Teenagers Who Could Rise Significantly In The Near Future
This category consists of the Pirates’ most recent top international signees and high school draft picks. Typically these guys aren’t highly ranked on prospect boards. However, that’s mostly because they’re still so young with raw talent. Plus they’ve yet to really play against professional opponents. There’s a good chance that in two or three years, they might be some of the Pirates’ best prospects.
Michael Kennedy is one of the Pirates’ best left-handed pitching prospects and the only high school arm they signed from their 2022 draft class. Kennedy has pitched 32.2 innings for the Pirates’ FCL affiliate team, working to the tune of a 2.48 ERA, 3.35 FIP, and 1.26 WHIP. Kennedy has struck out 32.8% of his opponents, as well as allowing just one home run. The only thing is he’s put up a mediocre 11.7% walk rate.
Kennedy is sitting 89-91 MPH, though his four-seamer does have traits that make up for a lack of elite velocity. FanGraphs states his fastball has tail and can carry through the zone. The lefty also throws a slider and a changeup. His lower three-quarters arm slot helps create a two-plane break on his slider. He also has an easily repeatable delivery, which will help his command in the long run. Kennedy is one of the youngest prospects in the system, as he won’t turn 19 until late November.
Zander Mueth is our second 2023 draft pick we’ll look at today. Mueth was taken in competitive balance round B. Mueth is a big right-hander, sitting at 6’6”, 205 pounds at just 18 (he turned 18 just recently in late June), and has a wind-up that is similar to both Chris Sale and Tanner Houck.
For a young high schooler who is barely 18, Mueth is throwing hard. He’s averaging 92-94 MPH and peaking at 97. This is especially true given that he has a Sale/Houck-like arm angle. You’re talking about a guy who might be sitting 93-96 MPH by the time he’s MLB-ready. His slider has so much breaking action he has trouble keeping it in the zone. Then there’s his changeup, which has the potential to be an average pitch. Mueth does have some questions surrounding his command, but it’s too early to tell if that will be a long-term problem or not.
Jun-Seok Shim was the Pirates’ big catch of the day during the 2022-2023 international signing period. Shim was projected to be one of the top picks in the Korean Baseball Organization’s amateur draft. However, instead of being picked by one of the KBO’s teams, he opted to go stateside and signed with the Pirates. Shim hasn’t pitched much, but has definitely flashed the talent that made him arguably the best amateur pitcher in South Korea.
Shim was already topping out at 100 MPH as an 18-year-old. He typically sits 95-98 MPH, which is still extremely fast for a high school aged kid. His best secondary pitch is his 12-6 curveball, a second offering with plus or better potential. Both his slider and changeup lag behind but have shown the potential to be reliable pitches. Shim isn’t just a hard-throwing kid with no accuracy. He has shown to have a good feel for all of his stuff. Plus, he has a lower-effort delivery and has good athleticism to boot, which only helps in the long run.