Three Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospects on the rise

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a some pitching prospects who are gaining momentum to start the year.
West Virginia pitcher Carlson Reed (17) throws a pitch against the Texas Longhorns at UFCU
West Virginia pitcher Carlson Reed (17) throws a pitch against the Texas Longhorns at UFCU / Aaron E. Martinez / American-Statesman /
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Alessandro Ercolani

Alessandro Ercolani just turned 20 a few days after writing this. The right-hander from the small country of San Marino had decent numbers at Bradenton last year and is now at Greensboro. There’s a real possibility that, with the way Ercolani has pitched so far, he could make it to Double-A Altoona before the end of the season in just his age-20 campaign.

Last year, Ercolani had a 4.43 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and 1.43 WHIP through 65 innings of work. He struck out 24 percent of the opponents he faced with a workable 11.3 percent walk rate and 1.11 HR/9. Ercolani was about as league-average as you could get in the Florida State League last season. But he was also the 5th youngest pitcher in the same league.

Ercolani has pitched 13 frames for Greensboro so far. He has only struck out nine batters, but only four have reached via free pass. He’s allowed just a single home run and has a ground ball rate of exactly 50 percent. Overall, Ercolani has allowed just two earned runs in total, giving him a 1.38 ERA thus far.

Ercolani was throwing in the 93-94 MPH range last year for Bradenton while nearly hitting 98 MPH. He also throws his fastball with good ride through the zone with only 14.6 inches of vertical drop. The way he releases the ball also gives it some deceptive qualities. His most used breaking pitch is a cutter that sits in the mid-to-upper-80s. The right-hander’s primary off-speed pitch is a change-up that he throws to a similar velo to his cutter. He’ll also occasionally mix in an upper-70s curveball. Ercolani has displayed a violent follow-through at times, which could be a reason for his unimpressive walk rate so far in his young career.

Right now, Ercolani is the second youngest starter at High-A Ball. Heck, he was the ninth-youngest pitcher with at least a dozen starts at A-Ball last season, not just the Florida State League. That has to say something about his talent. The fact he didn’t do poorly last year, far from it, and is now off to a good start to 2024 is extremely promising. It’s possible he will become one of the most underrated pitching prospects at Double-A by the end of the season and in the Pirates’ system.