Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Building A Rotation Of Underrated Pitching Prospects

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

St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates
St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages
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Antwone Kelly

Antwone Kelly was one of the Pirates’ international signees in the 2020-2021 off-season. So far, Kelly has had a solid professional baseball career, but he finally reached Bradenton last season. But overall, he pitched well between the Florida Complex League and A-Ball, tossing a total of 43.2 innings.

Between these innings, Kelly owned a 2.89 ERA, 2.95 FIP, and 1.26 WHIP. Kelly’s 9.9% walk rate may not have been great, but he offset that with a strikeout rate of nearly 30% (29.1%). Impressively, he did not allow a single home run. But he didn’t have an elite ground ball rate, only clocking in at 35.5%.

Kelly appeared in two games for the Marauders at the end of the minor league season, but this gives us some insight into his pitch mix. Kelly primarily threw a low-80s slider in these games, with a low-90s four-seam fastball as his second most used pitch. His sinker was his third pitch and sat with similar velocity to his four-seam fastball. He occasionally mixed in a change-up, but it was rarely used.

Kelly’s delivery is low-effort while tossing from a low arm slot. Kelly starts from the first base side of the mound before firing toward home plate. Kelly stands at 5’10”, 185-LBS. Although he may not be tall for a pitcher, he could add some muscle as he moves up to the minor leagues and, hopefully, the big leagues.

Kelly has worked as both a long reliever and starting pitcher. Last year, he only made two starts, but nine of his 14 total appearances lasted at least three innings. I don’t see a reason for Bradenton to use him primarily as a starting pitcher next season. Kelly is still pretty young, as he doesn’t turn 21 until the first of September.