Pittsburgh Pirates: Examining Potential Swingman Pitching Prospects

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Pittsburgh Pirates
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Austin Roberts

Austin Roberts was one of the names that wasn’t talked about all that much this year. He spent most of his 2021 campaign at High-A Greensboro where he had a 4.55 ERA, 5.05 FIP, and 1.36 WHIP in 65 innings of work. Roberts struck out a ton of batters without allowing too many free passes. He had a 34.9% strikeout rate and an 8.8% walk rate. But home runs were his kryptonite.

He had a 2.07 HR/9 and was a big flyball pitcher. Roberts had a 45.2% fly all rate and ground ball rate of just 32.3%. These numbers were almost reversed in 2019 when he had a 33% fly ball rate and 48.1% ground ball rate. Regardless, his 21.4% HR/FB rate is a tad unlucky. He had a solid 4.04 xFIP, which was over a whole point lower than his actual FIP. He also had a batting average on balls in play of nearly .350.

Roberts throws three pitches; a four-seam fastball, curveball, and change-up. The last of that trio is considered one of the best change-ups in the Pirates’ system. It currently sits at a 55-grade offering and projects to be a 60-grade pitch. During 2020 instructs, Robers saw an uptick in velocity, working around 93-95 MPH. This is another pitch that FanGraphs views with above-average potential (55-projected). His slider is a third offering that is considered at least average.

Despite pitching 65 innings, he only appeared out of the pen 39 times. He also pitched 1.1 more innings in one outing at Triple-A. All but 14 of his 39 outings lasted one inning or less. In 2019, he made 15 total appearances with 5 starts, though all but 5 of his outings lasted less than 2 innings. With his workload, Roberts could be the kind of pitcher who works 10 starts a season with 40 more appearances out of the bullpen.