Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Sean Sullivan Turning Heads at Altoona
By Marty Leap
Off to an unexpected strong start, Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Sean Sullivan is turning heads with Double-A Altoona
When the 2023 minor league season started there were plenty of pitchers at Double-A Altoona who fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates had their eye on. Relievers such as Tyler Samaniego and Tahnaj Thomas come to mind, as well as starters Jared Jones and Kyle Nicolas. However, the best pitcher for Altoona so far this season has been a bit of a surprise.
Righty Sean Sullivan has pitched just about as well as any starting pitcher in the Eastern League. With the strong start that Sullivan is off to with Altoona, he has been turning heads and starting to gain some buzz.
Sullivan has made five starts so far this season for Altoona, pitching 21.2 innings. He has posted a 2.08 ERA and a 3.22 FIP. Opposing batters are hitting just .229 off of Sullivan and he's allowed just one home run. Sullivan has walked just 8.8% of batters faced to go with a 19.8% strikeout rate.
Sullivan started his season with a bang. The 22-year-old fired 14.1 scoreless innings to start his 2023 campaign. Part of what has fueled that hot start, and his overall great start is a quality three pitch mix. He has a good command of the strike zone and is able to effectively throw each of his pitches with command and for quality strike.
His fastball sits in the low-90s and his slider is his best pitch. Opposing batters own just a 7.7% line drive rate agaisnt Sullivan this season, which is way down from his opposing line drive rate of 28.9% last season. You would, however, like to see his 55.4% fly ball rate go down while you would like to see an uptick in his ground ball rate of 36.9%.
After being selected in the 8th round of the 2021 draft out of the Cal, Sullivan pitched for High-A Greensboro last season. In 20 games (15 starts) with the Grasshoppers he posted a 4.68 ERA, 5.47 FIP, 8.3% walk rate, and a 25.8% strikeout rate in 75.0 innings pitched.
The jump to Double-A may have come as a bit of a surprise, and potential risk, after he struggled at High-A last season. However, it goes without say that Sullivan has rewarded the Pirates promotion of him to start the 2023 season.
Watching how the rest of Sullivan's 2023 season unfolds will be intriguing to follow. If he can continue to pitch anywhere close to the level he has thus far then he could begin to develop into a legitimate starting pitching prospect for the Pirates.
Even if Sullivan were to fall off some, with three quality pitches it's easy to envision him having a future role in the majors as a back of the rotation arm or a really good bullpen arm. Regardless of how things shake out, Sullivan's start to 2023 is turning heads and should be grabbing people's attention.