Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Jackson Wolf's delivery adds a lot of deception to his stuff
During the 2023 trade deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates got a bevy of players from the San Diego Padres for veteran starter Rich Hill and first baseman Ji-Man Choi. Of those players, one was left-hander Jackson Wolf, who could have one of the most deceptive deliveries in all of baseball next year.
Wolf pitched well for most of the season. Going into the final two-and-a-half weeks of the minor league campaign, Wolf owned a 3.81 ERA, 3.73 FIP, and 1.05 WHIP for both the Padre and Pirate Double-A affiliates. He struck out nearly 30% of the batters he faced with a 29.2% strikeout rate and owned a quality 6.6% walk rate, leading to an outstanding 4.43 K:BB ratio.
Wolf may not have been elite at limiting home runs, but 1.1-per-9 was still manageable. Wolf struggled in his final four starts and 18 innings of the season, but it doesn’t erase the 22 starts/106.1 innings prior to that.
When looking at Wolf’s pitch metrics, he’s a pretty unassuming lefty. His fastball only registers about 88-90 MPH on the gun. He does throw a good slider and an average curveball, but his changeup is a distant fourth offering. He also throws his stuff for strikes frequently and can hit his spots with regularity.
In Wolf’s one big league start, he registered an extension release point at 7.6 feet, the second-highest rate in the bigs last year and only behind Alexis Diaz and Devin Williams. While a radar gun may tell you he’s sitting 88-90 MPH, a batter who is facing him will say it looks like 91-92 MPH out of the hand because of how far out his release point is.
His low arm slot, which sits right around five feet, also adds a deceptive quality to his stuff. It makes it harder for hitters to get under it. Last year, there were only two pitchers with a release point at seven feet or more and a vertical release height of five feet or lower in 20+ innings pitched. It was All-Star closer Alexis Diaz and Yohan Ramirez.
Wolf’s fastball also displayed elite horizontal movement in his lone start. He was sitting around 12-13 inches of horizontal break. Assuming that is where he typically sits in normal outings, that would put him in the top 20-30 pitches in horizontal fastball break.
While I may not be sharing some ground breaking analysis, it is something most fans don’t think about when watching Wolf pitch. Wolf may not throw hard, but he has many attributes that make his stuff play above what you’d typically think someone with his kind of surface-level pitch metrics would play at.