The Pittsburgh Pirates selected right-handed pitcher Matt Seelinger in the 28th round this year out of Farmingdale State College in New York. As a senior, he was quick to sign and was assigned to Morgantown, where he has been pitching great out of the bullpen.
Pitching great might actually be an understatement for the way the 22-year-old has performed so far in his pro debut. In nine appearances, he has thrown 12 scoreless innings on three hits and three walks, while striking out 17 batters. He is holding batters to an .077 BAA and he has an 0.50 WHIP.
Perhaps the most impressive part of his year is this isn’t even close to his best streak. In college this season, he rattled off 32.1 scoreless innings in a row as a starter. That is enough to get any college pitcher notice, but just how did the Pirates end up with a pitcher from a school that has never had a player drafted before?
Farmingdale State has a connection to the Pirates. Their head coach is Keith Osik, who has been running a successful program and the Division III school since 2008. Osik’s son was also the 40th round selection of the Pirates this season, though Tyler Osik decided to go back to college. Keith Osik was drafted by the Pirates in 1990 and played seven seasons (1996-2002) for them in the majors. Osik was there to give him advice on what to expect in pro ball after the draft, which helped Seelinger prepare for what he is going through now.
The Osik connection may have helped Seelinger get noticed, but he did the rest of the work on his own. In talking to him, he noted that the Pirates started to show interest in him late during his college season. That earned him a pre-draft workout for the team and that’s where he earned his draft spot. Seelinger mixed all three of his pitches, throwing his fastball 90-92 MPH, a low 80’s curve and his changeup, using that arsenal to strike out all five batters he faced during the workout.
So now here he is in pro ball and off to a fast start pitching 1-2 innings a night every few days. It may be possible that we see him in an expanded role in the future, but he had two months off between his college season and the start of his pro career, so he noted that he is still getting into pitching shape.
Seelinger said that he has seen a small uptick in velocity since the start of the season, but there should be more once he gets loosened up. That’s a scary thought for opposing hitters, that he might actually get better. He has also been working on his changeup, which is his third best pitch and tough to use often when he’s pitching out of the bullpen and only working quick innings each time.
While I was talking to him, I was also watching one of his outings on MiLB.tv. Back on July 21st, he pitched two perfect innings against State College, striking out four batters. To even things out, I later watched his “worst” outing, an inning in which he allowed a hit and a walk.
The dominating outing including him pounding the strike zone with fastballs and putting away hitters with curves and one changeup. He seems to hide the ball well, with some deception in his delivery and the batters have a really hard time picking up the curve, which has a late downward break, looking like his fastball until it falls off the table. Seelinger also throws a curve with a little less break for strikes early in the count. He gets nice downward plane on his fastball and looks to command it well, though he also will throw fastballs up and out of the zone with a little more speed behind them, looking to get chases. The changeup had the only left-handed hitter he faced well out in front of the pitch. Seelinger likes to work quickly and seems to have some high energy on the mound.
That bad outing ended up not being as bad as one hit and one walk sound. The hit was a ball that Julio de la Cruz, who is not the best fielding third baseman, dove on when he didn’t have to dive. He actually dove too far on a ball just to his left and it hit up near the top of his arm and rolled away. The walk seemed to be part of the high energy, as he overthrew some fastballs up in the zone. He seemed to slow down a little for the next batter and struck him out on four pitches to end the game.
It’s obviously a small sample size to see, but the success is there this year in pro ball, in college and his impressive pre-draft workout for the Pirates. I think next year we could see him in extended relief outings. He said he didn’t have a preference and worked in relief and as a starter all throughout college, but he is getting used to the routine of working out of the bullpen now. He seems to have adapted well so far, with more velocity and a better changeup possible in the future. Seelinger has a long way to go, but early on he looks like a nice late round find for the Pirates.