Minnesota Should Plunder Another Pirates Pitcher
Image courtesy of © Ken Blaze-USA TODAY SportsAs a former first round pick, Musgrove is now a part of his third organization. Drafted by the Blue Jays in 2011, he was dealt to the Houston Astros prior to now having spent the bulk of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The career 4.33 ERA doesn’t do much to jump off the page, but as a guy about to enter his age 28 season with two more years of team control, a prime before the breakout could be just the recipe for a strong organization to exploit.
Since joining the Pirates in 2018 Musgrove has compiled a 4.23 ERA. In those three seasons however, he’s posted FIP’s of 3.58, 3.82, and 3.42, respectively. The strikeout rates have risen each year going from 7.8 in 2018 to 12.5 in what was a muted 2020 season. He’s generally been a guy that’s tough on free passes, middle of the road when it comes to the longball, and relatively difficult to generate base hits.
Taking a look at some of the deeper dive numbers, there’s even more to like with Musgrove. He posted a career best 3.19 xFIP in 2020 while still holding onto a consistent 93 mph average fastball velocity. He gave up a career low 24% hard hit rate this past season and the 48% ground ball rate is plenty productive. Missing barrels is something he’s done often throughout his career and generating a new career high 14.4% whiff rate this season was nice to see as well.
Musgrove doesn’t rely a ton on deception. In each of his five big league seasons he’s been right around a 33% chase rate. Rather than forcing batters out of the zone, he’s been able to confuse them within it. Despite the rising swinging strike rates, he hasn’t done it as a by-product of his zone profile. Opposing hitters have generated less overall contact and suffered a career worst contact within the strike zone against Musgrove this past season.
Clearly some of the developments Musgrove has experienced are helping take his game to new heights. Seeing what some of his counterparts have experienced when going to more well-regarded organizations, however, begs the question if there’s not more to be unearthed. Minnesota’s brain trust, and the tutelage of Wes Johnson could be the thing that takes him to the highest level.
Pitching doesn’t come cheap, and a guy with team control still in arbitration isn’t going to be had for nothing. Expecting the Pirates to continue making the same missteps on the swap front also isn’t a good plan of action. On the basis of its own merit however, finding an amicable deal for both sides is certainly a worthy venture.
A lot of how Minnesota sets themselves up for 2021 will be reliant upon what internal decisions the organization makes. After all, the 2020 club was very good and simply fell short of even moderate expectations at the worst time. The turnaround in that performance needs to come from within. On the mound though, there’s now some holes and openings that need to be filled. Addressing at least one of them with an arm this good, and a possibility to be even better, would be a great place to start.
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