Three Underrated Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects to Watch in 2023

Altoona Curve starting pitcher Kyle Nicolas throws against the Akron RubberDucks during the first inning of an MiLB baseball game on Friday.Curve Nicholas
Altoona Curve starting pitcher Kyle Nicolas throws against the Akron RubberDucks during the first inning of an MiLB baseball game on Friday.Curve Nicholas /
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Pittsburgh Pirates
PITTSBURGH, PA – AUGUST 22: Roansy Contreras #59 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a pitch in the first inning during the game against the Atlanta Braves at PNC Park on August 22, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Nick Dombkowski

The one left-hander we’ll examine is Nick Dombkowski. Dombkowski was an undrafted free agent out of the University of Hartford. Dombkowski could be just the fifth player from Hartford to reach the major leagues, joining Houston Astro Hall of Fame first baseman Jeff Bagwell, fellow Hartford alumni lefty Sean Newcomb, along with David MacKinnon, and Earl Snyder.

Dombkowski looked good in his first few professional innings in 2021 but hit his stride in 2022. In 67 innings, Dombkowski had a 2.42 ERA, 3.25 FIP, and 1.04 WHIP. Opponents couldn’t touch the lefty. He struck out nearly a third of the batters he faced with a 31% strikeout rate while holding them to a .204 average against. He had just a 6.6% walk rate and 0.94 HR/9.

Dombkowski worked well at Double-A, the level he spent most of 2022. He tossed 41 innings for Altoona with a 2.85 ERA, 3.66 FIP, and 1.10 WHIP. While his 26% strikeout rate was below what he did at Bradenton and Greensboro, it was still above average. Not to mention he had a 5.9% walk rate. While he held opponents to an 11.6% line-drive rate, he also had a sub-40% ground ball rate and 53.6% flyball rate. If he pitches for strikeouts and ground balls as he did at ALow-A and High-A, he will have a brighter outlook.

Although the southpaw was mostly a starter in college, he’s almost solely worked out of the bullpen for the Pirate minor league affiliates. Though he usually pitches more than one inning at a time. He pitched at least two innings 16 times. He’ll probably be better as a reliever than a starting pitcher, unlike Flowers who could make it as a starting pitcher.

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Domkowski isn’t ranked by either FanGraphs or MLB Pipeline like Nicolas and Flowers are. It’s not quite often that teams find quality players among undrafted free agents. However, Dombkowski could be just that for the Bucs. The Pittsburgh Pirates have a few potential lefties for the bullpen in 2023, including Manny Bañuelos and fellow Altoona standout Tyler Samaniego, but Dombkowski could easily become an option for the team if he stays healthy and continues to pitch well for Indy.

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