Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Previewing Bradenton’s Potential Staff

U-32 senior Owen Kellington fires a pitch vs. Lamoille in East Montpelier on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.Bur Owen Kellington U32 Baseball 6
U-32 senior Owen Kellington fires a pitch vs. Lamoille in East Montpelier on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.Bur Owen Kellington U32 Baseball 6 /

The Pittsburgh Pirates Low-A affiliate, the Bradenton Marauders, had a strong roster in 2022, but what could their 2023 pitching staff look like?

The Pittsburgh Pirates Low-A affiliate, the Bradenton Marauders, in 2022 was arguably the team’s best affiliate. They had multiple top prospects like Anthony Solometo, Bubba Chandler, Rodolfo Nolasco, Tsung-Che Cheng, and Po-Yu Chen. Bradenton could be strong once again, especially regarding their pitching staff.

Arguably the best pitching prospect that will debut at Bradenton next year is Thomas Harrington. The Bucs picked Harrington with their competitive balance pick in the 2022 draft. The top draft pick was coming off an outstanding season at Campbell University, pitching to the tune of a 2.53 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 92.2 innings. He struck out 30% of the batters he faced on the dot and walked just under 5% of opponents with a 4.9% walk rate. But what was even more impressive was his 0.10 HR/9, allowing just a single dinger.

Harrington isn’t a flamethrower, typically sitting 92-95 MPH, but he can crank the velo up when he needs to. He tops out at 97 MPH, but with a good ride through the zone and movement, he doesn’t need to throw extremely hard. He also throws a decent mid-80s slider and upper-70s curveball, but his change-up is his best pitch. He gets a ton of swings-and-misses with the pitch and is a 60-grade offering. On top of that, he has great command.

Hung-Leng Chang was one of the Pittsburgh Pirates best international signings in the 2021-2022 off-season. He looked good for the organization’s Florida Complex League affiliate, tossing 22.2 innings, striking out 27.8% of opponents with an 8.2% walk rate. With a 48.3% ground ball rate, it’s no surprise he didn’t allow one home run. While some might be worried about his 4.76 ERA, he was a victim of bad luck as he suffered from a .355 batting average on balls in play.

Like Harrington, you’re not going to see Chang pump high-end velocity. He works in the 90-92 MPH range and tops out at 94. But he has a handful of other secondary offerings and an advanced feel for pitching. He also displayed decent command in 2022. Cheng is currently unranked by both FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline, but he could break into top 30 prospect status after a full year of play. At a lanky 6’3”, 160, Chang might see some added velocity by the end of the year.

One injured prospect that should see time at Bradenton next year is Owen Kellington. One of the Pirates’ many over-slot draft picks in 2021, Kellington only pitched ten innings in 2022 for the FCL affiliate. He has decent stuff and was signed to an over-slot deal for a reason. He only averages out at 88-91 MPH but uses deception, command, and secondary offerings to get the job done. He also tosses an excellent curveball and has a fairly high ceiling, despite coming out of Vermont, which isn’t necessarily a baseball talent hotbed.

A teenage prospect who could make his way to Bradenton is Joaquin Tejada. Tejada was the headliner in the Tyler Anderson swap at the ‘21 trade deadline. He pitched 27 innings at the FCL, allowing 12 earned runs but no home runs, and struck out 28. But he also dished out a free pass to 17 opponents. Tejada is a spin-rate darling, averaging out at 2800 RPM with his curveball. He only averages out at 92 MPH now, but he projects to add another tick or two of velocity by the time he’s more mature. He is only 5’11”, 160 pounds. There’s room for Tejada to add some muscle and strength.

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The rest of the pitching staff could be comprised of recent draftees like Dominic Perachi, JP Massey, Julian Bosnic, and Derek Diamond, as well as pitchers who appeared at the FCL and Dominican Summer League like Wilber Dotel, Wilbur Martinez, and Wilkin Valdez. Bradenton could once again have a decent pitching staff with a mix of talented young draft prospects and internationally signed players.