The Pirates have selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Kyle Nicolas, the team announced. In corresponding moves, fellow right-hander Thomas Hatch has been optioned to Triple-A, while Andrew McCutchen has been transferred to the 60-day injured list.
The 24-year-old Nicolas came to Pittsburgh in 2021 as part of the trade that sent Jacob Stallings to Miami. Primarily a starting pitcher during his first two years in the minors, he transitioned to a relief role this summer. By and large, he has performed much better out of the bullpen, albeit in a limited sample size. From August 1 to September 13, he pitched 21 innings in relief, posting a 2.14 ERA and striking out an incredible 30 batters.
Entering the season, both Baseball America and FanGraphs ranked Nicolas as the no. 14 prospect in the Pirates system. The evaluators at Baseball America praised his powerful fastball, while those at FanGraphs were more impressed with his consistent command. However, it should be said that both sources were assessing his body of work as a starter. Thus far, he has looked more like a power pitcher out of the bullpen, with an impressive 36.8% strikeout rate but a less-than-ideal 11.4% walk rate.
After four years in the Blue Jays organization, Hatch was designated for assignment this August. The Pirates quickly scooped him up and added the right-handed to the active roster. In 12 appearances for Pittsburgh, the 28-year-old pitched to a 4.03 ERA and a 4.49 SIERA, nothing spectacular, but perfectly serviceable numbers for a long reliever. Still, it’s understandable why the Pirates would be more interested in the potential that Nicolas brings. It’s far more likely that the youngster plays a significant role in next year’s bullpen.
As for McCutchen, his move to the 60-day IL is nothing more than a formality. The veteran tore his left Achilles tendon earlier this month, ending his 2023 campaign. According to Pirates general manager Ben Cherington, the team believes McCutchen will be back on the field in 2024, and the two sides have agreed to discuss a contract for next year during the offseason.