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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Pirates Prospects Daily: The Complicated Development Path Of Bubba Chandler

Entering the 2022 season, how the Pirates were going to handle Bubba Chandler was one of the more interesting headlines. Drafted as a two-way player, the team was planning on letting their third round pick from 2021 try his hand at both hitting and pitching in the minors.

They finally worked him into a routine that saw him take off for two days around any time he’d pitch, and then DH the rest.

Hitters in the Florida Complex League, his first stop in pro ball, proved no match for Chandler the pitcher, blowing them away with a fastball he could touch the upper 90s with. In 15.1 FCL innings, Chandler didn’t allow a run, with just three hits and he struck out nearly half of the batters he faced (45.8 K%). 

He was moved up to Bradenton, where he met a lot more challenges than the FCL presented. In 26 innings in Single-A, Chandler posted a 4.15 ERA, and held opponents to a .213 average. Obviously his strikeout wasn’t going to be maintainable, but it still remained a very good 28.9% with Bradenton.

The biggest issue was Chandler’s control, as he struggled the deeper he went into games, and to throw some of his breaking pitches for strikes. He posted an overall walk rate of 16.2% in 2022, and over half of the batters he faced either got a free pass or struck out.

Hitting was a different story. Although Chandler showed some power potential (four home runs, nine extra-base hits in 124 plate appearances), he mostly struggled to make contact (33.1 K%). 

It was the same case as with his pitching, as he did enough with the bat — walked more than he struck out, posted a 190 wRC+ in a very small sample size — to show he was maybe a little too advanced for the FCL. He was clearly overmatched at times in Single-A. 

While in Bradenton, Chandler struck out nearly 40% of the time in his 88 plate appearances, slashing just .184/.284/.289. 

How the Pirates approach Chandler in 2023 will again be interesting. He has 161 career plate appearances dating back to 2021, so it seems too early to completely write him off as a hitter.

What will help is that with only 26 innings in Single-A, they could just as easily keep Chandler in Bradenton, giving his bat more time to catch up to him on the mound.

Should he move straight to Greensboro though, would the couple of games he would get per week be enough to help him continue his development as a hitter?

That’ll be the question that constantly gets asked about Chandler’s two-way play. At what point is one really, truly cutting into the development time of the other? Followed by, how long after that happens do you cut the cord?

Ultimately, Chandler seems like a prospect that may take a bit longer to get things going, but once he does, the payoff becomes worth the wait.

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams

**The Rule 5 draft dominated the headlines over the last week. Ethan Hullihen takes a look at the players who could fill up the Triple-A reserve list, which I’ll have some thoughts on in the Weekly section below.

**Pirates Agree to Minor League Deal with Right-Handed Pitcher Nate Webb. A pitcher with a fastball that can touch 100 seems more common these days than in the past, but it’s still good to see. Webb recently pitched in the Arizona Fall League, and was non-tendered on Friday.

**John Dreker has the latest Pirates winter league updates, with 18 players playing, including a big day from Sammy Siani, and the winter debut of Miguel Andújar.

**Missed yesterday? Anthony Murphy had a breakdown of J.C. Flowers, who filled a lot of roles in Altoona this year, and who I think could pitch in the Pittsburgh bullpen in the future.

Song of the Day

I’ve been rocking MF DOOM all weekend. I’ve never heard this version, but it’s amazing.

Pirates Prospects Weekly

We won’t ever know who made the Triple-A reserve list. Ethan Hullihen did a great job of breaking down who might be on the list.

The Rule 5 draft has two phases. The most publicized phase is the MLB portion. Teams protect their players from that by adding them to the 40-man roster. There is also a Triple-A reserve list, to protect an additional 38 players from the minor league phase.

If I’m going over Ethan’s list, there are a few players who I would protect that he doesn’t have protected. However, there aren’t easy decisions on who not to protect.

In the end, if the Pirates lose players from the draft, it will be in this phase. They could lose a few wild card prospects. These players will largely be depth, and will be replaceable. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pirates replace their losses with their own picks in the minor league phase. Check out Ethan’s article to read more about this phase of the draft.

Pirates Business: Examining the Potential Triple-A Reserve List

First Pitch will go up at noon on Monday, recapping the previous week of articles and looking ahead to what we’ve got coming up this week.

Pirates Discussion

Weekly Pirates Discussion: Where the 40-Man Roster Stands After Rule 5

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Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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adicesa14

The Pirates have had difficulty developing hitters and pitchers. So, it stands to
reason they should develop Chandler both ways. Huh?

DangerWilRobnsn

Every pitch he throws stunts his hitting ability. Every hit he makes stunts his pitching development. Choose one, but choose wisely.

NMR

Remarkable amount of mechanical improvement in a year, but the hit tool isn’t showing it’s anywhere close to developable. The bar is now simply too high.

Adopting the universal DH has made two-way development practically worthless. There was a legitimate benefit to allowing guys like Chandler to continue hitting as a minor leaguer for no other reason than potentially being not-shitty when forced to hit as a big leaguer. Madison Bumgarner was worth nearly a win on offense in his peak years.

But now to have any utilization of hitting skills the two way pitcher has to hit well enough to BE the DH.

