Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects 2023 Recap: Reliever Nick Dombkowski

Apr 23, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; A detail view of the glove, hat, and sunglasses of Pittsburgh
Apr 23, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; A detail view of the glove, hat, and sunglasses of Pittsburgh / Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

During the 2023 season, soft tossing left-handed Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitching prospect Nick Dombkowski made it to the Triple-A level for the first time

Since becoming general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ben Cherington's drafts have seen him flood the farm system with college pitchers. He has also added multiple undrafted free agent college arms to the bullpen. One of these such players is left-handed reliever Nick Dombkowski.

The now 25-year-old Dombkowski joined the Pirate organization as an undrafted free agent following the 2021 draft. This came after Dombkowski posted a 3.13 ERA in 60.1 innings pitched in his final collegiate season at the University of Hartford.

Dombkowski quickly began his professional career by pitching for Low-A Bradenton in 2021. By the start of the 2023 season, he had risen to Double-A Altoona. With the Curve, Dombkowski posted a 3.71 ERA, 4.89 FIP, 7.3% walk rate, and a 16.3% strikeout rate in 85.0 innings pitched in 33 games (8 of which were starts).

Dombkowski would then make his Triple-A debut later in the season. He allowed 6 runs on 10 hits, no walks, and 3 strikeouts in 3 innings pitched in his lone outing with the Indianapolis Indians.

A big reason why Dombkowski's strikeout numbers were so low last season is due to his fastball only sitting in the upper 80s. It is not a good pitch. His changeup is a pitch that is average at best, and he throws a slider that is of little use. The lefty lacks the stuff needed to generate much swing-and-miss, or, honestly, to find much success in the upper levels of the minors.

Dombkowski also pitched in the Arizona Fall League. In the AFL, Dombkowski posted a 4.32 ERA while allowing 15 hits, a home run, walking 9, and striking out 8 batters in 8.1 innings pitched with the Salt River Rafters.

Looking ahead to 2024, Dombkowski will likely beginning the season at Triple-A Indianapolis. However, a return to Double-A Altoona is not impossible. Start at Triple-A would put Dombkowski on the doorstep of the majors, but that is a jump that would likely be a challenging one for him.

With his stuff, it is hard to envision Dombkowski ever finding any sort of extended success in the majors. Having a fastball that lacks velocity the way Dombkowski's does is one that will get hit hard by MLB hitters unless it has elite movement/deception, which it does not.

Additionally, Dombkowski does not have any plus secondary pitches to help offset his lack of fastball velocity. Without that, combined with his fastball issues, the odds of Dombkowski ever finding himself as a key, consistent contributor to a MLB bullpen are pretty slim.

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