Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Pitchers to Watch in 2024 Based on Stuff+

Stuff+ is a new statistic that measures how good a pitcher's pitch metrics were, so who are some potential Pirates players to watch based on that?

Sep 5, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Hunter Stratton (63)
Sep 5, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Hunter Stratton (63) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Hunter Stratton

Hunter Stratton was a former 16th-round draft pick who made his debut in 2023 and didn’t look bad when he arrived in the big leagues. Stratton’s primary pitch was his cutter, which he used about 50% of the time. The pitch is a low-90s offering but averaged out just a touch over 2700 RPM. Although his cutter had a slightly below-average drop, he had 5.8 inches of vertical break, the seventh-highest average vertical break among any cutter from any pitcher (min. 50 pitches). Stuff+ pinned his cutter at 109.

His best pitch per stuff+ was his four-seam fastball at 122. He threw this pitch around 96 MPH and approached 2600 RPM on average (2576 RPM, to be exact). Although Stratton’s fastball had good spin and speed, he didn’t take full advantage of either. His active spin rate on his four-seamer was just 73%, which caused his four-seamer to have below-average movement. Still, because of its velo, plus-plus spin rate, and lower release point, it plays up to a degree.

Stratton used his slider the least often in his brief big league debut and came out with a 113 stuff+. A mid-80s pitch, the righty reliever averaged 2759 RPM with the offering. Unlike with a four-seam fastball, the lower the active spin rate on a slider, the better, and Stratton averaged just 44%. This gave it 10.9 inches of horizontal break, which would have been top 30 had he pitched enough to qualify.

Although Stratton’s time in the Majors was brief, he pitched well in the 12 innings he tossed. Stratton only allowed three earned runs and just three walks to the 47 batters he faced. He may have only struck out ten, but he had a 51.5% ground ball rate.

After being designated for assignment by the Pirates in November, Stratton returned on a minor league contract in early December. Stratton will begin the season back at Triple-A Indianapolis, but could see time in the majors once again.