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.
Bubba Chandler brought the 🔥 for @The_Marauders.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 24, 2022
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%).
Bubba Chandler 💥 pic.twitter.com/jODyZMQpGU
— Bradenton Marauders (@The_Marauders) August 28, 2022
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.
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.
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.