One underrated prospect at each level of the Pirates’ minor leagues to watch in 2024

Let's examine one prospect at each level of the Pittsburgh Pirates' minor league system to wtach this year.
May 28, 2021; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; West Virginia pitcher Carlson Reed (17) pitches against
May 28, 2021; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; West Virginia pitcher Carlson Reed (17) pitches against / Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
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Pirates Low-A affiliate: Bradenton
Carlson Reed

The Pirates' 4th round pick in 2023 was right-handed pitcher Carlos Reed out of West Virginia University. Reed was used solely out of WVU's bullpen and recorded seven saves. But it seems like the Pirates want to try and stretch Reed out and see how he can do starting games, at least more frequently. In a draft where the Pirates took Paul Skenes and Zander Mueth, Reed can get easily overlooked.

Reed pitched 38 innings for WVU in 2023, pitching to a 2.61 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, and 2.40 K:BB ratio. He was great at two things: limiting home runs with a 0.47 HR/9 rate, as well as striking batters out with a 34.7% strikeout rate. But Reed struggled with command, and it showed as he allowed 25 free passes, leading to a poor 14.5% walk rate out of the Mountaineer's bullpen.

Carlson made his professional debut last season and pitched seven innings for the Pirates' Florida Complex League affiliate team, allowing only two earned runs, striking out six, and walking three. In Reed's Bradenton debut this year, he pitched four scoreless frames, punched out six batters, and only allowed two walks.

When Reed throws out of the bullpen, he can sit mid-90s with his sinker and four-seamer. But at the start of his first year, he was sitting closer to the lower 90s. Sure, it's only one start in April, but it's not atypical for a pitcher to lose a tick of velocity when getting stretched out for longer outings rather than shorter games out of the bullpen. Reed also throws a slider, change-up, and occasional sweeper to go along with his fastball and sinkerball.

Reed's motion on the mound, along with his lanky 6'4", 200-pound frame, gets in the way of his command. We shall see how he does in an expanded role. The worst-case scenario is that he returns to the bullpen. But if he does well as a starter, it could very well be another pitching prospect in this system that could someday uphold an important role. He definitely has a good enough pitch mix to attempt a starting pitcher role.