Could a member of the 2020 draft class find themselves in the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation by the end of the 2022 season? It certainly seems possible.
With the 31st overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft the Pittsburgh Pirates selected right-handed pitcher Carmen Mlodzinski out of the University of South Carolina. Mlodzinski came to he Pirate following an up-and-down career with the Gamecocks, but a strong showing in the 2019 Cape Cod League.
Mlodzinski posted a 2.15 ERA in 29.1 innings pitched in the Cape Cod League in 2019. His 29.1 innings pitched came across 6 starts. He allowed just 15 hits, a single home run, walked 4 batters and struck out a whopping 40 in these 29.1 innings of work.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the 2020 minor league season, Mlodzinski was not able to make his professional debut until 2021. Once he made his professional debut, however, he was able to start to turn heads and impress.
With the High-A Greensboro Grasshoppers Mlodzinski made 14 starts in 2021 pitching 50.1 innings. He posted a 3.93 ERA, 4.34 FIP, 9.4% walk rate and a strong 30.0% strikeout rate. He allowed 7 home runs, hit a pair of batters and limited the opposition to just 45 base hits.
The 22-year-old Mlodzinski did, however, also spend time on the injured list in 2021. A shoulder injury landed Mlodzinski on the minor league IL on June 10th. He would remain on the IL until he returned to the mound for the Grasshoppers on August 15th.
In a move that was likely done to get Mlodzinski an extra outing after the completion of the High-A and Double-A seasons, he also made his Triple-A debut in late September. In his lone outing with the Indianapolis Indians the righty allowed 1 earned run on 3 hits, 2 walks and 2 strikeouts in 2 innings pitched.
While Mlodzinski will likely start the 2022 season with Double-A Altoona, he is clearly a prospect the Pittsburgh Pirates are looking to move quickly. This should lead to him making it back to Indianapolis sooner rather than later next season. It also raises the question, can Mlodzinski make his MLB debut in 2022?
The short answer is simply yes. Mlodzinski has the tools needed to be a quality MLB starting pitcher. With the Pirate rotation entering the offseason field with question marks, it would not be a surprise to see the Pirates look to rely on a lot of young arms in 2022.
Outside of Bryse Wilson and Miguel Yajure there likely are no locks to start the 2022 season as members of the starting rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team will add starting pitching help this offseason, but odds are none of those additions will be viewed as long-term answers. Instead, they will be short-term answers to bridge the gap to guys like Mlodzinski.
Regardless of where Mlodzinski starts the 2022 season, if he pitches well, it is a strong possibility he finishes the season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. This will just be another move that will make the light at the end of the tunnel that is the Pirate rebuild brighter.
Partially due to missing over two months of action with his shoulder issue, Mlodzinski is now pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Thus far Mlodzinski has pitched in 2 games for the Peoria Javelinas. Mlodzinski has allowed 1 run on 3 hits, no walks and 2 strikeouts in 3.1 innings pitched for the Javelinas.
Even without missing time Mlodzinski may have found himself pitching in the AFL. Pitching the AFL is a great way for young pitchers to get additional work, especially a pitcher like Mlodzinski who the Pittsburgh Pirates could be aiming for making his MLB debut during the 2022 season. The experience Mlodzinski will gain pitching in the AFL will be nothing short of beneficial.