The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired three players in the Rich Hill/Ji-Man Choi trade. Who are they and what are they bringing to their new organization?
The Pittsburgh Pirates have now traded veteran rentals LHP starter Rich Hill and Ji-Man Choi to the San Diego Padres. In exchange for the two veterans, the Pirates received three players. So who are these players, and what are they bringing to their new team? What could we potentially expect from them in the future?
Jackson Wolf is most likely seen as the headliner of this deal. A 2021 4th-rounder, Wolf is ranked as one of the Padres’ top 20 prospects, both by MLB Pipeline (no. 16) and FanGraphs (no. 12). Wolf has already made his Major League debut, and will likely be sent to Triple-A Indy for his first game as part of the Pirate organization.
The left-hander has spent most of his year with the Padre Double-A affiliate, working to a solid 4.08 ERA, 3.87 FIP, and 1.09 WHIP through 88.1 innings. Wolf has struck out a ton of batters with a 29.8% strikeout rate and has only dished out a walk 6.3% of the time. Home runs have given him some slight issues, but a 1.22 HR/9 for a flyball pitcher is decent nonetheless. Wolf has also done this in a pretty hitter friendly environment as the league average ERA and WHIP in the Texas League are 4.82 and 1.43, respectively.
Wolf is not a hard-throwing pitcher, only averaging 88-92 MPH with his four-seam fastball. In his one Major League outing, his four-seamer came in around 89 MPH on average. Although he’s not a spin rate darling, he does hit over 90% active spin. Wolf also throws a slider with just over 40 inches of vertical drop and 10 inches of horizontal movement. His third pitch is a curveball, which also projects as above average, though he didn’t use it in his one Major League start. His fourth and final pitch is a low-spin changeup and mainly uses it against right-handed batters.
Wolf has a low arm slot, which adds some deception to his stuff. FanGraphs notes he’s a nightmare for left-handed hitters with his almost sidearm-like delivery. That claim is definitely supported by his platoon splits as while they do have a .258 average against him, have yet to hit a home run and have drawn just five walks. Righties have given Wolf a little more trouble, but they have a lower batting average and have struck out more often against him.
In a lot of ways, Wolf is reminiscent of Hill. A tall, lanky left-hander with a low arm slot who uses deception and control over velocity to get outs. Wolf projects as a very solid no. 4/5 starter. Wolf could also provide a large volume of innings as he’s currently on pace to make more than 20 starts and pitch over 120 innings for a second minor league season.