The deadline for the Pirates to finalize their 40-man roster in order to protect players from the Rule 5 draft was 11/20 at 5 PM. This is the first roster move of Ben Cherington's time as Pirates' GM and it's a pretty interesting one.
There's no surprise in the five players the Pirates protected. We highlighted all five of them yesterday as players Cherington should protect. Those players were Ke'Bryan Hayes, Oniel Cruz, Will Craig, Blake Cederlind, and Cody Ponce. Like I said, no surprises there. The surprise for me was that they did not protect James Marvel.
Marvel split his 2019 between AA and AAA, but had similar, very good results between the two levels. He posted a 1.09 WHIP, and a 2.94 ERA in 2019 en-route to being named the Pirates' minor league pitcher of the year. At 26 years old, after the year he had, the majors is the next step. In other words, he's exactly the type of guy a team would target in the Rule 5 draft. So, the Pirates choosing to expose him to that possibility is interesting.
The other eye-brow-raiser yesterday was one of the corresponding moves to make room for one of the five players above - Dario Agrazal was designated for assignment. This was probably more of a surprise than exposing Marvel. Agrazal threw some good innings in Pittsburgh this season. He threw some bad ones too, but he's only 24 and still learning at the major league level.
Agrazal, like Marvel, doesn't have special stuff. He gets outs by pounding the strike zone, hoping for weak contact. He benefits from the pitch-to-contact style that Neal Huntington infamously swore by.
Both of these decisions were rather surprising ones for me, but looking at the similarities between the two pitchers unveils a possible organizational shift that has caused them to be downgraded by the new front office.
Agrazal worked almost exclusively with the sinker - using it 55% of the time (3x more than any other pitch). He threw his sinker for strikes 70% of the time and got a swing and miss on only 6% of those swung at. That all would be fine if Agrazal would continually keep his sinker low, but as we've seen from his time in Pittsburgh, he would let it creep up in the zone and it would get crushed.
Marvel's primary pitch is also the sinker. He threw it 33% of the time with very little swing and miss.
It could be that by discarding Marvel and Agrazal, Ben Cherington is subtlety declaring that the era of pitch-to-contact is gone with his predecessor.
I still think James Marvel and Dario Agrazal are among the 20 best pitchers in the organization and should be on the 40-man roster, but, if their departure means the Pirates' organization will stop ruining star pitchers by forcing them into a style that doesn't suit their strengths, I'm willing to accept that trade.
This all doesn't necessarily mean that either pitcher is necessarily gone. Agrazal would need to be claimed by another team and Marvel would need to be drafted in the Rule 5. That means a team would need to commit to him being a part of the 26-man roster for the entire season.
The Rule 5 draft is on December 12 this year. So, that is something to keep an eye on.
Follow Jared on Twitter: @a_piratelife