Thursday, December 20, 2012

Southpaw Special

Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Luis Heredia have several notable commonalities.  They are the top three pitching prospects in the Pirates farm system.  All three have ace upside.  In addition, all three are right handed.  Earlier this off season, the Pirates added a lefty with upside to compliment the Cole-Taillon-Heredia trio.  They shipped minor-league catcher Ramon Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for former top prospect and southpaw pitcher Andy Oliver.

Oliver immediately will figure into the Pirates rotation plans this coming year.  Only twenty-five - Oliver's birthday was in early December - the former second round pick by the Tigers has a top-of-the-rotation fastball.   Currently, his secondaries and command lag behind.  It's unclear what the Pirates will do with Oliver.  Most likely, they will let him try his hand at starting and give him a fighting chance to make the big league rotation.  If Oliver doesn't succeed at that, he has an option and most likely will get some time in the Indianapolis rotation.

Overall, Andy Oliver is a nice pickup.  If he figures certain things out - namely command and adding secondary pitches - he could end up as a mid-rotation starter.  That would be especially nice since his left-handedness could compliment a rotation of Cole, Taillon, and Heredia.  Even if Oliver fails to transform himself into a starter, he could be a useful bullpen piece due to his impressive fastball.  Finally, if he completely washes out, the Pirates only gave up Ramon Cabrera - a decent, but far from elite catching prospect - to give Oliver a chance, a worthwhile gamble for the Pirates.