by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have built arguably the best minor league system in baseball. Through trades and the draft, the Pirates have accumulated a slew of talent and Draft 412 will review some of the Pirates' best minor league players, offering insights as to which young stars may be playing ball at PNC Park soon.
Name- Bubba Chandler
Team- Altoona (AA)
HT/WT- 6’2” 200 lbs.
Home – Lawrenceville, GA
Bubba Chandler was a two-sport star at North Oconee High School in Bogart, Georgia and initially only was recruited by college baseball teams. He committed to play baseball at Georgia going into his junior season and during his sophomore year he posted a 7-0 record with 55 strikeouts in 41 ⅓ innings, and hit .356 as a hitter.
During his junior season of football, he threw for 2,098 yards and 27 touchdowns and after the season decommitted to Georgia and committed to play both football and baseball at Clemson.
During his senior baseball campaign, he established himself as one of the best two-way prospects in the MLB Draft. The Pirates selected him in the 3rd round with the 72nd overall selection, and signed him on July 21, 2021 for 3 million dollars which was well over “the slot” and kept him from going to Clemson.
After signing with the Pirates he was assigned to the Rookie-level Florida Complex League Pirates. There he played shortstop and DH and hit .167.
In 2022 Chandler split time between the rookie league and A ball Bradenton. He was a two way player who only hit .196 but went 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA in 11 starts.
Coming into 2023, Chandler decided to give up on being a shortstop and became a full time pitcher. He continued his trek through the minor leagues playing at both High A Greensboro and AA Altoona. On the season combined, he went 10-4 with a 4.54 in 25 starts. He also struck out 128 hitters in 111 innings pitched.
Bubba Chandler has a rocket arm and the athleticism unmatched by many on the mound. His fastball sits in the 92-95 range and has topped out at 99 mph which he throws from a high arm slot. In high school, Chandler had trouble repeating his delivery and arm slot but has since done a good job of improving in this area. He’s also improved his secondary pitches since becoming a professional. His breaking ball has above average spin and his changeup continues to improve. He has tinkered with a slider but it is still a work in progress.
He can get in trouble when he falls behind hitters and tries to blow fastballs by, making him prone to give up the long ball. His command is still spotty and he seems to lose confidence in his secondary pitches early on and relies solely on his fastball. This will be more of a problem as he rises to Triple A and then the Majors.
Bubba Chandler has transitioned well from a two-way player to a full time pitcher. He has a very high ceiling and if he can continue to harness his secondary pitches, he has a good chance to be a 1-2 starter for the Pirates.
Draft 412 thinks he will start 2024 in AA and with continued improvement he should be able to see AAA by July or August. 2025 should start with Chandler in AAA and be a call up at some point in the season, as long as he continues this pace of improvement.
Bubba Chandler in a rotation with Paul Skenes, Mitch Keller and Anthony Solometo could be one of the best rotations in all of baseball. Looking back, the Pirates taking a chance on drafting and signing Chandler in the 3rd round could go down as one of the best overslot picks in recent history.