allowed over 8.1 innings).
His fastball was only in the low 90s in 2020. Crowe has a swing and miss changeup, which would have more value if he could figure out how to get ahead in the count. His slider looks more advanced than his curveball.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Crowe has impressed scouts more than batters, and only one of them determines his future paycheck. The Pirates have many questions at the back end of the rotation, so his best hope is to develop into a serviceable inning eater in 2021.
SP Quinn Priester
The Pirates invited Priester to their major-league camp in early February. Pittsburgh drafted 18th overall out of high school in the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft.
He posted a 3.19 ERA and 41 strikeouts over 36.2 innings in his only season in the minors. Priester had a good chance of pitching at AA in 2020 if there was baseball in the minors.
His fastball has upper 90s upside with a pitching motion that should lead to excellent command. Priester has a plus curveball, and his sinker creates swings and misses at the bottom of the strike zone.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Once he develops his changeup, his ticket will be punched to Pittsburgh. Priester should develop into a major league ace. For now, he needs more experience in the minors, and the Pirates won’t push him too hard as they aren’t ready to compete for a championship.
CL Richard Rodriguez
Despite a 28-15 record with a 3.00 ERA, 415 strikeouts, and 14 saves over 405 innings, Rodriguez needed 10 years in the minors to secure a full time in the majors.
Over his last three seasons with the Pirates, he posted a 3.02 ERA and 185 strikeouts over 158 innings. In 2020, Rodriguez emerged as the late-season closer, leading to four saves in five chances.
Home runs were a problem in 2019 (14 over 65.1 innings), and he did allow three long balls over 23.1 innings last year.
His growth came from the best strikeout rate (13.1) and walk rate (1.9) of his career.
Rodriguez has a league-average fastball (93.1 MPH) while relying on a four-seam fastball (.229 BAA) and curveball (.091 BAA).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His short resume of success and battles with home runs may lead to job loss risk. Rodriguez stands tall in the offseason as Pittsburgh's lead closing option, but he still has to prove himself in spring training. His ADP (222) is much too high for me, but his possible handcuff looks free.
RP Kyle Crick
Last season Crick only made seven appearances due to a right shoulder injury and a lat issue. In his first four appearances after returning from the injured list, he tossed four shutout innings with two hits, one walk, and four strikeouts, which gave fantasy owners thoughts that he may earn saves down the stretch.
He struggled to throw strikes in his seven seasons in the minors (walk rate - 6.0), which led to him repeating AA in three different years. He has a career 3.37 ERA in the minors with 540 strikeouts in 478.2 innings, but he had tough sledding at AA (4.19 ERA and 6.7 walks per nine).
The move to the bullpen at AAA in 2017 seemed to unlock some of his command issues. Over 24 games, Crick had a 2.76 ERA and 39 strikeouts over 29.1 innings while having the lowest walk rate (4.0) of his career.
In 2018, his command had further growth (3.4 walks per nine) in the majors despite a weak first-pitch strike rate (52).
In 2019, Crick reverted to his minor league resume in walks (6.4 per nine) while adding disaster in home runs allowed (1.8 per nine).
His strikeout rate (11.2) did push even higher over the past two seasons.
Crick lost four MPH off his fastball (91.4 MPH) last year, most likely tied to his injuries. His slider (.144 BAA) has been the best pitch in his career.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His command paints him a trick rather than a treat feeling. He looks miles away from the 9th inning until he throws more strikes and regains his fastball.
RP Blake Cederlind
It took two quick seasons in the minors for the Pirates to move out of the starting rotation (7.04 ERA). In 2019, Cederlind started to hit his stride in the bullpen (5-2 with a 2.28 ERA, 55 strikeouts, and four saves over 59.1 innings).
Pittsburgh gave him five appearances in 2020, leading to a 4.50 ERA and four strikeouts over four innings.
His AFB came in at 98.7 MPH while only throw a cutter as his secondary pitch.
Over his four seasons in the minors, he had a 4.93 ERA, 178 strikeouts, and eight saves over 184.1 innings. His walk rate (4.5) was better in the bullpen in 2019 (3.6) while striking out 8.7 batters per nine innings.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: In 2021, Cederlind is an arm to follow, but it will take him some time to figure out how to throw enough quality strikes in the big moments of the game. If his cutter is for real, he may come arm quicker than expected. A spring training follow with Pittsburgh having weakness in the late innings of games.
2021 Fantasy Baseball Team Outlooks