The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had a lot of consistent left-handed starting pitcher throughout franchise history, but Anthony Solometo could change that.
The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had many dominant left-handed starting pitchers in their history. When MLB ranked the 5 best left-handed pirate starters of all time, three of the five starters’ five careers began or ended before, during, or within 10 years of the end of WWI. The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates had a left-handed starter with at least two seasons above average was Francisco Liriano.
Due to a pick made in the 2021 MLB Draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates may change that in the near future. With the first choice in the second round, and the 37th general selection, the team chose to go with the left-handed high school student Antoine Solometo. Solometo may not have been as touted as Kumar Rocker or Jack Leiter before the draft, but he has potential ace nonetheless.
Solometo was arguably the best prep left-hander before the draft and overall one of the top 10 prep pitchers available. The left-hander attended Bishop Eustace Preparatory School, located in New Jersey. Some even saw him enter late into the first round. FanGraphs had ranked him 34th best available prospect while MLB Pipeline was even more optimistic about him. They ranked him as the 17th best available prospect.
Solometo arrived at the Pirates with an arsenal at three lengths. He throws his four-seam fastball in the 90s, averaging around 90-93 MPH, but topped 94 MPH. It also has a slider and a change-up. None of its offers come out as below par at the moment. He also has average or better spin on his fastball and slider.
The draw to Solometo is his command and ability to keep hitters balanced due to his liquidation and delivery. Only Gunnar Hoglund entered the draft with a higher projected command. Still, Solometo is currently expected to place their locations at a level 60 and could eventually reach elite territory.
The reassembly and delivery is what makes Solometo such an interesting arm to watch. Personally, I see something similar to former Florida Marlins ace Dontrell Willis, but with a slightly lower kick.
Many have drawn the comparison to Madison Bumgarner given her similar childbirth and arm split. As with Willis and Bumgarner, Solometo doesn’t rely on great speed, but rather on a strong breaking ball and exceptional mastery to break out the outs.
Even if that doesn’t mean Solometo will be a soft-tosser. It already averages 90-93 and hits 94 MPH. It was before he was even 19 years old. Currently, he has a tall 6’5 ”, 220-pound frame, the same height and weight as the MLB listed for the aforementioned Madison Bumgarner when he was a 2007 draft prospect. Solometo will be 21-22 years old. years old, he could gain around 225 to 230 pounds and add a speed check or two. I don’t think it’s out of the question that by the time he’s this age he averages 92-94 MPH and exceeds 95 MPH. Pretty good velocity for a left-hander with that kind of winding, delivery, and arm split.
Solometo is one of the most talented potential launchers in the system. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he was among the Top 100 prospects at the end of 2023. His deception, leadership and overall arsenal of offers give him the ceiling of a starting ace. A left-hander the Pirates can count on for several years off the rotation is something they haven’t had the luxury of for much of their franchise history. Solometo could break this trend.