Pirates ink 'funky' left-hander Solometo

July 21st, 2021

PHOENIX -- The Pirates signed their No. 37 overall pick in the 2021 Draft on Monday, and he may be the most energetic -- and competitive -- player in this year’s class.

Left-hander signed for a bonus of $2.8 million, a source told MLB.com, which is a good bit north of the No. 37 selection’s $2 million slot value. However, if Solometo had been drafted at No. 17, where he was ranked among MLB Pipeline’s top Draft prospects, he would have been slotted an extra $800,000 in pick value.

The Pirates got a high-end talent at a great price. The left-hander’s numbers were off the charts in New Jersey preps last season. Solometo allowed one run in 32 2/3 innings, and he pitched in no-hitters in back-to-back starts -- one complete, the other combined.

But Pittsburgh is getting a whole lot more than performance in Solometo.

They’re getting a pitcher who is comfortable in his own skin, no matter how many evaluators threw red flags at his unique pitching motion leading up to the Draft. Solometo kicks his right knee back hard into his body and leans back while winding up with a long path, and then fires out of a three-quarter slot like Madison Bumgarner.

What’s the best way to describe how it looks?

“I think funky is a great word to describe it,” Solometo said. “You know, I like to be a funky dancer out there sometimes.”

An answer which leads us to his next unique quirk: His energy and humor, even off the field. Solometo isn’t afraid to be chatty and throw jokes around in interviews. He’s active and engaging on social media; the High-A Greensboro Grasshoppers’ Twitter account said they hoped to see him soon, and he replied, “Me too,'' with a winking face.

Solometo is also a huge competitor, though. He can flip a switch, as he has from being an amateur to a professional. The day before his starts, he admits to locking in, focusing only on the start at hand to the point of not going out and keeping to himself.

“I just became addicted to that feeling of just absolutely dominating,” Solometo said. “I've always had that addiction, but once I get a fresh start every single season with a fresh wind in the air, I smell the blood like a shark.”

The Pirates hope that Solometo is just one of a few high schoolers who will sign in the coming weeks, a group that includes second-rounder Lonnie White Jr., third-rounder Bubba Chandler and fourth-rounder Owen Kellington. Solometo said he and some of those guys are in a Snapchat group, and they’ve talked with one another about how excited they are about this class.

So are the Pirates, especially about this intriguing, unique lefty they just inked.

“He owns everything that he has put into his career,” senior director of amateur scouting Joe DelliCarri said. “We’re looking forward to him continuing to do that with putting great people and resources in front of him. I can only smile about that, as I continue to look forward into what that’s going to look like.”

Worth noting
• Chase De Jong was placed on the 10-day injured list Tuesday with left knee inflammation, with the Pirates recalling right-handers Max Kranick and Nick Mears to fill the spots vacated by De Jong and Kyle Crick, who was designated for assignment on Monday.

Manager Derek Shelton said that Kranick was called up as an option to start on Wednesday for the Pirates, but that was contingent upon the bullpen's use on Tuesday in Arizona.

• The Pirates announced four additional Draft pick signings beyond Solometo on Tuesday: right-hander Jack Carey (11th round), right-hander Owen Sharts (13th round), left-hander Tyler Samaniego (15th round) and non-drafted free agent Nick Dombkowski, a left-hander from Hartford University.

All four were assigned to the Florida Complex League.