The hope was that once the Pirates got Bubba Chandler signed, in the system and focused on baseball, he’d start to unlock the immense raw potential that made him such a highly regarded prospect in the 2021 draft.
Starting out in the Florida Complex League this past season, Chandler dominated, striking out nearly half of the hitters that he faced (45.8 K%), while also not allowing a run in 15.1 innings pitched.
He moved up to Bradenton, flashed his explosive fastball that FCL hitters helpless, but also showed some of the work that was still needed to be done. Control was an issue, with an overall walk rate of 16.1% in 41.1 innings pitched.
When on the mound, Chandler features an electric fastball that is already one of the best in the entire system. While with Bradenton, the pitch averaged 95 mph, reaching as high as 98, and picked up a swinging strike rate of 16.5%, as well as a called strike/whiff rate of 34%.
With such an easy, and smooth delivery, you can see why Chandler was so successful with the pitch. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to see a little more of a velocity jump at some point.
Some of the troubles he got into controlling the pitch came with runners on base. It looked like he was trying to be too precise with the pitch instead of just throwing and letting it beat the hitters.
Once he settled down, he dug in and blew a couple of fastballs past the hitter.
One of the biggest leaps he made over his brief time in Bradenton was the work of his breaking ball. In his first game in Single-A, it had a good break but there wasn’t much shape to it.
By the time we got around to August and one of his last outings in the season (it was the last one available on stream, his best outing of the season was lost due to rain postponing it to the next day), the pitch still had some rough moments but you can see sharper breaks to it.
He also wasn’t shy in throwing the breaking pitch to lefties, although he did allow a home run on the pitch and finished out the game using mostly fastballs.
Gaining a little bit of confidence to continue to throw it to lefties, as well continuing to work on the sharpness of the pitch, gives Chandler the potential to have two plus level pitches.
You can see some of the evolution of the pitch in the video above. The first part is from his Bradenton debut against Jupiter, followed by the latest game available against Palm Beach. Pitch is still a bit raw, but there is plenty of potential there, and you can see his growing confidence in the pitch as the season went on.
Three at-bats stood out against Palm Beach on August 8th for Chandler. Against the first batter he faced on the night, he fed him fastballs away to jump up 0-2, before throwing a back door breaking ball to get a called strike three.
Chandler threw the breaking ball multiple times against lefties until he allowed that home run, showing confidence to throw it on both sides of the plate.
The next clip was one batter later, this time leading off with the breaking ball to work the count to 1-2, before painting the corner with a 96 mph fastball for a called strike three.
Finally, Chandler finishes off a batter with a less than ideal breaking ball up and in, but he was able to work both sides of the plate, incorporating the fastball, to keep the hitters guessing.
Chandler’s name has been brought up plenty lately, with Baseball America throwing his name out there as a potential midseason addition to their Top 100 prospect list, while The Athletic already has him on theirs.
With some of the highest upside in the system, Chandler showed progression in his brief time in Bradenton all the while showing the potential that makes him such a hyped prospect.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Tim Williams breaks down the plans for Producing and Editing this site in 2023.
First Pitch: Producing and Editing Pirates Prospects
Ethan Hullihen is working on a new feature to create a Glossary of transaction details on the site. His first installment is a look at how Optional and Outright Assignments work.
Pirates Business: How Do Optional and Outright Assignments Work?
Wilbur Miller looked at the Pirates’ 2019 draft, which is led by Quinn Priester, but has a lot of other interesting prospects still around.
WTM: The Pirates’ Quirky 2019 Draft
Bubba Chandler was a highlight of the 2021 draft, and Anthony Murphy looked at the progress and potential he showed during his debut season.
Bubba Chandler Showed Progress and Potential In His Debut Season
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.
What an athlete! Give him a tennis racket or a 7-iron and he’d be an ace in a week. I hope he & the Bucs have the patience to let him develop at his own pace.
I think it’s gonna be really hard to try and temper expectations about Bubba in the next couple years as he moves up the system. Whenever a super toolsy, two sport high school draftee gets taken there’s always the predictable and understandable notion that it’s gonna take a lot of time and work to iron everything out and turn the raw ability into a bona fide major league caliber player. But then I watch video of Bubba pitching and I see that explosive fastball, elements of an effective breaking ball and a change that can be more than just a show me type of pitch. Most importantly I see clean, easy, repeatable mechanics that significantly reduces his chances of not being able to fine tune his control/command and staying consistent with his release point. It wouldn’t shock me at all if he’s in Altoona by the end of the year and spending most of 2024 in Indy knocking on the door of MLB.
Delivery is so smooth. I absolutely would not be surprised if he adds a few mph on that fastball
If you’re going to do a feature with video of Bubba Ohtani, please insert a video of him jacking one out! It seems only right, even in a pitching article.
I have all his plate appearances from Bradenton recorded and edited. They’ll start rolling out slowly over next week or so.
Murph is the GOAT with these video scouting notes. He basically works for the Astros at this point.
Do we know if Bubba is actually working on two different breaking balls?
Seemed like there were some slurvy-lookin things in the 80-83 ban and some sharper true sliders in the 86 range.
Pretty 88mph change piece toward the beginning of that last clip, too.
I’ve heard slider and curve going into last season, but more just slider lately on a lot of the podcast talking prospects. Statcast on baseball savant tracks him throwing both. But it also has him throwing a cutter and sinker (that 88 mph ‘changeup’ had 2500 rpms to it and was labeled a sinker actually). Could be him toying with grips as the season went on as well.
2500 rpm is pretty bonkers for a cambio OR sinker!
OT: anybody would rather have Miguel Sano as out AAA first baseman than Mason Martin?
No, would rather have Nuñez and even Triolo and Gorski before Sano.