The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had many good, consistent lefty starting pitcher throughout franchise history, but Anthony Solometo could change that.
The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had many dominant left-handed starting pitchers in their history. When MLB ranked the all-time top 5 Pirate lefty starters, three of the five starters’ careers started or ended before, during, or within 10 years after World War I ended. The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates had a lefty starter with at least two above-average seasons was Francisco Liriano.
Due to a pick made in the 2021 MLB Draft the Pittsburgh Pirates could change this within the near future. With the first pick in the second-round, and the 37th overall selection, the team chose to go with high school lefty Anthony Solometo. Solometo may not have been as highly touted as Kumar Rocker or Jack Leiter going into the draft, but he has ace potential nonetheless.
Solometo was arguably the best prep left-hander going into the draft, and overall a top 10 prep pitcher available. The southpaw went to Bishop Eustace Preparatory School, located in New Jersey. Some even saw him going late into the first round. FanGraphs had him as the 34th best prospect available while MLB Pipeline was even more bullish on him. They ranked him as the 17th best prospect available.
Solometo arrived at the Pirates with a three-pitch arsenal. He throws his four-seam fastball in the low-90’s, averaging out around 90-93 MPH, but he topped out at 94 MPH. He also has a slider and change-up. None of his offerings project as below average currently. He also has average or better spin on his fastball and slider.
The attraction to Solometo is his command and his ability to keep batters off balance because of his wind-up and delivery. Only Gunnar Hoglund went into the draft with higher projected command. Still, Solometo is currently projected to locate his pitches at a 60-grade level, and could eventually reach into elite territory.
The wind-up and delivery are what make Solometo such an interesting arm to watch. Personally, I see something similar to former Florida Marlins ace Dontrell Willis but with a slightly lower leg kick.
Many have drawn the comparison to Madison Bumgarner given his similar delivery and arm slot. Like with both Willis and Bumgarner, Solometo doesn’t rely on big velocity, rather a strong breaking ball and outstanding command to get outs.
Though that’s not to say that Solometo will be a soft-tosser. He’s already hitting 90-93 on average and touching 94 MPH. That’s before he even turns 19-years-old. Currently, he has a large 6’5″, 220-pound frame, the same identical height and weight MLB listed for the aforementioned Madison Bumgarner when he was a draft prospect back in 2007. In two to three years when Solometo is 21-22 years old, he could come in around 225-230 pounds and add another tick or two of velocity. I don’t think it’s out of the question that by the time he’s that age, he’s averaging 92-94 MPH and topping out at 95 MPH. Pretty good velocity for a lefty with that kind of wind-up, delivery, and arm slot.
Solometo is one of the most talented pitching prospects in the system. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s a top 100 prospect at the end of 2023. His deception, command, and overall strong arsenal of offerings give him the ceiling of an ace starter. A lefty that the Pirates can rely on for multiple years out of the rotation is something they haven’t had the luxury of throughout a good portion of their franchise’s history. Solometo could break that trend.