Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Addresses Need for Pitching

Aug 11, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington (left) talks with manager Derek Shelton (right) during batting practice before the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 11, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington (left) talks with manager Derek Shelton (right) during batting practice before the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates need pitching help in the upper minors and in the majors ASAP, and Ben Cherington’s draft strategy could help address this need

Since becoming the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ben Cherington has done a good job of adding talent to their farm system. Under Cherington’s watch the Pirate farm system has become an unanimous top 10 farm system, including being a top 5 system by most publications.

That said, there has been one major issue for Cherington. What is that issue? Well, he has struggled to add quality pitching to the farm system. Outside of Roansy Contreras, Cherington has failed to land any legitimate starting pitching prospects in all of the trades he has made.

The draft has been a little more kind to Cherington. Jared Jones has the potential to be a quality MLB starting pitcher but he has little control of his stuff. As for the 2021 draft, Tyler Samaniego looks like a strong relief pitching prospect, and, while they are still quite a few years away, both Anthony Solometo and Bubba Chandler look like potential top of the rotation arms.

While there could be some intriguing arms in the lower minor league levels in Jones, Chandler, and Solometo, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in need of pitching help in the major leagues ASAP. One way this can be addressed via the draft is by go college pitcher heavy, which is exactly what Cherington has done through the first two days of the MLB Draft.

Compensation pick Thomas Harrington has the tools needed to be a quality starting pitcher at the major league level. He also looks like a prospect who could rise through the minor leagues quickly and be a member of the Pirate rotation in the next 1-2 calendar years.

Even though he will take longer to develop as a prep arm, lefty Michael Kennedy should quickly become one of the organization’s best starting pitching prospects. He should also be on a trajectory to reach the majors around the same time as Chandler and Solometo, potentially giving the Pirates a strong trio of pitching prospects that all graduate around the same time.

Day two picks Derek Diamond, J.P. Massey, Cy Nielson, and Mike Walsh are all college pitchers as well. Although they each likely project as bullpen arms, they could each rise quickly the way Samaniego, who is already at Double-A, could as well. Especially Nielson and Walsh, both of whom already have polished, plus pitches to work with and could be quality MLB relievers sooner rather than later.

Second-round pick Hunter Barco is a wild card for the Pirates. Barco was pitching well for the Florida Gators this spring and appeared to be well on his way to being a high draft pick. However, after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May his draft stock fell. If Barco can continue to be the pitcher he was pre-surgery after he returns, the Pirates could have another legitimate left-handed starting pitching prospects. That could be big if, however.

Come 2024/2025, you could see a Pirate bullpen built around members of this draft class, as well as current bullpen members Yerry De Los Santos, David Bednar, Duane Underwood Jr., and Wil Crowe. Targeting 2024 as a season to begin contending again could very well have been a contributing factor in Cherington zeroing in on fast rising bullpen arms in this year’s draft.

Next. Recapping Day Three of the Draft. dark

Adding pitching talent is a big need for the Pirate farm system. They need more high quality starting pitching prospects to go with the likes of Mike Burrows and Quinn Priester, as well as potential future bullpen arms capable of helping out the MLB club ASAP. Draft picks made by Cherington in the first two days of the draft may have achieved just this.

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