Five underrated Pittsburgh Pirates prospects who are off to good starts to 2024

These Pittsburgh Pirates prospects might not be any prospect lists, but they're off to great starts to the 2024 season.
Vanderbilt pitcher Patrick Reilly (88) pitches against Arkansas during the first inning at Hawkins
Vanderbilt pitcher Patrick Reilly (88) pitches against Arkansas during the first inning at Hawkins / Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com / USA
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Pittsburgh Pirates’ 2023 first-round pick, Paul Skenes, is off to an amazing start to the year. He, along with guys like Bubba Chandler, Michael Kennedy, Hunter Barco, and Jack Brannigan, are starting the 2024 season on their best foot. But that should be expected of them. They are, after all, some of the Pirates’ best prospects in the system. They’re the ones that should be doing good.

But the Pirates’ system is deep and offers an abundance of guys that aren’t on most top Pirates prospect lists. Many of these under the radar and unranked prospects have gotten off to equally as good of starts to the season as the guys mentioned above. Some are performing so well that they could receive a promotion to the next level of the minor leagues during the first half of this season.

Sean Sullivan
Pittsburgh Pirates Photo Day / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

Sean Sullivan

Sean Sullivan has long been an unranked prospect I’ve followed closely. He’s done well at every level he’s played at so far. An 8th round pick from 2021, Sullivan had a solid 3.88 ERA, 4.16 FIP, and 1.27 WHIP at Altoona in just his age-22 season last year. Along with that, he had a strong second half.

The Pirates felt that Sullivan could still use some more time at Altoona, but he could soon prove he’s ready to take the next step. Sullivan has pitched 17.2 innings to open the year, walking just five batters and allowing a single home run and six earned runs, good for a 3.06 ERA. Sullivan isn’t much of a strikeout pitcher, but right now, his K% is down from 20.4 percent last year to 15.4 percent thus far. 

Sullivan appeared in Spring Training with the Pirates. His stuff looked decent as his fastball averaged out around 94 MPH with about 14 inches of vertical break and nearly 11 inches of horizontal movement. Albert Suarez of the Baltimore Orioles has a similar fastball based on velo and break.

Sullivan doesn’t throw anything out of the ordinary. His pitch mix consists of his fastball, as well as a low-80s sweeper, another low-80s breaker, that being a curveball, and his primary off-speed pitch, a mid-80s offering. His change-up displayed good movement in Spring, averaging out with 30.7 inches of drop and 15.2 inches of break. Although Sullivan doesn’t have one overpowering offering, everything sits at a 50 level and can play above that because of his command. There’s also some deceptiveness to his wind-up. His wind-up starts more like a low-arm slot pitcher before firing the ball at a three-quarters arm slot.

Given how Sullivan has pitched, it wouldn’t be surprising if they promoted him to Triple-A once Paul Skenes gets his first Major League call-up. I’m a little surprised that Sullivan wasn’t at Triple-A to open the 2024 season. Either way, the 23-year-old right-hander should be on the docket for a call to Indy soon.