Pittsburgh Pirates Draft: College Pitcher to Watch


The Pittsburgh Pirates may have the opportunity to draft one of the most electric arms the MLB draft has ever seen in this year’s draft.

If you’ve paid attention to any college baseball this year, you’ve heard of Ben Joyce. The man hit 105.5 MPH, the hardest thrown pitch in college baseball history. Heck, it’s the hardest pitch thrown based on modern pitch tracking data. Aroldis Chapman’s 105.1 MPH fastball is the hardest thrown pitch recorded in the MLB.

To say that Ben Joyce has a big fastball would be the understatement of the year. He has a titanic fastball. Joyce will enter the MLB draft this year and will surely get plenty of attention. However, should the Pittsburgh Pirates consider taking the flamethrower with the 83rd pick?

This year, the University of Tennessee product has pitched 22 innings, allowing just 3 earned runs. That leaves him with a 1.23 ERA. He hasn’t been super home run prone either, with just two long balls allowed. With a big fastball usually comes big strikeout rates, and Joyce has a 45.9% strikeout rate. You know what’s even better than a strikeout rate over 45% and a fastball that consistently averages out at 103 MPH? Having both and a sub-10% walk rate. Joyce has a rock-solid 8.2% walk rate. He’s only allowed seven batters to reach via free pass.

Now everyone loves to watch Ben Joyce throw the 103 MPH cheese past batters, but he has a sneaky slider that he can take a lot off of to catch batters off guard. He doesn’t have pinpoint command, but based on his walk rate, he isn’t missing his spots to the point it becomes extremely exploitable. Heck, he’d still be effective even if he had a 10% walk rate. But the fact he has a walk rate in the low 8’s makes it much more promising.

Joyce also changed his workout routine to help his longevity. When he had Tommy John surgery, he was mainly doing heavy weight lifting and putting mobility on the backburner. Now, he heavily incorporates mobility workouts, which is one of the main reasons for his velo. Pre-Tommy John Surgery, he was hitting around 96-98. Now he consistently hits 101-103 MPH (Per Ben Brewster https://twitter.com/TreadAthletics/status/1523073136262103043).

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It should go without saying that Joyce is a relief pitching prospect through-and-through. That might be the only reason he falls past the first round. But Joyce is arguably a Major League ready reliever. If he sharpens up his command, just a little, he might just end up as a top 3 reliever in the game. Relievers might not be super valuable in the draft, but there’s never been a relief draft prospect like Joyce.