It’s safe to say Pirate fans weren’t thrilled when Neal Huntington traded hometown hero Neil Walker to the Mets for a 29 year old pitcher who was being pushed to the Mets’ bullpen. But what’s done is done. Niese does fit in well with this rotation, but having him at the three spot is too high.
The left hander does offer a high ground ball rate and pitches to contact. He’s not going to strike out too many batters and he’ll give up home runs. Last year he gave up a career high 14.3% home run per fly ball rate. Playing at PNC Park should lower that a bit and the shift-heavy Clint Hurdle will be sure to put the Bucs’ defense in a good position to make a play.
I think Pirate fans will be pleasantly surprised with Niese this season, but the idea of this guy starting in a playoff series is terrifying. Even if this was the best option they could have gotten in a Neil Walker deal, they should have done more in free agency. I expect double digit wins and an ERA around 3.95 for Niese and those would be excellent numbers for a number four starter. It’s unfortunate he won’t be used in that role.
Next: Jeff Locke