Minor league signings that could make the Pirates' Opening Day roster

Let's look at some Pirates' minor league signees that could make the team's Opening Day roster.

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Hunter Stratton

Hunter Stratton has had a flat-out dominant Spring Training thus far. He has pitched six innings without allowing a run, has struck out six, and only walked two. Originally a 16th-round pick by the Pirates in 2017, the right-handed relief prospect made his debut last season with the Bucs. Although they non-tendered him at the end of the year, they brought him back into the fold via a minor league contract, and he could find himself in the Opening Day bullpen.

Stratton’s first taste of MLB action only consisted of 12 frames, but he allowed three earned runs, only walked three, and struck out ten. Stratton showed off a four-seamer that sat around 95-96 MPH with nearly 2600 RPM. That’s about where he has sat in Spring Training with the same pitch. He also throws a low-90s cutter with about 2700 RPM, as well as a mid-80s cutter with around the same amount of spin as his cut fastball.

Stratton also ended the 2023 minor league season on a high note. From the start of July until he was promoted to the Major Leagues in early September, Stratton pitched to a 1.87 ERA, 3.03 FIP, and 0.83 WHIP in 24 innings. He struck out well over a third of the batters he faced with a 35.8% K-rate while also carrying a strong 0.75 HR/9 and a respectable 8.7% walk rate. His K:BB ratio was just a touch over 4.00 at 4.13.

If there is any pitcher who signed a minor league contract with the Pirates this winter and has an inside track to get an Opening Day roster spot, you have to imagine it’s Hunter Stratton. He’s looked great in Spring, had a solid brief September call-up last year, and had a phenomenal second half in the minor leagues.