Pittsburgh Pirates: Two Potential Relief Pitching Prospects

(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a rebuilt farm system that now ranks in the top five by multiple organizations. They have two potential under the radar relief pitching prospects.

In Neal Huntington’s final draft, the club took Quinn Priester with the first pick. While he is the team’s top pitching prospect, the Pittsburgh Pirates also drafted two relief pitching prospects who could be fast rising. Fifth round pick Grant Ford and tenth round pick Cameron Junker are off to solid starts. SS relief pitching prospects, they could move through the system quickly and pitch in the bullpen sooner rather than later.

Ford, a pitcher from Nevada, has split time between the bullpen and rotation, throwing 58.2 innings this season. In those innings, he’s struck out 28.4 percent of hitters, and despite the previous regime drafting him, he has only a 34.2 percent ground ball rate. Despite his 4.76 ERA, the strikeouts are encouraging. He has pitched in the rotation since June 27th, but still projects more as a middle relief pitcher. If he can get his command under control, despite the good walk rate he has five hit batters and 10 wild pitches, the strikeout stuff should enable a fast mover as he’s currently in High-A.

At the time of the draft, Baseball America wrote that he sits mid 90s with an upper 80s slider. Given those are his two best pitches, a move to the pen would make sense. His starter experience could also enable him to be a multi inning relief pitcher for the club.

Cameron Junker is a right handed pitcher out of Notre Dame. In his first season in 2019, he struck out 43.3 percent of batters and had a 1.29 ERA and really good advanced metrics, posting a 1.37 FIP. This season in A ball and High A, he has continued to strikeout a fair share of batters, at a rate of 38.6 percent. The problem, however, is the 15 percent walk rate. If his command improves, he should be able to increase the strikeout rate. Unlike Ford, Junker has strictly pitched out of the bullpen in the Pirates organization.

His big 6’5” and 220 pound frame for the previous regime’s mold. He sits mid 90s with a slider but has the frame to add more velo. With a new front office in place and a higher emphasis on analytics and player development, Junker could be a late bloomer out of the pen. The big question will be the command because his strikeout rates have always been there.

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Grant Ford and Cameron Junker do not appear on any prospect lists, but they’re two pitchers taken in 2019 who have missed bats. Both pitchers need more work with their command. However, given they’re relief pitching prospects, Ford and Junker are names to keep an eye on as potential fast risers.