Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Deep Dive Into the Farm System's Pitching

A comprehensive look at all the pitching prospects the Pirates have

Jul 18, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Skenes (left) is
Jul 18, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Skenes (left) is / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Notable Unranked Names

Not being a ranked prospect doesn’t mean that you’ll never been a good Major League player. Some very good Major Leaguers didn’t get much, if any attention by prospect evaluators. The Pirates certainly have some notable names that aren’t on very many radars.

Sean Sullivan

Sean Sullivan is still one of my favorite unranked prospects in the system. The right-hander was the team’s 8th round pick in 2021. After an up-and-down 2022 season where he flashed potential, Sullivan was then sent to Altoona, where things have been a bit more bumpy. In 74 innings, Sullivan owns a 4.26 ERA, 4.35 FIP, and 1.32 WHIP. Although his walk rate sits at 8.2%, he has a sub-20% strikeout rate (19.5%), and an HR/9 rate of 1.34. Although his HR/9 rate is much better than last season, some of that is just regression to the norm, as he had a 26.7% HR/FB ratio last year, and a more normal 9.3% rate this season.

Sullivan is deceptively young, only 22 years old. He sits 92-95 MPH with his fastball and has some deception to his wind-up. He throws with an almost side arm like wind-up before going with a more typical arm slot. He also throws a slider, change-up, and curveball. Nothing here is elite, or even above average, however, he does show good command over everything.

J.P. Massey

J.P. Massey is another 2022 draftee, coming in the 7th round. The right-hander has a pretty solid 3.54 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but an atrocious 5.03 FIP. Massey has a 23.8% strikeout rate and 0.92 HR/9, but a 13.6% walk rate. Granted, some of these numbers are a bit inflated. In the two games, Massey came out of the bullpen at the start of the season, he gave up six earned runs and four walks. Plus a few bad starts since getting moved to Greensboro have thrown off his bottom line.

Massey throws pretty hard for a starting pitching prospect, sitting 92-96 MPH. He pairs that with a slider, curveball, and changeup. Massey has a lively arm but has struggled with command, both through the early part of his pro career as well as throughout his time in college. 

Derek Diamond

Derek Diamond was selected in the 6th round of the 2022 draft. The right-hander, while showing great control, did not fare well for Ole Miss during their World Series push. Regardless, Diamond started out his 2023 season with a 3.98 ERA, 3.70 FIP, and .123 WHIP in 74.2 innings for Bradenton. Although his 20.4% strikeout rate was unimpressive at best, Diamond had a walk rate a shade under 5% at 4.9%, 53.3% ground ball rate, and HR/9 rate of 0.6. Because of his solid remarks at Bradenton, Diamond has since gotten promoted to Greensboro where he’s allowed two ER in seven innings, has struck out five, and has only allowed a single walk.

Diamond sits in the low-90s with his fastball and has plus spin. He also throws a slider, as well as a change-up and curveball. Some evaluators liked Diamond at the time of the draft as they saw him as an unfinished product. Diamond is a strongly built 6’2”, 200 pounds, and topped out at 97 during 2022, so there is some potential here.

Hung-Leng Chang

Hung-Leng Chang was one of the Pirates' highest paid international signees from the 2021-2022 off-season. Chang has had a poor 2023 season, though he's only thrown 32.2 innings. However, he owns just a 4.96 ERA, an identical FIP, as well as a 1.44 WHIP. Both Chang's 20.1% strikeout rate and 13.2% walk rate are unimpressive. But he's only allowed two home runs. Chang also was impressive in his first few professional outings in 2022.

Chang does not throw hard, but he is only 21 and has a projectable frame. He is a rail-thin, 6'3", 160 pounds. Chang could add some muscle and velocity, and sit closer to 91-94 MPH by the time he's 23 or 24. Overall, Chang throws five different pitches. Chang has an advanced feel for pitching for such a young prospect as well.