Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Checking in on Three Pitchers Returning From Injury

Pittsburgh Pirates v Cleveland Indians
Pittsburgh Pirates v Cleveland Indians / Kirk Irwin/GettyImages
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Let's take a look at how some of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospects who have returned from injury are performing this year

Injuries to prospects are unfortunate in any case. You never want a player that you might consider a part of the long-term picture missing a large swath of time. But in any case, they're simply a risk when you are a professional athlete, pushing your body to the very limit. The Pittsburgh Pirates have had some notable prospects miss time over the last few years with injuries. However, some of those players have finally made their return in 2023.

One of the more recent early-round draft picks to return from an injury-plagued season is Owen Kellington. The Vermont right-hander posted some incredible numbers out of high school but only pitched ten innings in 2022 due to hamstring injuries.

So far this year, Kellington does have a mediocre 4.39 ERA but a respectable 3.98 FIP and 3.70 xFIP. Kellington has a strong 32.4% strikeout rate, with a solid 1.01 HR/9 but an unimpressive 10.8% walk rate.

Luck hasn't been on the 4th round pick's side, as opponents have managed a .333 batting average on balls in play. Combined with his sub-par walk rate, and he's not had the best of times at Bradenton. Keep in mind this is a relatively small sample size. His BAbip will likely regress to the mean. A .333 mark isn't even terribly high but it is enough to inflate his ERA in a small sample size.

Arguably the most triumphant return has been Braxton Ashcraft. Ashcraft pitched just 38.2 innings from 2020-2022, all frames of which came in 2021. The former second-rounder underwent Tommy John surgery in 2021, entirely eliminating him from the 2022 season. However, he's had the strongest comeback of any of the Pirate prospects who have returned from a long injury list stint.

Ashcraft has logged 21.1 frames, working to a 2.53 ERA, 3.89 FIP, and 0.89 WHIP. He's struck out nearly 30% of the batters he's faced with a 29.3% strikeout rate while having a microscopic 3.7% walk rate. His 1.27 HR/9 rate is a little higher than you want to see, but his 15% HR/FB ratio indicates that there might be some poor flyball luck playing a hand here.

The longest awaited return has to go to Blake Cederlind. Cederlind pitched just four innings from 2020 to 2022. He, like Ashcraft, missed a season because of Tommy John surgery but suffered multiple setbacks. He didn't pitch in the last two seasons but has returned to the mound in 2023.

He's not been nearly as successful as the former two prospects we've talked about, however, allowing nine earned runs, walking six batters, and only striking out four in five innings. Cederlind's stuff is still sitting in the upper-90s, though it's certainly been a rough return so far.

It's nice to see these pitchers return to the mound after missing so much time over the last few years. Kellignton, and especially Ashcraft look like they could become more notable up-and-coming minor leaguers. While Cederlind's return hasn't been met with grace, it wasn't long ago that many considered him a prime candidate to take over a late-inning/high-leverage role.

Next. Jose Hernandez Impressing. Jose Hernandez continues to impress. dark