Pittsburgh Pirates: Previewing Rule 5 Eligible Prospects

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 16: Mike Burrows #50 of the National League pitches during the fifth inning of the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game against the American League at Dodger Stadium on July 16, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 16: Mike Burrows #50 of the National League pitches during the fifth inning of the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game against the American League at Dodger Stadium on July 16, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /
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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JULY 16: Mike Burrows #50 of the National League pitches during the fifth inning of the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game against the American League at Dodger Stadium on July 16, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

Starting Pitchers

Mike Burrows significantly climbed the prospect rankings over the last year. Burrows’ 4.01 ERA, 3.29 FIP, and 1.21 WHIP are a bit misleading. Burrows absolutely imploded in his very last start of the year. Leading up to that last start, Burrows had a 3.46 ERA, 3.11 FIP, and 1.15 WHIP. He struck out 28.8% of the batters he faced with a quality 7.8% walk rate. Burrows continued his home run suppression with a 0.67 HR/9 rate. Burrows’ fastball and curveball have always been outstanding, but his change-up has come a long way to be a very usable offering.

Cody Bolton had a nice comeback campaign after not pitching in 2020 and missing 2021 due to injuries. Bolton had a 3.09 ERA, 3.81 FIP, and 1.28 WHIP in 75.2 innings. The right-hander allowed just four home runs all year while striking out 25.4% of the batters he faced. But he also dished out free passes to 12.4% of the batters he faced. Bolton pitched solely out of the rotation up until this year. He still made 14 starts but also had 16 appearances out of the bullpen.

Like Bolton, the Pirates aren’t 100% sure as to what role J.C. Flowers will play in the future. Flowers enjoyed a solid season at Altoona, in which he had a 2.88 ERA, 4.01 FIP, and 1.18 WHIP. He also did a lot better in the summer, offering up a 2.61 ERA, 3.31 FIP, and 1.03 WHIP through his last 38 innings of the year. Flowers struck out 27.3% of the batters he faced in that time and posted a 0.47 HR/9 and 9.1 walk rate. Flowers has the best slider among all Pirates’ prospects and decent velocity. Despite only starting two games, he pitched nearly as many innings as Bolton, with 68.2 total frames.

Many of the other top Pirate pitching prospects are still relatively new to the organization. Bubba Chandler, Anthony Solometo, Jared Jones, and even Quinn Priester only joined the organization in the last three years. But I think it’s worth separating depth arms from young Low-A prospects.

Drake Fellows, Trey McGough, Omar Cruz, Aaron Shortridge, Domingo Gonzalez, Grant Ford, Adrian Florencio, Santiago Florez, and Braxton Ashcraft may not have very high ceilings but still could contribute as a quality depth arm in the future. Unless a team feels they need another left-hander and select someone like McGough or Cruz, the likeliest to be chosen in the Rule 5 draft here is Florez. He’s a spin-rate darling with mid-90s velocity. Those kinds of pitchers get plenty of attention in the Rule 5 Draft.

On the other hand, you have Enmanuel De Los Santos, Andy Maldonado, Luis Peralta, Joelvis Del Rosario, and Carlos Jimenez as guys who pitched at Low-A or rookie ball in 2022. These guys are all still relatively young and have time to figure things out, and they might eventually become a valuable part of the Pittsburgh Pirates roster.

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