Pittsburgh Pirates: Duane Underwood Jr Proving Himself


The Pittsburgh Pirates, in the midst of their rebuild, acquired Duane Underwood Jr. to provide depth to their pitching staff.  He has proven himself so far and might be getting a chance to see himself get a start.

The Pittsburgh Pirates had the worst record last season and were projected to be in contention to have the first pick in the 2022 MLB Draft as well.  With the club rebuilding and shipping off two members of the starting rotation in Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon, the club needed to add depth to the organization.  The Pirates did just that by trading for right-handed pitcher Duane Underwood Jr., then of the Chicago Cubs.

Underwood was a starting pitching prospect who was once a top 100 prospect per MLB Pipeline, as the former second-round pick throwing in the mid to upper 90s with a curveball and a changeup.  So far in 2021, he has posted a 2.25 ERA and 1.18 FIP with a 36.5 percent strikeout rate and 7.7 percent walk rate, showing off what once made him an intriguing prospect.

With the Pirates not expected to compete, the club has been able to utilize him in different roles out of the bullpen, pitching in some low and medium-leverage innings.  He has been successful and has shown that ability to miss bats and throw strikes.  With the injury to Chad Kuhl, could this open the door for Underwood to get some starts if Wil Crowe doesn’t pitch well in his first start as a Pirate this afternoon?

Despite making only one career start at the Major League level, Underwood made 10 starts in 2019 and 21 starts in 2018, having that background to provide multiple innings.  While the Pirates used Tyler Glasnow in the bullpen with the hopes to translate him back to the starting rotation, perhaps the club will look to do that with Underwood.  There’s been plenty of pitchers who have shown quality stuff but had some question marks, first settling into the big leagues as a reliever.

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With his stuff and what he’s shown, and the club not expected to compete, this would be the perfect time to give Underwood a crack at making a start or two and to test his stuff in an extended look.  If the Pirates can get a quality backend starter out of him, that would be an organizational victory.  He’s looked good in the low and medium leverage situations and perhaps that is his final home, but he’s starting to prove himself this season and the Pirates shouldn’t be afraid to see how he looks as a starter.