Pittsburgh Pirates: Examining a Minor League Rule 5 Draft Selection
By Noah Wright
The Pittsburgh Pirates added three players via the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. One of these three players was right-handed pitcher Jeffrey Passantino, what does he bring to the table?
The Pittsburgh Pirates added five different players in the Rule 5 Draft. They added two players via the Major League portion of the draft and three more in the minor league portion. One of those three players selected in the minor league portion of the draft was right-handed pitcher Jeffrey Passantino.
Passantino was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 40th round of the 2017 draft. He was the last pick in the draft, or Mr. Irrelevant, the nickname given to the final selection. Despite this he’s been a very productive arm at every level he’s pitched at.
With Lipscomb University, the 5-foot-9, 225 pound righty pitched to the tune of a 3.10 ERA, 2.72 FIP and 1.06 WHIP. His biggest strength was limiting walks with a walk rate of just 2.2%, but he also had a strong 0.6 HR/9 and solid 22.6% strikeout rate.
In the Cape Cod League he tossed 42 innings allowing just five runs, three of which were earned, on just three walks, 20 hits and striking out 39. Not only did he get the nod for the West in the Cape League All-Star game, but he won the B.F.C. Whitehouse Pitcher of the Year Award.
Professionally, Passantino has tossed 182 professional innings posting a 3.16 ERA, 2.79 FIP and 1.17 WHIP. He’s continued to show great control with an outstanding walk rate of just 3.9%. However, he’s seen his strikeout rate jump to 27.3%. He’s been used both out of the pen and the rotation with 18 starts in 52 games.
Passantino played across four levels of ball during 2019, ranging from High-A all the way to Triple-A. All told, the right hander had a 3.03 ERA, 2.82 FIP and 1.10 WHIP. He continued to show great control walking just 14 of the 355 batters he faced while having a strong strikeout rate of 29.3%. Home runs were a bit of an issue for the late-round draft pick with a 1.01 HR/9.
Passatino is a fly ball pitcher. His highest ground ball rate at a single level was 47.6% in a 20.1 inning sample size during 2017 at Rookie-Ball. Since then, he hasn’t reached a rate above 40%.
His arsenal consists of a cut-fastball, slider, curveball and change up. Passatino barely touches 90 MPH as his cutter averages out in the mid-80s, but he has fantastic command as evident by his walk rate. His curve sits in the mid-70s with his slider in the upper-70s. His change up comes in the low-80s. Despite his low velocity, he still gets outs.
Passatino has had to work hard for every chance he’s gotten and has outperformed everyone’s expectations. He’s not a big time flamethrower and he gets by with a mid-80s fastball, but that fastball has helped him record a well above average ERA and K/BB ratio nearing 7. He’ll start out the year with the Indianapolis Indians. That said, he will be on the door step of MLB and could see some time with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season if things go sideways in terms of injuries and/or performances from their pitching staff.