Three Pirates international prospects to remember

The Pirates have some underrated international talent to keep an eye on.

Cleveland Indians v Pittsburgh Pirates
Cleveland Indians v Pittsburgh Pirates / Jared Wickerham/GettyImages
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Alessandro Ercolani

Matoma isn’t the only minor league pitcher in the Pirates’ system from a unique country that isn’t known for their baseball talent. Alessandro Ercolani was an international signing by the Pirates from San Marino, a country located North of Italy. The country has a population nearly ten times smaller than Pittsburgh. The 20-year-old Ercolani has the potential to become just the second MLB player ever from San Marino.

Ercolani spent his entire 2023 season at Bradenton, where all of his numbers were about league average. He had a 4.43 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, compared to the average of 4.62 and 1.44, respectively. His 24 percent strikeout rate was also right in line with the league average of 24.2 percent, as was his 11.3 percent walk rate (league average was 12.3 percent).

Only his 1.11 HR/9 rate was noticeably worse than average, which was 0.74. Still, he was able to be a league-average pitcher while also being the second-youngest arm to start 15 or more games (also pitched 65 frames) and the 14th-youngest to start 15 games there in the last decade.

A six foot two, 185-lb right-hander, Ercolani throws in the mid-90s with his four-seam fastball. His primary breaking ball is a cutter in the mid-to-upper 80s. Ercolani will also mix in a slider, curveball, and change-up but mostly uses his four-seamer and cutter. Ercolani throws from a three-quarters arm slot, but his follow-through is very violent.

According to FanGraphs, Ercolani has some praise from within the business. In an article written by Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taurskin discussing prospects who could break out or potentially be on their top 100 list next year, they interviewed personnel within MLB clubs on prospects they think will break out in 2024. Ercolani was mentioned among the names listed.

Ercolani will enter his second full pro season in and his fourth minor league campaign in 2024. He’s still young as won’t turn 20 until late April. It’s likely that at that young of an age, he’ll start the year once again at Bradenton. While he might move to the bullpen long-term, Ercolani will be another unique player to keep an eye on in 2024.