Pittsburgh Pirates: Young Arms Doing Well Throughout Farm System

Feb 24, 2021; Bradenton, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Roansy Contreras (59) warms up during spring training at Pirate City. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2021; Bradenton, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Roansy Contreras (59) warms up during spring training at Pirate City. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates have a lot of young and talented pitching in the minors, many of which are doing well

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a ton of young pitching throughout the minors. It’s one of their farm system’s biggest strengths. Not only do they have plenty of it, but most of their notable prospects are also doing well, or showing promise at their respective levels.

We all know how good right-hander Roansy Contreras is doing. In short, he’s been outstanding. Through 27.2 innings this year, Contreras holds a 1.63 ERA, 1.82 FIP and 0.75 WHIP. Contreras has seen his strikeout rate rise by nearly double compared to 2019. He had just a 21.1% strikeout rate when he was a New York Yankees prospect, but now he’s striking out batters at a 40.4% rate. He’s also seen a slight decrease in walk rate, having his walk rate from 6.7% to 5.8%. Contreras’s stuff has looked outstanding. He’s throwing into the upper-90s, his breaking ball is looking better, and his changeup has taken a step forward.

Highly touted 2016 second-round draft pick Travis MacGregor has exploded onto the scene. After missing 2019 because of Tommy John surgery. MacGregor started the 2021 season at Altoona, but he doesn’t look like he’s missed a step from 2019.

Through 13.2 innings, MacGregor has an outstanding 2.63 ERA, 2.31 FIP and 0.95 WHIP. Like Contreras, MacGregor has a strikeout rate above 40%, currently owning a 44.2% rate. He’s also only just a single home run and issued 4 walks. MacGregor hasn’t seen a massive improvement in his arsenal, but he’s been extremely effective. It’s a promising sign for the right-hander who’s playing his first season since Tommy John surgery.

Another highly touted prospect who’s been absolutely dominating is right-hander Carmen Mldozinski. Mlodzinski was the team’s first-round competitive balance pick. He’s started the year out at High-A and has allowed just a single earned run in 11.1 innings, with a 3.15 FIP and 0.74 WHIP. He’s struck out 42.9% of all the batters he’s faced and allowed just a single home run. His only weak point so far this year has been walks. He has a 14.3% walk rate and has always had some command inconsistencies. However it is his first professional season, and he’s only 22-years-old. He still has time to refine his control before getting to the Majors.

Mlodzinski isn’t the only pitcher dominating at High-A Greensboro. Right-hander Michael Burrows is also looking like one of the level’s aces. Burrows looks like he’s turning a corner in his career. He currently holds a 1.13 ERA, 2.22 FIP and a 0.68 WHIP through 16 innings. He’s added over 20% to his strikeout rate, sitting at 43.1%, compared to 22.3% in 2019, while reducing his walk rate to 8.6%. He only has gotten ground balls at a worryingly low 18.5% but has still only allowed a single long ball. Though that should improve over a larger amount of innings pitched.

Burrows has always been known as a high spin-rate pitcher, but he’s also added a bit of velocity to his arsenal. Burrows has never had big strikeout rates in the past before, so hopefully, he’s able to keep up what he’s doing now over the long term.

Colombian born right-hander Santiago Florez is another young arm turning a corner after a few so-so years in the minors. The big 6’5, 222-pound right-hander has a 2.04 ERA and FIP, and 0.85 WHIP through 17.2 innings. So far, he’s the only pitcher we’ve talked about today with a sub-40% strikeout rate, sitting with a 39.1% rate. But he’s been better at limiting walks this year with a 7.2% rate and hasn’t allowed a home run yet this year.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a ton of talent in the lower minors, but the upper minors still have a handful of pitchers who are doing well. One is Max Kranick. Kranick has a solid 3.48 ERA in 20.2 innings of work between Double-A and Triple-A but has a much better looking 3.21 FIP and a 0.96 WHIP. He’s struck out 22 batters while only walking 2, giving him an 11 K/BB ratio. Currently, that’s the highest mark among all 1309 minor league pitchers across any level with at least 10 innings thrown. It’s only been home runs that have come back to hurt the right-hander. He’s already surrendered 3 for a 1.3 HR/9 rate.

Starting pitchers haven’t been the only pitchers dominating throughout the minors. 5th round pick Logan Hofmann has pitched solely out of the bullpen as a multi-inning guy, tossing 13.1 innings in 6 games. He is carrying a 2.03 ERA, 2.34 FIP and 1.28 WHIP. He’s struck out 35% of the batters he’s faced and hasn’t allowed a home run. But walks have been a slight issue with a 10% rate, but it’s not been a huge issue for Hofmann. Plus he’s gotten ground balls at a solid 42.9% rate. Eventually, Hofmann could start making starts for Bradenton.

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Overall, it’s promising to see how well some of the young arms are doing throughout the minor leagues for the Pittsburgh Pirates. This was without mentioning the likes of Tahnaj Thomas, Quinn Priester, or Brennan Malone, who are still shaking some rust off from missing a full minor league season. All in all, it shows there’s a lot to be excited about in the near future.

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