Underrated Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects to Protect From Rule 5 Draft
By Noah Wright
J.C. Flowers was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 4th round of the 2019 draft. The right-hander was an outfielder until his last season at Florida State, but moved to the mound. Flowers reached Double-A Altoona last year, posting solid numbers, but displaying good stuff.
He pitched a total of 68.2 innings, working to the tune of a 2.88 ERA, 4.01 FIP, and 1.18 WHIP. Flowers FIP was a tad high because his strikeout rate was a mediocre 21.8% rate. But he had a solid 8.4% walk rate and allowed home runs at a 0.79-per-9 rate. Flowers was a ground ball machine, posting a 56.8% ground ball rate.
Pretty much every prospect we’ll talk about today had a great summer, and Flowers is no exception. June through the end of the season saw the right-hander put up a 2.61 ERA, 3.31 FIP, and 1.03 WHIP. Flowers struck out batters at a much better 27.3% rate while keeping a decent 9.1% walk rate. His HR/9 also decreased to just 0.47 after giving up two home runs in 38 innings of work.
Flowers has the best slider in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system. With late break and two-plane shape, it’s truly an elite offering and arguably the best slider in the minor leagues. He pairs that well with a two-seam fastball and four-seam fastball. He typically works in the mid-90s, but tops out at 97 MPH. On top of that, he throws his fastball with above average spin. He’ll also throw a change-up and while it’s the weakest link in his arsenal, it’s still an offering with average potential.
Flowers is highly athletic. After all, he was an outfielder-turned-pitcher, which is a very promising aspect. Flowers’ command may not be his strongest attribute, but he is still fairly inexperienced as a pitcher. There’s a chance for a starting pitcher within Flowers. Altoona almost exclusively used Flowers out of the pen in 2022, but they threw him out there for three or more innings almost as often as they put him in for just a single inning or less.
You would be hard pressed to find a big league team who wouldn’t take a guy with a mid-90s fastball, an elite slider, center field athleticism but on the mound, and a potential chance to be a starting pitcher essentially for free. Flowers, regardless if he is a starter or reliever in the long run, would probably be one of the first players in the draft selected if left unprotected. Flowers is arguably the Pirates’ most underrated pitching prospect, and needs to be treated as such.