3 hot takes about the Pittsburgh Pirates

I want to share three of my hot takes about the Pittsburgh Pirates.
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Bubba Chandler's ceiling matches Paul Skenes' ceiling

Paul Skenes was the no. 1 overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, setting the all-time signing bonus record in the process. The Pirates' third-round pick in 2021 was Bubba Chandler, who has one of the highest signing bonuses ever for a third-rounder. Skenes has a sky-high ceiling, one that if he reaches his potential, he'll be not just an ace but one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. I think that if Chandler reaches his ceiling, he'll be right up there with Skenes.

I believe this for a few reasons. Chandler is ultra-athletic. The Pirates took Chandler as a two-way RHP/shortstop in 2021. He even played a few games up the middle for the Pirates' Florida Complex League affiliate in 2021. If the Pirates had kept him as a two-way player, there was a very real chance that Chandler would have stuck at shortstop long-term. A lot of high school shortstops eventually move to second base, third base, or the outfield as they progress through the minor leagues. But Chandler was considered an above-average fielder with plus speed.

On top of that, Chandler wasn't even supposed to go to college for baseball. Not only was he a two-way baseball player, but a two-sport star in college. He was committed to Georgia to play baseball but then decided to go to Clemson for football, where he would have been the team's quarterback. 

While it took a while for Chandler to translate his high-end athleticism to the mound, he did so in the second half of last year. He reduced his walk rate significantly from 12.5% to a mere 7.2% rate. According to Baseball America, Chandler started to locate his off-speed stuff well, leading to a significant decrease in walk rate and posting an ERA of just 1.66 in the second half of the 2023 campaign.

Chandler also has great stuff. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and touches the upper-90s. His slider looks like it could be a plus pitch as well, and his change-up adds a fourth above-average offering. MLB Pipeline also likes his curveball.

Do not take this as a knock on Skenes. I think Skenes is an outstanding pitcher. He is very athletic in his own right, having played some catcher and corner outfield before transferring to LSU for the 2023 college season.

Skenes also throws extremely hard, sitting 97-100 MPH with a nasty slider and a plus change-up. Skenes' command is further developed than Chandler's and is a reason why Chandler has a lower floor than Skenes. But after seeing Chandler's improvements in the second half of 2024, I think we're watching someone with ace potential.