3 left-handed pitchers for the Pittsburgh Pirates to keep an eye on in this year’s draft

The Pirates love their left-handed pitchers, so who are some names to keep an eye on who fit that bill in this year's draft?
May 31, 2024; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; LSU pitcher Griffin Herring (35) pitches in the late innings against the Wofford Terriers during the NCAA Regional in Chapel Hill. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
May 31, 2024; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; LSU pitcher Griffin Herring (35) pitches in the late innings against the Wofford Terriers during the NCAA Regional in Chapel Hill. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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If there’s one thing this Pittsburgh Pirates regime likes, it’s left-handed pitchers. Every offseason, the Pirates have acquired at least one veteran lefty, and it’s worked out reasonably well for them. In their drafts, they’ve taken the likes of Anthony Solometo, Hunter Barco, and Michael Kennedy, and they all look promising in the minors.

It wouldn’t be a massive surprise if the Pirates went out and drafted yet another left-handed pitcher early in this year’s draft. They’ve put a heavy focus on pitching in their drafts recently, dating back to Ben Cherington taking over as general manager. Even though pitching has become a significant strength of this organization, don’t be shocked if they take some pitchers again early on, especially if they’re lefties.

3 left-handed pitchers for the Pittsburgh Pirates to keep an eye on in the 2024 MLB Draft

Ryan Prager

Ryan Prager is ranked as the third best college lefty in this year’s draft (not including Jac Caglianone and Jurrangelo Cijntje) on MLB Pipeline’s list, and he has qualities that makes him a very intriguing pitching prospect. While he doesn’t throw hard, his stuff plays up because of his funky arm slot and his great command. He is projected as one of the best control pitchers available this year.

Prager posted a 3.10 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 6.00 K:BB ratio throughout 87 innings this year. He struck out nearly a third of batters faced with a 32.3 K% while silencing walks and allowing free passes just 5.4% of the time. He was slightly better than average at limiting home runs as well, with a 1.24 HR/9 rate.

Prager sits in the low-90s, topping out around 93-94 MPH, but his fastball has some very good ride to it. Prager has a very high arm slot that allows his fastball to carry well. On top of that, he hits his spots very well and very often. He also has two other offerings; the better of the two is his breaking slider that sits in the low 80s. Prager turned in his curveball for a slider with more glove-side break. Then there’s his change-up, which is a third pitch with above-average potential.

Prager is considered a top 70 draft prospect between MLB Pipeline, Baseball America, and Future Star Series, and he'll likely end up going within the first 100 picks. The Pirates have four picks in the top 100, so Prager is definitely a possibility for the Pirates as an under-slot second-round pick.

Carter Holton

Vanderbilt always produces good baseball talent every year, and this year is no different. One of their best pitchers in the draft this year is Carter Holton, who should go early in this year’s draft. At the very latest, he’ll probably end up going in the second round.

Holton has a 5.19 ERA but a 1.30 WHIP and 3.63 K:BB ratio. He’s been great at striking out batters with a 32 K% through 87 1/3 innings. He pairs that with a respectable 8.8% walk rate and 1.39 HR/9 rate through 69 2/3 innings. Holton also pitched well in both 2022 and 2023 for the Commodores.

While Holton’s numbers might not jump off the page, he has good stuff on the mound. He throws around the low-to-mid 90s but can hit 98 MPH. He combines his fastball with two breaking balls. His slider is the better of the two offerings, sitting in the mid-80s with well above-average movement. But his upper-70s curveball as well as his mid-80s change up have both flashed solid potential. 

Holton isn’t without red flags, however. He’s an undersized pitcher, listed at 5’11”, 191 lbs. While he’s improved his strike-throwing ability, his follow-through on his throwing motion has a lot of movement and his mechanics have hindered his ability to locate.

But Holton has four average-to-above average pitches with improving control. His issues with his mechanics and motion on the mound aren’t irreparable. He’s someone the Pirates should consider taking early in this year’s draft.

Griffin Herring

Last year, the Pirates took Paul Skenes out of Louisiana State University with the first overall pick. They could look to take one of his former teammates, as many are available in this year’s draft. One of them is Griffin Herring, a lefty reliever who was used both in higher leverage and in longer stints this year for LSU.

Herring pitched 50 1/3 innings in 21 games, with only one being a start, but he also tallied a half-dozen saves. In those 50 1/3 frames, Herring had a 1.79 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 5.15 K:BB ratio. Herring struck out exactly a third of opponents while allowing walks a meager 6.5% of the time, as well as just a pair of home runs.

Herring’s fastball isn’t like many relievers, as he only sits in the low 90s. But the pitch has good break which helps it play beyond its velocity. Herring is a two-pitch pitcher, with the second being a sweeping slider. The pitch is truly a plus offering that gets a ton of swings and misses. Herring rarely uses his changeup, but the development of it could be the difference between him staying in the bullpen long-term or being a starter. Herring has made improvements to his strike-throwing ability, but his wind-up has a lot of moving parts.

The Pirates did pretty well last year with Carlson Reed, another college pitcher who only pitched in relief in his final season at WVU, but who has done extremely well as a starter in pro ball. Both Herring and Carlson have similar frames. Herring stands at 6’2”, 196 lbs. while Reed is listed at 6’4”, 200 lbs. Both raise questions regarding how their command will develop because of their long-arm action, and they also project more as relievers than starting pitchers.

One thing Herring has over Reed is control, and that could also be a separating factor that could help him become a starter. Herring is ranked as a top 200 draft prospect, so he’s someone to watch as a potential fourth or fifth-round pick.

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