The start of the 2010 season wasn’t kind to Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Aaron Pribanic. After spending the entire 2009 season in low-A, split between the Seattle and Pittsburgh farm systems, Pribanic made the jump to high-A for the 2010 season. Pribanic’s 2009 numbers in low A (2.89 ERA, 5.20 K/9, 2.24 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9, .231 BAA in 124.2 IP) brought a lot of hope for his jump to the next level.
Pribanic struggled to start the 2010 season, with a 6.35 ERA in 17 innings in the month of April, along with a 5.82 K/9, a 3.18 BB/9, and a 1.06 HR/9 ratio, plus a .338 BAA. Pribanic hasn’t been much of a strikeout pitcher in his young career, but his strengths have been the ability to limit walks and homers.
Since the month of April, Pribanic has slowly seen a turnaround, and has really been on fire in his last ten starts, spanning from June 8th. In that time, Pribanic has posted a 2.04 ERA in 61.2 innings, with a 3.94 K/9, a 1.61 BB/9, an 0.44 HR/9, and a .245 BAA. The strikeout numbers are low, although they’ve rebounded in the month of July, with a 5.1 K/9 in 30 innings after five strikeouts in seven shutout innings last night.
After his slow start, Pribanic is pretty much replicating his 2009 numbers, only this time at a higher level. So what could the future hold for a pitcher like Pribanic as he continues to climb the ladder?
Pribanic is 6′ 4″, 200 pounds, and reportedly throws his fastball between 91 and 94 MPH, topping out at 96. He throws a curveball and a slider, although neither are as reliable as his fastball, which probably is the reason for his low strikeout numbers. Pribanic gets a lot of ground ball outs, with an amazing 2.69 GO/AO ratio in 2009 in low-A, and a 2.12 GO/AO ratio this year. Between his low walks, his low home run ratio, and his large amount of groundouts, Pribanic has a lot of tools for success. However, the low strikeouts limit his chances of success in the higher levels.
Pribanic’s secondary numbers look a lot like those of Paul Maholm and Zach Duke, with the exception of the strikeout numbers. Maholm and Duke recorded a good amount strikeouts in the lower levels. Pribanic is basically a pitch to contact pitcher at this point, but he’s not dominating hitters. That will get him by at the lower levels, but he needs to find a way to increase his strikeouts, which means he needs to develop an out pitch. That’s the difference between eventually being a 3-5 level starting pitcher like Maholm or Duke, and being a middle reliever. The simple solution for Pribanic? Develop his secondary pitches.