3 interesting non-roster invite players in Pirate camp

It's worth keeping an eye on these three non-roster invitees in camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

San Diego Padres v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Two
San Diego Padres v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Two / Rich Schultz/GettyImages
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Hunter Stratton

Hunter Stratton is a relief pitching prospect who made his MLB debut in 2023. While Stratton was non-tendered by the Bucs in November, the Pirates brought the right-hander back into the fold when they signed him to a minor league deal in January. Stratton showed off some decent stuff in his brief 2023 sample size and was decent in the second half of Triple-A Indy’s season, which led to him getting called up in September.

During said second half, Stratton pitched to a 1.80 ERA, 3.52 FIP, and 0.90 WHIP in 20 innings. He was striking out over a third of the batters he faced with a 34.6% strikeout rate while carrying an above-average 0.90 HR/9 rate. His 10.8% walk rate was his worst peripheral, but it was still slightly better than the league average rate of 11.8% in the International League in 2023.

Stratton then got called up to the Majors where he impressed. During his time in the majors, Stratton pitched 12 innings, allowing just three earned runs and three walks. He only struck out ten batters and allowed two home runs, but his HR/FB ratio was 20%, which likely would be much lower in a larger sample size, especially considering his ground ball rate was 51.5%.

In his brief Major League time in 2023, Stratton displayed an upper/mid-90s four-seam fastball, a low-90s cutter, and a mid-80s slider. Both his cutter and slider had above-average horizontal movement to them, with his four-seamer having about average horizontal break but below-average drop. He still generated an impressive 34.2% chase rate and 27.8% whiff rate in the 12 innings he pitched. Stuff+ rated Stratton’s pitches at 114, meaning he was well above average.

The Pirates have a bullpen core that is set in stone unless an injury jacks things up. But he could at least force himself into the conversation about giving him one of the last spots in the bullpen. He’s not going to take innings away from any of the high-leverage guys, but he definitely could figure things out as a solid middle reliever.