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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Highlights from the Pirates Pitchers on the Extended Spring Training Roster

The Pittsburgh Pirates have 68 players currently at Extended Spring Training, not including rehabbing players. It’s a group loaded with international signings from the 2019-20 and 2020-21 signing periods, as well as one player from the current signing class.

While I won’t go through the entire list here, I wanted to point out some names of interest who could either make it to Bradenton at some point this season, or notable players who will play with one of the two Florida Complex League affiliates of the Pirates. We are splitting this up into two articles, one for the pitchers, and one for the hitters, which will run next week.

The first guy is listed on both the pitchers and hitters rosters. Bubba Chandler (pictured) is going to be one of the players to watch this season, whether he remains in the FCL, or eventually joins Bradenton. The 19-year-old third round pick received a $3 million bonus to sign away from Clemson. It’s important to remember that the Bristol/Morgantown levels don’t exist anymore, so the competition in the FCL is greater than the original GCL. A player like Chandler and other noteworthy prep signings from last year’s draft would have moved up from the GCL in their first full season, but not necessarily to Low-A ball. Since Chandler is being developed as both a pitcher and hitter, you would expect him to take some time to get to Low-A. You can read more about him in an early spring report.

The Pirates selected lefty pitcher Anthony Solometo with the 37th overall pick in 2021 and he received a $2.8 million bonus to sign. Many prospect sources rank him ahead of Chandler, who draws more interest due to the two-way potential. The 19-year-old Solometo didn’t debut last year after signing, so he will be getting his first shot at pro action this season. You can read more about him here in an early spring report.

The other interesting prep pitcher from last year was Owen Kellington, the fourth round pick who signed slightly above his $571 K slot amount. He came equipped with a solid fastball/curve combo, but did not debut last year after signing, so expect him to be in the FCL this year as one of the top starters.

I am grouping the next four players together because of how they were introduced to the fans, but they are very different pitchers, who have so far taken different paths to Pirate City. Cristopher Cruz, Gilberto Alcala, Yojeiry Osoria and Roelmy Garcia were four potential high upside pitchers from the Pirates 2019-20 signing class. The reports were glowing on all of them and I was told that any of the four could emerge as the best prospect from that signing class. The 2020 minor league shutdown delayed all of their debuts. Cruz went to the FCL in 2021 and had mediocre results and reports. Alcala had some injury issues that kept him out of game action. Garcia showed a blazing fastball that touched high 90s, but his control was poor. Osoria, the lone lefty in the group, didn’t do much in any of his starts, with a decent hit rate, high walk rate, average strikeout rate and limited work each outing.

Now all four are together at Pirate City and I’d expect them to see regular innings in the FCL. Cruz got some nice reports from later in the year, as he seemed to improve his stuff as the season went along. All of these pitchers are the same age as the three high profile prep pitchers mentioned above, so they could just be really tapping into that upside this year.

Sticking with the international players, Hung-Leng Chang is the 2021-22 international signing already at Pirate City, while all of the others are at the Dominican academy. He’s a bit older, signing at 20 years old back in January for $500,000. He’s also more advanced than the others, with a fastball that reaches 94 MPH, a five-pitch mix, and an advanced feel for pitching. However, he still has plenty of room to fill out his 6′ 3″ frame.

Australian pitcher Brandan Bidois appears to be out for 2022, but I’m working on getting a better update before I’m certain. He would be one to watch, whether it’s this year or next. Alessandro Ercolani from San Marino turns 18 on Wednesday. He had a solid debut as well as scouting reports that matched, so we could see better things from him in 2022.

Luigi Hernandez and Antwone Kelly were two highlights on the pitching side from the 2020-21 international signing class. Both are cases of the scouting reports exceeding the results. Both have made huge strides with their velocity since signing, so it’s no surprise that they moved up to Pirate City this year. Kelly in particular didn’t even touch 90 MPH when he signed, but he’s up to mid-90s, while Hernandez gets up to 95-96 MPH, which was about 4-5 MPH over his previous peak. Joaquin Tejada also moved up after putting up average results following his inclusion in the Tyler Anderson trade with the Seattle Mariners. The 18-year-old has a fastball that reaches 95 MPH and a nice four-pitch mix. He just needs better control before you get too excited about his upside. A similar pitcher is Andy Maldonado, who throws just as hard as Tejada, misses a lot of bats, but also misses the strike zone just as much.

There’s a lot of potential upside with this group at Pirate City, which should yield some pitching prospects in the upper levels in the next 2-3 years.

THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS

Williams: The Pirates Are Building a Window

Mason Martin’s Power is Just a Step Away From Pittsburgh

Omar Cruz Finding Swing And Miss To Game Out Of Bullpen

Highlights from the Pirates Pitchers on the Extended Spring Training Roster

Sammy Siani Off to a Hot Start, Fueled By Elite Swing Decisions

Pirates Starter Luis Peralta Could Follow His Brother’s Footsteps to the Majors

Andres Alvarez: Don’t Overlook the Underdog

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John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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