Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Three Recent High School Draft Picks to Watch

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Pittsburgh Pirates
North Oconee’s Bubba Chandler throws a pitch during game one of a GHSA AAAA semifinal between Benedictine and North Oconee in Bogart, Ga., on Saturday, May 15, 2021. Benedictine defeated North Oconee twice in a doubleheader and advances to the state championship game.News Joshua L Jones /

Bubba Chandler

In my opinion, the most notable of these is Bubba Chandler. The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Chandler in the third-round of the 2021 draft and with the 72nd pick, but we’re looking at a guy who could have gone within the first 15 picks of the draft.

Chandler was a two-way high school star, one of the best high school players in the draft. Mainly a shortstop/right-handed pitcher, he was right up there with the Jordan Lawlar’s and Marcelo Mayer’s as the top high school picks. But he also committed to play football at Clemson, which led many teams to pass on him with the fear they couldn’t pry him away from his commitment. But the Pittsburgh Pirates were able to with a massive, $3 million signing bonus, just over $2 million more than his slot value.

Chandler is considered a 45+ FV prospect by FanGraphs at just 18-years-old. He has a strong pitching arsenal with a fastball that already averages 92-95 MPH but has topped out in the upper-90’s. Both FanGraphs (55) and MLB Pipeline (60) grade this as an above-average pitch. His curveball is another plus offering per both sources. He throws this in the upper-70’s. Between the two sources, Pipeline is more fond of this pitch with a 60-grade. But FanGraphs still sees it as a 55. His slider and change-up can be two more average offerings by MLB Pipeline. While FanGraphs doesn’t grade out a slider for the young right-hander, his change is an average pitch.

As a position player, he’s an athletic middle infielder with some pop. His hit tool is a bit fringy with a 45-grade. But he has decent power with MLB Pipeline grading it as a 50-tool. Chandler is fast enough to remain at shortstop with a 55-run grade. Obviously, he has a strong arm, but he’s a plus fielder (55).

As a hitter, he could develop into an Eduardo Escobar-type batter. Last three years he’s hit .254/.308/.470 with a .325 wOBA, 99 wRC+, and 63 home runs. While not outstanding numbers, he averages about 26 home runs per 600 plate appearances. Considering his athleticism and arm strength, he could move around the diamond, playing some second base, third base, and possibly some outfield. This would only add value as he’d probably primarily be used as a pitcher.

With four pitches that can be seen as average or better, he has the chance to be one of not one of Pittsburgh’s  best prospects, but one of the best prospects overall. The Pirates got a massive steal on Chandler as he was a projected top 15-20 pick in the draft and the Pirates got him in the third round. You shouldn’t set yourself up with Shohei Ohtani expectations for Chandler. But can he be a solid, Eduardo Escobar (lower BA/OBP, high SLG with 20+ HRS) type hitter while being an All-Star level pitcher? Absolutely. That’s more than enough grounds for him to be a top 50-30 pick.