Two potential Wake Forest pitching prospects who should be on the Pirates’ draft radar

With Wake Forest having some of the best pitching talent in this year's draft class, the Pirates should have some of their pitchers on their radar.
Jun 19, 2023; Omaha, NE, USA;  Wake Forest Demon Deacons pitcher Josh Hartle (23) throws against the
Jun 19, 2023; Omaha, NE, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons pitcher Josh Hartle (23) throws against the / Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
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Potential Pirates Target: Josh Hartle

If there's one thing that Ben Cherington loves, it's soft-tossing left-handed pitchers. From signing Jose Quintana and Martin Perez to drafting Anthony Solometo and Michael Kennedy, Cherington has a 'type', per se. If Josh Hartle is still on the board during the Pirates' pick in the competitive balance round or in the second round, I could 100% see the Pirates take him as another talented lefty in the organization.

After a strong 2023 season, Hartle has struggled thus far into 2024. He has only pitched 38.1 innings but has a 6.34 ERA and 1.62 WHIP. Hartle has also been home run prone, allowing 1.64 home runs per nine innings on average. His 22.8% strikeout rate is also a downgrade from last season's 33.4% K%. On the plus side, he's still limiting walks with a 7.2% walk rate.

Hartle does not use velocity to overpower batters. His fastball sits in the 90-92 MPH range and tops out at 94. According to Keith Law, he's leaned more into using his cutter this year, a pitch that has shown above-average potential, but his best-breaking offering is his slider. His change-up gives him a fourth average pitch, and according to Joe Doyle of Future Star Series, he has tinkered around with a curveball. He has a chance to have five average or better offerings to work off of.

Hartle has an easy, repeatable delivery and throws a ton of strikes. It's a very simple motion, though he lacks significant deception. Still, he locates his stuff very well. Hartle stands at 6'5"and 210 pounds, so there's definitely a chance he sees a slight uptick in velocity. He'll likely never be throwing fastballs like Paul Skenes or Jared Jones, but maybe sitting closer to 92-94 MPH in the future isn't out of the question.

If there was someone who fits the Ben Cherington mold to a T in this year's draft, it's Josh Hartle. A soft-tossing left-hander whose best weapon is his control is something Cherington loves. Hartle is ranked as a top 30 draft prospect by Baseball America and The Athletic, so it's possible he falls far enough to still be available when the Pirates are selecting at #37. However, with the way he's been pitching, he might fall even further to the Pirates in the second round with the 47th pick.