Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Building A Rotation Of Underrated Pitching Prospects

A look at a minor league rotation built with the Pirates' underrated pitching prospects.

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St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages
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Hung-Leng Chang

Hung-Leng Chang made a good first impression in 2022 and got off to a decent start in 2023 at the Florida Complex League. But things went south once he got sent to Bradenton. Still, Chang is one of the more interesting pitching prospects in the lower levels of the Pirates’ system, and I wouldn’t be shocked if this was just a small sample size fluke.

Chang pitched 25.1 innings at the FCL prior to his promotion. He owned a 3.20 ERA, 3.53 FIP, and 1.22 WHIP throughout those innings. While Chang struck out a respectable number of batters with a 23.6% strikeout rate, his 11.3% walk rate was a tad high and about 3% worse than during his 2022 sample size. But Chang carried a 46.2% ground ball rate and didn’t allow a home run.

Chang pitched the same amount of innings at Bradenton as he did at the FCL, but the numbers were significantly worse. The young right-hander had a 7.46 ERA, 8.30 FIP, and 1.82 WHIP. Chang only struck out 14 batters while walking a dozen. But more worrisome was the amount of home runs he gave up. Chang allowed seven dingers, leading to a 2.49 HR/9 rate. Granted, with a 23.3% HR/FB ratio, one could make the assumption that he could regress to the norm next season. On the plus side, Chang did reel of ten innings, only allowing three earned runs, one home run, two walks, and seven strikeouts through his final three starts.

Chang uses a wide variety of pitches on the mound. His sinker sits in the low 90s and tops out around 95 MPH when he starts games. He typically sits around 2250-2300 RPM with this pitch. Chang’s slider is his primary breaking ball, an offering that sits in the low 80s with around 2050 RPM. There is a bevy of other offerings Chang throws in as well, including a cutter (mid-80s), curveball (upper-70s), and changeup (low-80s).

Chang throws from a three-quarters arm slot and has been described as an athletic pitch. His motion on the mound is fluid, and he can throw all his pitches for strikes. There is a lot of physical projection with Chang. He is 6’3”, 160 pounds, giving him a slender frame. At 22, Chang could start the year at Greensboro despite barely pitching at Bradenton.