Pittsburgh Pirates: Checkup on Baz, Jennings, and Bolton

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

With the minor league seasons coming to an end, let us take a look at how some of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2017 prep pitchers have closed out the year.

Over the last two seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates have invested heavily in the prep starting pitching market.  Last year it was Travis MacGregor, Braeden Ogle, and Max Kranick.  This year’s draft class was led by Shane Baz, Steven Jennings, and Cody Bolton.

Shane Baz

The Pittsburgh Pirates prized prospect from this year’s draft class was number 12 overall pick Shane Baz.  The Texas native was viewed as the second best right-handed pitching prospect in the draft.  This was mainly because he already possesses multiple pitches that project to be plus pitches.  Through his first four starts, Baz posted strong numbers including an ERA of 2.08. However, he had hit a rough patch toward the end of July.

He had one start on the 26th of July when he gave up four earned runs in 2.1 innings.  He followed that start up with a scoreless three inning start.  Although he did not give up any runs in that start, he did yield five hits in those three innings.  Then once again Baz had a tough start giving up three earned runs in 0.2 innings of work.  In that start, he gave up three hits, two walks, and a home run.  Baz saw his ERA balloon from 2.08 to 5.52.  Since then he has settled down, lowering his ERA to 3.80 over his last three starts.  On the year he has punched out 19 batters while walking 14 in his 23.1 innings of work.

Steven Jennings

Jennings would have been a first round pick if it were not for having knee surgery late last fall.  Due to this, the Bucs were able to grab him with their number 42 overall pick.  The right hander from California has made nine total starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates Gulf Coast affiliate.  In those nine starts, he has posted a 2.24 earned run average.  He has accumulated 23.1 innings, but he has had trouble striking out hitters putting up only 12 strike outs.  He has allowed entirely too many base runners in his début season, allowing 40 men to reach base in those 23.1 innings.  One positive note is that Jennings has done a good job of producing ground balls.  For the year, Jennings has a 1.71 ground out to air out ratio.  This could suggest that Jennings is pitching to contact, and perhaps explains why he is giving up a lot of base runners.

Cody Bolton

The Pittsburgh Pirates sixth round pick was considered one of the harder signs in the Pittsburgh Pirates draft class this year.  Like Baz and Jennings, Bolton also pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates Gulf Coast team.  Of the three arms, he has had the best results.  The former Michigan commit has made eight starts in his first professional season.  For the year he has accumulated 22.2 innings with a 2.78 ERA.  He also has the best strikeout to walk ratio by punching out 19 batters and only walking seven.  One area that may cause some concern is that he is only producing 0.85 ground outs to air outs.  The Bucs like their pitchers to produce ground balls, something that Bolton needs to improve on.

Next: Sadler to AAA

All three pitchers have only thrown just over 20 innings this year, so they are working with a small sample size.  Outside of two bad starts, Baz has lived up to the expectations in his first taste of professional baseball.  Jennings numbers are not the best, but he can also be given a pass as he is still recovering from his knee surgery.  Hopefully, next year he will be 100 percent healthy.  Now this is not suggesting his knee is banged up, but he likely had a different offseason of preparation last year compared to the other two pitchers.  Bolton was given an above slot bonus and has the numbers to back up the deal.  It will be interesting to see how these three progress into next year.