Where Does Pat Light Rank in the Pirates’ System?

BRADENTON, Fla. – It’s not a surprise the Pirates acquired Pat Light when he became available prior to Spring Training. Light fits the type of pitcher they usually seek out. He’s tall with a big frame. He can throw hard, topping out at 100 MPH, and averaging around 95 MPH with his fastball. He’s got a pretty high ground ball rate. He strikes people out. And he has control problems, which is a negative, but something the Pirates have done a good job with fixing with other players.

Light isn’t a guy who has a shot at winning a spot on the big league club out of camp. Even if he does well, the Pirates have several options ahead of him at the back of the MLB bullpen. But he’s a guy with two option years remaining, and six years of control. If they can fix him, they’ll end up getting a nice, low-cost reliever.

They’ve already started that work, aiming from the start of camp at improving Light’s control. The big focus right now is keeping his front side closed longer. Light has a tendency to fly open too soon, which has been the cause of his control issues.

“It’s been an issue my whole life, pretty much,” Light said. “It’s one of those things where, when I rush, it’s tough to get my arm to catch back up. It’s just something I wanted to recognize early on and make an adjustment.”

If Light’s control can be fixed, then he could be a very good reliever, due primarily to one pitch: the splitter. He’s a two-pitch guy, using the fastball to set up the splitter. He throws the splitter in any count, although it’s best when he can use it as an out pitch. It’s deceptive, coming out looking like a fastball, but showing a lot of action, and some separation in velocity. While the fastball sits around 95, the splitter is usually 86-89 MPH.

“I lean on it a lot to get people out,” Light said. “That’s my strikeout pitch. It’s been really good for me. And it’s kind of revitalized my career as a strikeout guy. Because I wasn’t very much a strikeout guy early in my career.”

Light was up in the majors briefly in 2016, and had a 40% strikeout rate on that pitch, along with a .513 OPS. He got a swinging strike 19.3% of the time. The problem is that his fastball was hit pretty hard and showed no control, making it so that he couldn’t set up the second pitch.

He learned the splitter from his dad while messing around with grips. He threw it in college, although it wasn’t exactly planned.

“I threw it one day while out throwing with one of my teammates in college, and my pitching coach happened to see it, and said maybe we should start throwing it,” Light said. “So I started throwing it, trying to get a feel for it, and it started taking off from there.”

He has seen some high strikeout rates throughout his career, although the high walk rates have been an issue, especially once he started moving up in the minors. It’s not an easy task to fix control problems, although the Pirates have had some success with it. Light’s velocity, splitter, and age would have put him in the back half of our top 50 prospect list, likely just outside of the top 30, due to the upside he has if there can be a fix. If that fix happens in Indianapolis this year, then expect Light to make the majors at some point in the second half, at which point he could become a nice depth option for the Pirates’ bullpen.

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Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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dr dng

Tim & John,
Based on what you have written, can we come to the
conclusion that Mr. Light is (or could be) as good and
more than likely better than Caminero?

John Dreker

Definitely wouldn’t say he is as good right now, but he could be better than the Caminero. The upside is someone better and his stuff looked good in today’s outing. He will need time to reach the Caminero upside or better, and that will come with better control.

Light really struggled at first in Triple-A, then came around the next year. Same thing happened in Low-A, so it might just be an adjustment period to new levels. He had a horrible debut in the majors last year, so maybe time+experience will help him once he gets back to the highest level. He can’t be any worse.

dr dng

Sounds like a fun guy to keep an eye on
and root for. Thanks.


Does anyone consistently throw the splitter in the MLB? I thought that the pitch peaked in the 70s and caused too many TJ surgeries and wasn’t relied on heavily anymore


Yes, but I can only think of Salazar of the Indians. Caminero threw it last year. Is a better pitch in my opinion since it could be use agains both lefties and righties. But like you said, injury usually follows.


Santana, Neverauskas, and Light in Indy to start the year…wow the bullpen is as deep as the rotation!


Had the same thought, add Williams as a Hughes type of reliever (ground ball specialist) and the team will have a very good pen for vey cheap for years to come!


Maybe even some trades will come from the Indy depth for lower in the Farm


Nice photo, Tim. I hope you were wearing catchers’ gear 🙂

dr dng

Hmmm. After reading this and the ability
to throw nearly 100, I am going to hold
off on calling him Bud Light.

We wish him the best of luck.


I’m always so impressed with the pirates ability to add players that have made an impact for the big league team in trades that fly under the radar

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