Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Bubba Chandler's Recent Hot Streak

Pirate pitching prospect Bubba Chandler may have turned a corner on the season

North Oconee's Bubba Chandler throws a pitch during Game 1 of a GHSA Class 4A semifinal doubleheader
North Oconee's Bubba Chandler throws a pitch during Game 1 of a GHSA Class 4A semifinal doubleheader / Joshua L. Jones via Imagn Content
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Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Bubba Chandler got off to a poor start to the season, but has turned a corner recently and has been pitching well over his last handful of outings

One of the top pitching prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system that seemingly got overlooked this season is Bubba Chandler. The 2021 third round pick, Chandler was seen as one of the best high schoolers in the draft, as he was seen as a potential starting pitcher and power hitting shortstop with speed.

He slipped to the third round because of his commitment to play football at Clemson, but the Pirates were able to pry him away from said commitment with a $3 million signing bonus, tied for the second most a pitcher has ever been given in the third round, as well as tied for the second most any third round pick has ever signed for.

The reason why Chandler has gotten overlooked this year is because many other pitching prospects have performed better than him, and have made their way into more headlines. Chandler owns just a 5.08 ERA, 4.81 FIP, and 1.58 WHIP on the season. Although his 1.16 HR/9 is respectable, and he has a strong 26.4% strikeout rate, walks have haunted him, as he’s dished out a free pass 11% of the time.

This walk rate has only been compounded by some bad luck on balls in play. Chandler has a .367 BAbip, despite having a 47.4% ground ball rate, line drive rate of just 20.4%, and fly ball rate of 32.2%. Chandler isn’t the only pitcher at Greensboro who has gotten snakebitten by some bad batted ball luck, as Thomas Harrington also has a high BAbip. Regardless, Chandler’s start to the season was poor, but he’s found his stride over nearly the last three months.

Dating back to about mid-June (his last 43.1 innings), Chandler has a much better looking 3.32 ERA, 4.08 FIP, and 1.27 WHIP. Batted ball luck still hasn’t been in Chandler’s corner, as he has a .348 BAbip in this time. However, he’s dishing out far fewer free passes with a massively improved 5.6% walk rate. That’s just over 10% lower than his walk rate prior to this hot streak. On top of that, his strikeout has gotten better at 27.8%, and his HR/9 has remained relatively the same at 1.25.

It’s not awfully surprising for Chandler to have some growing pains. For one, he’s one of the youngest players at the High-A level. There have only been 28 pitches to throw at least ten innings at High-A this season. Chandler is one of them. This is also the first year he’s focused solely on pitching. The Pirates tried Chandler out in a two-way role to start his pro career. As a batter, he slashed .189/.329/.364, but with five home runs in 161 plate appearances. Although Chandler had a healthy 15.5% walk rate, and hit for a solid amount of power, he also struck out over a third of the time (35.4%).

Chandler is also a hard thrower who is still trying to figure out some of his mechanics. There is plenty of hope he can do so, however. The Pirates took him as an RHP/SS, knowing he had plenty of athleticism to play a good shortstop if that is the direction they wanted him to take. He’s been able to display that athleticism on the mound, which could help translate to nailing down his wind-up and delivery.

We'll see if Chandler can continue to pitch well into the home stretch of the 2023 season and beyond. There's no doubt that he has the talent and potential to do so. It defintiley seems like he found a groove recently, and maybe he's found something that could make him effective in the long run.

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