Catch_22

DH should squash this fantasy. Bubba by all accounts is a fantastic athlete, but he’s no Babe Ruth or Ohtani.

Catch_22

They need to stop messing around and let him fully concentrate on pitching. Then again, BC might have some backroom agreement with him and that’s how he signed him.

SouthernBuc

I agree in the long term, but I don’t think this was a backroom agreement. Chandler was very clear and public that he wanted the opportunity or he would go to college. All teams talking with him were aware of that. Now I understand money can talk, but there is also setting a precedent for future players with the same request.

ArkyWags

I think that’s what it is. Sure kid, we’ll let you do both as long as you sign!

Catch_22

Of course, that’s the cherry on top. “Bubba, in addition to signing you well over slot, we’re going to let you be a two-way player.”

skliesen

Take the kid gloves off him and let him hit on the days he isn’t pitching. Hitting well requires playing most days. Give the kid a legitimate shot at it please.

roberto

OK, but not the day after he pitches. His arm will be really sore. And not the day of his bullpen session. He will be tired and his arm will be a little sore. So, there’s a six day MiLB week. On three of them there are concerns: pitch, recover, bullpen. Maybe you can always do bullpen on Monday, but are four games a week enough reps?

john_fluharty

Is that how Ohtani was handled? I didn’t really follow.

skliesen

Arm is sore? He’s 20-years old. Guaranteed he’s spent his whole non-adult life hitting the day before, the day of, and day after pitching. It’s not anything he hasn’t done before.

This is an example of MLB organizations being overly protective of players due to large $ investment in the form of a signing bonus.

NMR

Uh, yes, that is correct.

Most likely outcomes is that hitting neither helps nor hurts, but any rational evaluation indisputably would find more risk of injury than reward for the one-in-a-million scenario where he could actually develop into a viable position player. It’s a no-brainer to focus on pitching, albeit boring, as rational decisions tend to be.

skliesen

One in a million?

Ok, given there’s a near 100% chance he doesn’t turn into Ohtani Jr. doesn’t mean Pirates should artificially limit his value because of irrational fear of injury. I say encourage players to exceed expectations, not handcuff their development early on.

NMR

Sheesh.

skliesen

Your lack of faith and my irrational exuberance are still at odds I see.

roberto

It’s the running that worries you, not the hitting. In my undistinguished baseball career I had no injuries while hitting, only one injury as a catcher, and multiple injuries while running the bases.

robertkasperski

There also has been many a pitcher hurt trying to field a bunt, trying to get to first to make a play….All sorts of ways.

ArkyWags

Is your real name Gregory Polanco?

roberto

Si

skliesen

It’s Perez of course.

roberto

Good examples. Suppose you stretch and warm up properly before a game, how does that prepare you for the fifth inning?

leefieux

“BOOM, goes the dynamite”. Love it.

Scam likely

Getting a Zack grienke vibe, as a pitcher and a doc Ellis vibe as a hitter, and yes doc was a switch hitter.

leefieux

And his name was spelled ‘Dock’. 🙂

JoeNastasi

Have you ever been in his bar in Toronto

leefieux

I don’t ‘do’ bars, so ‘no’. But, that begs the question: Why does Dock Ellis have a bar in Toronto of all places?

robertkasperski

You got my inquiring mind going. Just had to see. The Dock Ellis Sports Bar. The owners bought a Portuguese sports bar and wanted to reopen as a hip sports bar geared to the younger crowd. They thought that the new hip bar needed named after a hip sports person and felt Dock was pretty hip so Voila! The bar was named for Dock 5 years after his death. As far,as I could find. Nothing to do with Dock or his family. Betting the family got paid for his name usage though.

PirateRican21

I’ve been against the two way development since day one, was happy to see that they at least dropped the SS part of it. I believe that this upcoming season will be the last of it and he will be a full time pitcher

JoeNastasi

I’m definitely higher on him as a pitcher, but I don’t want to see a repeat of Jon Van Benschun{sorry for spelling, but he never advanced enough to learn it} or Stetson Allie either

Cocktailsfor2

Those names are like nails on a chalkboard to me…

leefieux

I just call him John Van BeenShotten. Easier to remember. 🙂 🙂

SouthernBuc

It be interesting to know how the Pirates development team are communicating with Chandler regarding performance / progress etc. He was adamant he wanted a 2 way opportunity and he is still very young so I wouldn’t want to ‘burst the bubble’ too soon if in fact they feel it is not working. I would think any 2-way player would have some delay in progression since it would be shocking if both parts of the development progressed at the same pace.

Zack

It would also be interesting to know how he is taking it. If you put me in his shoes, I pull the plug on hitting if I am in jeopardy of being held back because if it.

roberto

OK, but I am betting you are an adult.

Zack

Adult and probably setting high expectations for rational thinking.

john_fluharty

I would start him in Bradenton with plans to move him up to Greensboro mid season if he’s performing well. I can see why give him a day off after a start by I wonder why they feel like they need to before a start.

JoeNastasi

I would imagine it has something to do with the throwing program he’s on

roberto

Exactly. To improve as a pitcher you have to do a full speed bullpen regularly. That’s not playing catch.

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