For some prospects, it might take a season or two to find their footing. However, they certainly have the talent to figure things out in the long run. On top of that, they’ll get the chance to show that they were (or are worth) the attention they originally got.
Bubba Chandler was one of the best high school arms in the 2021 draft, but the Pirates were able to sneak him in the third round because of his college commitment. Chandler’s first full season as a pitcher only has had its ups and downs. He currently owns a 5.08 ERA, 4.81 FIP, and 1.58 WHIP on the season. Chandler’s walked more batters than you’d like to see with an 11% walk rate but has a quality 26.4% strikeout rate and 1.16 HR/9. Chandler has seemingly found his groove recently, with a 3.32 ERA, a 27.8% strikeout rate, but a 5.6% walk rate over his last 43.1 innings.
Chandler has a plus fastball, along with a quality slider. His other two pitches include a curveball and changeup. There were some expected growing pains for the young, but talented pitcher. He was a two-way player, and this is the first season that he’s focused solely on pitching. He’s athletic, as the Pirates drafted him as an RHP/SS, but some of his issues with command are rooted in his wind-up and delivery. However, Chandler is still highly talented and has already shown some improvement. Plus he’s only 20, and by the end of 2024, he could be pushing for a Major League promotion, assuming some of these improvements stick.
Owen Kellington was an unheralded high schooler out of Vermont. Kellington had some insane numbers in college, and the Pirates took the righty in the fourth round. Kellington’s first extended look against pro batters hasn’t gone too well, pitching to a 4.35 ERA, 4.81 FIP, and 1.38 WHIP. Although he has a 27.8% strikeout rate, but has a below-average 1.05 HR/9 rate and a 14.3% walk rate. One thing Kellington does have going for him is that he’s been pretty good over his last six outings, with a 3.18 ERA, 4.01 FIP, and 1.01 WHIP.
While we’ve looked at a lot of pitchers who aren’t hard throwers, Kellington is the definition of a soft tosser. In his most recent outing, Kellington only averaged 90.6 MPH on his four-seam fastball. Kellington’s fastball does not have velocity, but Kellington is a junkballer. He uses a low-spin tumbler as his primary off-speed pitch, as well as a big curveball. His change and curve both have the potential to be plus offerings. It will be interesting to see if Kellington can keep pitching well, and put it all together eventually.