After a slow start to the 2023 season, Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Bubba Chandler finished the season by appearing to turn a corner
Entering the 2023 season few Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospects had higher expectations and more hype than Bubba Chandler. After beginning his professional career as a two-way player, Chandler moved to pitching full-time in 2023 and expectations were high.
Well, unfortunately, the 2023 season did not get off to a strong start for Chandler. Through his first 16 starts of the season Chandler was struggling mightily and it led to some questions about his long-term future as a pitcher. However, to his credit, Chandler would turn things around and finish his season strong.
Through those first 16 starts Chandler posted a 6.79 ERA and a 5.51 FIP in 62.1 innings pitched. He walked 12.5% of batters faced, struck out batters at a 25.4% clip, and allowed home runs at a 1.44 HR/9 rate.
In those starts, Chandler was burnt by an unsustainably high batting average on balls in play. Chandler's BAbip in those starts was .421. This combined with his control issues led to the struggles of Chandler for the first half of the season.
During the month of July, something started to click for Chandler. In his final 9 starts of the season, he looked like the dominant pitching prospect that he was expected to be when the Pirates drafted him and gave him a big signing bonus coming out of the 2021 MLB Draft.
Across his final 9 starts of the season Chandler pitched 48.2 innings, posting a 1.66 ERA and a 3.85 FIP. He limited opposing batters to a .163 batting average, his walk rate dropped to 7.2%, and his strikeout rate rose to 28.2%. He also limited home runs better, allowing home runs at just a 0.92 HR/9 rate.
Chandler's strong finish to the season included him making his Double-A debut in his final start of the season. In his debut with the Curve, Chandler allowed just one hit in 5 scoreless innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out 8.
Overall, Chandler made 25 starts on the season and pitched 111 innings. Chandler posted a 4.54 ERA, 4.78 FIP, 10.5% walk rate, and a 26.4% strikeout rate. He allowed home runs at a 1.22 HR/9 rate and limited opposing batters to a .257 batting average.
Looking ahead to 2024, Chandler should start the season with Double-A Altoona. That will be a big test for Chandler who will be 21 next season, which is still young for a pitcher at Double-A. If Chandler can continue to pitch anywhere near the way he did in his final 9 starts this season, Chandler could find himself making his MLB debut late next season.