Wednesday afternoon the Pittsburgh Pirates signed reliever Chase De Jong to a minor league contract, let’s examine what he brings to the table for the Bucs
The Pittsburgh Pirates inked right-handed pitcher Chase De Jong to a minor league contract on Wednesday. De Jong has pitched in the Majors in each of the last four seasons. One of these seasons was with the Seattle Mariners, two with Minneosta Twins and one with the Houston Astros.
De Jong has logged 54.1 innings in his MLB career. He has posted a 7.12 ERA, 6.00 FIP, 10.6% walk rate, and a 14.2% strikeout rate. He’s allowed home runs at 1.82 HR/9 clip. De Jong’s results have come in 15 games, 10 of which were starts.
One thing De Jong has done well in his MLB career is limit hard contact. His career opposing exit velocity against is 88.9 MPH, which is league average. Meanwhile, his hard hit rate is a better than league average 32.2%.
The 27-year-old De Jong was the 81st overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. De Jong has four pitch mix. These four pitches are a four-seamed fastball, curveball, slider, and a change up.
Anyone who reads Rum Bunter regularly, listens to the podcast, or simply follows the Pittsburgh Pirates, knows that pitching coach Oscar Marin is a big fan of pitchers who throw a curveball.
Last season, De Jong’s cruveball had a spin rate of just 2583 which was in the 22nd percentile in baseball. This was an improvement over a 2308 spin rate during the 2019 season. So while De Jong throws a curveball, it appears to be a pitch that needs to improve. Odds are, Marin and the Pittsburgh Pirates will work with De Jong to improve his curveball in Spring Training and beyond.
While it could use some improvement, De Jong’s curveball was still his best pitch during the 2020 season. Opposing batters slugged just .375 against the pitch to go with a 61.5% whiff rate. Opponents slugged .615 off his fastball, .667 off his slider and .500 off his change up. While slider produced a 53.3% whiff rate, neither of his other two pitches had a whiff rate over 17%.
While De Jong was signed on a minor league deal he will be given an opportunity to make the Pirate roster out of Spring Training. This could be as a reliever or potentially even as a starting pitcher.
That said, odds are, De Jong will begin the 2021 season at the Triple-A level. The most likely outcome for De Jong to start 2021 would appear to be a spot in the starting rotation for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians. As a depth option for the Pirates there is a good shot that De Jong will get an opportunity at the Major League level at some point during the 2021 season.