The Pittsburgh Pirates have plenty of minor league pitching prospects who are performing well, but which ones have gained the most prospect stock in 2023?
The Pittsburgh Pirates have had a handful of pitching prospects in their minor league system perform well. Some have gained a ton of stock over the last year and have made some significant gains in prospect rankings. But which ones have gained the most stock?
It would be hard to decide between Anthony Solometo or Jared Jones has made the most gains this year. The two former second-round picks were both high school over-slot selections in 2021 and 2020, respectively. Both are starting to appear on top 100 lists and will be consensus top 100 prospects by the start of next season with their current trajectory.
Solometo has likely gained the most since he’s gotten off to a great start at the next level of the minor leagues, that being Altoona. The left-hander has an astounding 2.08 ERA, 2.97 FIP, and 1.09 WHIP in 73.2 innings. Solometo has struck out nearly 30% of the opponents he’s faced with a 29.6% strikeout rate and a 9.6% walk rate.
Even better is that he’s allowed just three home runs all year. Even better is the fact he’s allowed just two earned runs in his last seven starts (37 innings). Solometo’s command has always been a strong suit, but his control is finally catching up. He has just a 5.3% walk rate since reaching Altoona and a 5% walk rate through his last seven outings.
On the other hand, Jones has a strong 3.17 ERA, 3.16 FIP, and 1.17 WHIP through 59.2 innings. The flamethrower has struck out just over a quarter of opponents with a 26% strikeout rate but also carries a solid 9.6% BB%. Like with Solometo, home runs have been a non-issue with a 0.45 HR/9. Jones’ ERA has risen since arriving at Triple-A. However, his strikeout and walk rates are essentially the same as when he was at Altoona, and he has yet to allow a home run. Jones’ .364 BAbip indicates some poor luck, too, compared to only .266 at Double-A. Control was a sticking point for Jones, but it looks like his ability to hit the strike zone has improved to an average level, with a walk rate below 10%.
Thomas Harrington is another prospect who is on track to be a top 100 prospect right now. Harrington owns a 3.48 ERA, 3.80 FIP, and 1.25 WHIP. Those numbers might not scream future top 100 prospect with significant traction, but let’s take a look past the base numbers.
Harrington still has a strong 27.7% strikeout rate and a 7.2% walk rate. He also has a 0.97 HR/9. Harrington hasn’t done well at Greensboro but has run into poor luck, like Jones. His BABIP is closer to .400 than .350, and his HR/FB ratio has risen above 10% at 11.1%. Greensboro is a home-run-friendly park, so his 1.4 HR/9 isn’t terrible in the scope of things. He’s also cut his walk rate down by about 2% and risen his strikeout rate up by nearly 2.5%.
Braxton Ashcraft has regained his prospect stock. A former second-round pick, Ashcraft pitched less than 50 innings between 2020-2022. However, the long layoff hasn’t affected his performance. The right-hander owns a 2.50, 3.12 FIP, and 1.08 WHIP. Home runs have been his weakest area, and he still has a respectable 0.91 HR/9. He’s struck out 29.1% of his opponents with an almost non-existent 4.4% walk rate. Ashcraft has not only returned with a vengeance but is doing so with improved velocity. He’s sitting around 93-97 MPH, a significant uptick to pre-2020. Ashcraft also ranks 14th among minor league pitchers in K:BB ratio at 6.71 (min. 30 IP).
One relief prospect I think will start getting a lot more attention is Ryan Harbin. The right-handed reliever has been untouchable at Bradenton, with an ERA of just 0.83, as well as a strong 3.03 FIP and 1.04 WHIP. Harbin has a 33.6% strikeout rate and has allowed just a single home run all year. Harbin is one of the best at inducing ground balls. His 70% ground ball rate in 32.2 innings is the highest among all minor league pitchers with 30+ frames. Walks have been a slight issue for him, but an 11.5% walk rate is manageable. Harbin averages out in the mid-to-upper-90s with his sinker.
It’s nice to see a handful of talented players finally getting more attention. There are three potential top 100 prospects that we talked about today. Even if Ashcraft doesn’t end up as a top 100 guy, his return after such a long layoff is extremely promising. If Harbin is the real deal and can continue performing well, he might end up as a future closing/set-up candidate for the bullpen.