Pittsburgh Pirates: Big Pitching Day In The Minors

BRADENTON, FLORIDA - MARCH 02: Max Kranick #67 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers during a spring training game at LECOM Park on March 02, 2021 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
BRADENTON, FLORIDA - MARCH 02: Max Kranick #67 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers during a spring training game at LECOM Park on March 02, 2021 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /
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Ben Cherington has really looked to develop a pitching pipeline for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. That will be on display today.

While the Pittsburgh Pirates are struggling at the Major League level, the minor leagues have been an area to watch.  Ben Cherington has been brought in to revamp the development of players, and the pitching side has been one to watch.  Since becoming Pirates General Manager, Cherington has acquired a lot of pitching prospects while hiring a new pitching coordinator.  Some of the improvements will be on display tonight.

When the Pirates took right handed starter Max Kranick in the 11th round in 2016, he was a high schooler who had high bonus demands.  After signing with the club, he has seen some injury problems but has since shortened the arm action and is throwing in the upper 90s.  He was added to the 40-man this offseason and looks to be a relief pitcher in the Majors.  FanGraphs ranked him the 38th best prospect in the organization and views him as an up/down pitcher given he doesn’t have a swing-and-miss pitch.  He will make his Triple-A debut with Indianapolis.

Roansy Contreras has started off hot since coming to the Pirates, and despite a poor start (four innings and five runs) his last time out, his ERA still sits at 2.08.  He has strikeout stuff and has shown good command, illustrating what the Pirates are now looking for in pitching.  If he keeps pitching well and keeps developing, he could see himself move up from Double-A Altoona to Triple-A soon.

Finally, in Greensboro, will be 2019 first round pick Quinn Priester.  Priester has struggled some, only having 14 strikeouts with seven walks, but he is the Pirates top pitching prospect.  He sits in the upper 90s, has clean mechanics, and a plus curveball.  In back-to-back starts he has allowed zero runs, so perhaps he is turning the corner.  As the last regime failed to develop their top pitching prospects, it is important for Cherington and the front office to get Priester right.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have focused on pitching since Cherington was hired.  They’ve acquired multiple pitchers in trades and five of their six draft picks were pitchers.  Additionally, the pitching development has been revamped.  Tonight that will all be on display with Kranick (new arm action) in Triple-A, Contreras (newly acquired) in Double-A, and Priester (top pitching prospect) in High-A all starting.

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