Pittsburgh Pirates Shooting For Upside With Pitching Additions

By Thom Tsang
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

A.J. Burnett. James McDonald. Francisco Liriano. Wandy Rodriguez. Jonathan Sanchez.

If the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ recent additions to their pitching staff ends up working out in the rotation, they might have one of the most notable risk/reward rotations in the league in recent years.

Outside of Wandy, who is easily the most reliable pitcher of the group, the four other pitchers that will be with the team in Spring Training have had more ups and downs between them than what you’d find at your average amusement park.

Burnett, a two-time World Series champion, and has long held the reputation of being the most inconsistent pitcher with some of the best stuff in the game. He was a star with the New York Yankees, before being chased out of town as a bum.

For a good half of last year, McDonald was one of the very best starting pitchers in the game; in the second half, he was arguably the very worst.

Then there’s Liriano, who is only two years removed from a 6.0 fWAR, 191.2 IP season, only to follow it up with a pair of seasons with a 5.00+ ERA, and was relegated to relief at one point.

Finally, the team’s latest addition Sanchez, a long-time top pitching prospect for the San Francisco Giants, made a name for himself in the big leagues in 2009 with a no-hitter. He was poised to be a star before injuries messed with his mechanics and velocity, and he found himself having to take a minor league deal Pirates only days ago.

It s rag-tag group of guys who have been at the top and have hit rock bottom, but what they lack in certainty and consistency, they give back in upside.

And that upside is massive. The Pirates may be shooting for the gold here as far as putting together their pitching staff goes, but in an ideal-world scenario, there’s enough talent here for be one of the best starting rotations in the league.

Sure, a lot of things would have to go right, and odds are that they won’t all do so; but, given the type of constraints that the franchise has to deal with as far as acquiring talent goes, that they’ve put together a sneakily talent-rich group in the off season is impressive.

with a under-the-radar batting lineup that includes a potential for 60 homers between Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones, the Pirates offense may be better than you think.

If Liriano and Sanchez can a way to return to form, that will go for their pitching staff as well.

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