“Every once in a while, he does something really special with the bat,” said John Baker, hours before first pitch. “He randomly puts one out there 109 [MPH] over the fence.”
Hours later, Bubba Chandler hit his first home run in his first at-bat.
Chandler, drafted by the Pirates in the third round last year and given a $3 million bonus, is going to be playing in the FCL this year as a right-handed starting pitcher and a designated hitter. The two-way prospect is currently up to around four innings of work in his starts — his FCL debut was shortened by rain — and has been making strides with his hitting. He was working at shortstop in Spring Training, but the Pirates are keeping things simple, just giving him the bat in addition to pitching.
“That’s the current plan,” said Baker. “It could change, depending on how the pitching development is going.”
Chandler was a top draft prospect due to his raw athleticism and his drive to be the best at everything. He’s very raw at this point as a baseball player. Here is a breakdown of where he’s at on either side of the ball.
BUBBA CHANDLER, THE PITCHER
Chandler has the basics of an arsenal, with a fastball, breaking pitch, and a changeup.
“We’ve been really excited about his fastball,” said Baker. “Very promising pitch. He’s really focusing on landing secondary pitches. When that happens, it shouldn’t be long until he’s out at an affiliate.”
That’s promising to hear that Chandler could join fellow 2021 prep pick Anthony Solometo in the Bradenton rotation this year. As for those secondary pitches, they’re a bit of a mystery right now.
“These kids are so young, you have an offspeed pitch that’s spinning, and you have a changeup,” said Baker. “As they go through all of this foundational throwing development, you think of somebody like Bubba, in the past he would have stopped and started throwing a football. Giving him enough time for us to figure out who he really is. What can he do with the ball? How can he manipulate the baseball?”
What Baker highlighted the most of Chandler is his competitive drive.
“At the end of the day this is an elite competitor,” said Baker. “This is somebody that thrives off of competition against other people. He wants to compete. Because he wants to compete, he’s crafty. He’ll figure out ways to get that done, where what we need to do is figure out what that breaking ball is going to look like, and the only way we’re going to know that is to see what he does in a game, and then we can build off of it.”
BUBBA CHANDLER, THE HITTER
I love that the Pirates finally have a two-way player. Who knows if it will work?
But, as long as Chandler keeps hitting like he did on Monday — 2-for-4 with a homer, a walk, and a stolen base — he will keep the hitting hopes alive.
Chandler’s swing has looked extremely raw in the past, and at some points disconnected between his upper and lower half. As Baker said, he’s had his focus spread thin. The important thing is he’s a fast learner, and has already taken positive steps with his hitting.
“The strides he’s made in only a couple of months since Spring Training have been impressive,” said Baker. “He wants to win every drill that we do. He wants to win every set in the weight room. He wants to win everything, all of the time. He’s hyper-competitive. That’s the great part. We don’t have to coach that up at all. The polish is going to come from experience. He’s starting to get those experiences in extended, now the FCL, and with a little bit more refinement, we’ll see him in Bradenton.”
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Williams: What Does Oneil Cruz Want to Become?
Minor League Season Preview: 2022 FCL Pirates
Minor League Season Preview: 2022 DSL Pirates
Prospect Roundtable: Brennan Malone Makes His 2022 Debut
Bubba Chandler: “At the end of the day this is an elite competitor”
Braylon Bishop Features One of the Sweetest Swings in the System
Two-Pitch Combination Gives Owen Kellington Edge Over Competition
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Can we finally start to have nice things ….
Is funny, Baker said nothing and yet it sounds like great compliments. He’s very raw with big tool potential which is expected is what I read. Not saying is bad.
Does a LOT of that.
I like hyper-competitive ball players. All the most successful athletes possess this attribute.
it’s incredibly exciting to start to see some results from last year’s high potential draft
Just get better from one day to the next.