Zero shakes of his catcher, career-high 10 K's for Bucs' Chandler at Double-A

MLB's No. 64 overall prospect retires 16 consecutive batters during dominant outing

June 22nd, 2024

As the season continues on, continues to fire away on the mound.

MLB's No. 64 prospect piled up a career-best 10 strikeouts en route to Double-A Altoona’s 5-0 victory over Bowie at Prince George’s Stadium on Friday night. Chandler allowed just three baserunners via two hits and a walk while getting through seven frames for the first time since August 22, 2023, with High-A Greensboro.

“You wish every outing could go like the one I had today,” said Chandler. “Pretty early on, I knew what was going to be working and what wasn't going to be working.”

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The righty allowed a leadoff double to Frederick Bencosme (Orioles No. 27 prospect) in the bottom of the first. He then retired the next 16 batters -- including seven consecutive strikeouts -- until he yielded a single to Alfredo Velásquez in the bottom of the sixth.

Chandler's instinct to attack the zone, which came from Pirates coaching and his chemistry with his catcher, Carter Bins, contributed to his efficiency on the mound.

“The Pirates kind of breed, 'Hey, get swing-and-miss in [the] zone,’” said Chandler, the Pirates' third-ranked prospect. "Then once you can do that, you can start moving outside of the zone, because hitters start to get big and whatnot. Pretty early, I was pounding the zone and then was able to expand as the game went on.

My catcher, Carter Bins, he's caught me a lot in my career. So we know each other and he knows what not to put down in certain situations. I don't think I shook one time tonight, on purpose. Just kind of a good day of ball at the yard.”

Chandler utilized all four of his pitches -- fastball, curveball, slider, changeup -- in the outing, something he said he hadn’t done before. After having some issues with his curveball earlier this season, he was able to restore confidence in the pitch to use when he feels necessary.

“With pitches, you want to be confident when you throw it,” said Chandler. “I had stuff happen in the past with the curveballs and so I'm very unconfident with a curveball. But a curveball is a good pitch with my arsenal that I have. So being able to command that to throw whatever I want [is key]. … Today, it was the first time that I've thrown it a lot and felt good -- really weak contact and some takes with it, which is what I need.”

Despite entering Friday night’s game with a 5.13 ERA, the 21-year-old has continued to pile on the strikeouts (57 in 47 1/3 innings this year), hitting his previous season-high of seven in his prior start.

Chandler was initially a two-way prospect when the Pirates selected him in the third round of the 2021 Draft out of North Oconee HS (Bogart, Ga.). The club handed him a $3 million signing bonus to forego a commitment to be a two-sport star at Clemson, and sent him out as both an infielder and hurler across Rookie ball and Single-A in '22. Last year was his first chance to focus entirely on pitching, a season in which he feels like he grew significantly.

The next step for the righty who was clocked at 98 mph in his most recent outing? Consistency with his full arsenal.

“It's easy to look at box scores and stuff, but I think I've been pitching pretty well this year,” said Chandler. “And a big part of that is just being more confident with my slider and my changeup and getting them in zone. Like I was saying earlier, once you get stuff in the zone, it's very easy to start throwing stuff out of the zone and guys are gonna chase more.

"So if I do that every time, 99 percent of the time, it's gonna work out in my favor.”