Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitching prospect Ryan Harbin may be the most talented, but least talked about minor leaguer in the team's farm system
When looking through the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system, plenty of pitching prospects stick out. The most known among fans are likely the ones in the upper minor leagues like Quinn Priester and Jared Jones or who have already made the major leagues like Luis Ortiz.
Other highly touted ones like Thomas Harrington, Jun-Seok Shim, Anthony Solometo, and Bubba Chandler were recent top draftees or international signees. But the least talked about pitching prospect in the Pirates’ system who really deserves more attention than he is getting is Ryan Harbin.
Ryan Harbin was a 17th-round pick by the Pirates back in 2019 and was considered a long-term project for the Pirates. The right-hander was in just his age-17 season when he made his professional debut. His youth was on display through his first 40.1 innings, as he walked 14% of the opponents he faced.
Now 21, Harbin is currently stationed at Bradenton and couldn’t have asked for a better start to his season. In 13.1 innings, Harbin has allowed just three earned runs. Walks haven’t been an issue for him, given he has a walk rate of just 7.3%. However, he is striking out well over a third of the batters he’s faced with a 36.4% strikeout rate and has an HR/9 of just 0.68. That’s not even the most impressive mark of his season so far, as he is rocking a 65.5% ground ball rate.
This isn’t a soft-tossing pitcher who you’re hoping adds some velocity as he gets older and more physically mature, either. Harbin topped out at 97 MPH in his most recent outing and didn’t throw a pitch below 95. His sinker topped out with 21 inches of vertical movement and 17 inches of horizontal movement. Harbin’s primary breaking pitch is a slider that averages out with over 30 inches of vertical drop, though he’ll occasionally throw a cutter and change-up. He's already 6'5", 195 pounds as well.
Harbin is a pitcher who could make waves if he continues to pitch like this. He’s only 21 and won’t turn 22 until the first week of August. With his talent and the fact he’s a relief prospect, he could fly up the Pirates’ system. He could eventually become their top relief pitching prospect and eventually take over a high-leverage major league role.