Keep an Eye on Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Pedro Vasquez This Summer


One of the more unheralded prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates system is Pedro Vaszquez, who you should keep tabs on this upcoming season

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a handful of young starting pitchers that are rising through the minors. Most, like Mitch Keller, Quinn Priester, and Cody Bolton are getting most of the attention. Even J.T. Brubaker, who I consider one of the most underrated pitching prospects in the Pirates’ system, gets more attention. But right hander Pedro Vasquez has been rising through the Pirates system since arriving in 2016 and he is a name fans should follow this season.

Vasquez was acquired by the Pirates back in August 2016 from the swap that saw right-handed flame thrower Arquimedes Caminero head to the Seattle Mariners for Vasquez and Jake Brentz. Vasquez immediately made an impact in 2017. At High-A Bradenton the right-handed prospect tossed 137.2 innings, producing overall solid numbers. Those include a 3.73 ERA, 3.86 FIP, and a 1.19WHIP. He showed he was great at locating pitches in the zone, indicated by his 1.99 BB/9, and 0.8 HR/9 rates.

Vasquez did struggle the following season, but some of his struggles could be accounted for because he was injured. He missed nearly a month because of a forearm strain, and was limited to just 19 total games and 89 innings of work. But he came back big time last season with the Double-A Altoona Curve.

Vasquez threw a total of 123 innings at the Double-A level in 2019 and produced his best results yet. He yielded just 37 earned runs, resulting in a 2.71 ERA. He continued to show he was a control master, walking just 2.1 batters per 9, having a 5.8% walk rate (12th lowest at the Double-A level), and giving up only eight home runs. His FIP sat at a 3.34, which was the best of his career in a season where he pitched at least 100 innings. While he did struggle with Triple-A Indianapolis, it was just a 9.1 inning sample size. So, don’t look too much into it.

Vasquez is not a pitcher who will overpower batters to get outs. He only has a career 6.8 K/9, and it has not ever exceeded 7.0 in a single season. His fastball sits in the low-90’s, mainly staying in the 90-93 range. He is comparable to a Dallas Keuchel in terms of stuff and bottom line minor league numbers.

Keuchel always carried a low walk rate and a low strikeout rate while working in the high-80’s. However, it seemed to work out well for him, as he generated a solid ERA and FIP numbers. But unlike Keuchel, the Pirates’ prospect doesn’t induce nearly as many ground balls. While Keuchel usually sat above the 50% mark, Vasquez really hasn’t been a ground ball pitcher. Despite his low home run rate Vasquez is a fly ball pitcher. He had a 53.1% flyball rate last season. Although that’s a fairly high rate for him, as his fly ball percentage never been above 45 in the past seasons, he still had a low home run rate, so when he was giving up fly balls, they weren’t hit hard. This is a fairly good feat, considering that Altoona’s stadium has similar dimensions to one of the most notorious hitter friendly parks in the Majors, Great American Ball Park. Regardless, I’d expect his ground ball rate to go down next season.

Vasquez also works with two other pitches. He carries a slider and change up, but both are given just average grades by FanGraphs. So he will have to focus on being good at locating pitches, more specifically his fastball, and inducing weak contact to get outs, which is something he has shown he can do.

I think a very apt comparison to his future outlook is Bartolo Colon’s tenure with the Mets. Colon’s fastball only averaged about 88 MPH, and never really went above the low-90’s during his time in New York. But despite this, he still used the pitch 85.2% of the time. Literally no other pitcher threw a fastball more than Colon did between 2014 and 2016 even though he never touched the mid-90’s. Like Vasquez, Colon also didn’t induce many ground balls, as his 41.4% ground ball rate was around average, nor was his strikeout rate really impressive (6.3 K/9). He walked just 1.3 batters per 9, resulting in a 4.8 K/BB ratio. However despite Colon throwing in the high-80’s, low-90’s, his bottom line results were still solid. He finished up the three-year tenure with a 3.90 ERA, 3.79 FIP, and 1.23 WHIP.

Next. Tucker Making Things Difficult for the Pirates. dark

Next season, Vasquez should start the year in Triple-A. After all, he does not have much left to prove at any other level. Despite him being lower on the overall depth chart, and not even being on the 40-man roster, injuries will always occur. Last season, Joe Musgrove was the only Pirates’ pitcher with at least 30 games started, and 150 innings pitched. Plus Vasquez is a very durable starter, averaging 5.2 innings a start. Depth will always come into play, especially for a team like the Pirates who are in a rebuilding phase, and Vasquez has a higher ceiling than the likes of Dario Agrazal, Alex McRae, Rookie Davis, or James Marvel. All four of which were depth pieces that were thrown into a semi-regular role at some point during the 2019 season.