I often hear Pittsburgh Pirates fans talk about a void that exists in the Farm System as it pertains to quality pitching prospects, especially left handed pitchers. They make it seem like there are absolutely zero left handed hurlers, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I am not going to pretend like it wouldn’t be beneficial to have more, but to act like there are none is completely absurd. A quick trip between Greensboro and Bradenton was all that was needed to find one such player.
Braeden Ogle was drafted by Pittsburgh in the 4th Round of the 2016 MLB June Amateur Draft from Jensen Beach High School in Florida. Immediately after being picked by the Pirates the 6’2” 170 lb left handed pitcher was assigned to the Gulf Coast League Pirates where he had a solid start to his professional career. At over two years younger than the rest of the competition, Ogle posted a 2.60 ERA, a 1.048 WHIP and a lowly .210 BABIP in 8 starts and 27.2 innings. He did struggle at times with a walk rate of 3.58 BB/9 and didn’t produce much of a swing and miss to the tune of 6.51 K/9. However, I consider this production a result of youth and need for further development, so I wouldn’t look to deep into it.
After an entire offseason to prepare for his first full year of professional ball, Ogle was ultimately promoted to the Bristol Pirates (Pittsburgh’s Advanced Rookie League Affiliate) of the Appalachian League. He continued to grow as far as command and control by increasing his K/9 to 7.33 and slightly reducing his BB/9 to 3.35. However, he fell victim to an ever rising BABIP, which soared from .210 to .300 resulting in a less than optimal 1.302 in his 10 starts and 43 innings. As I took a deeper dive into Ogle’s performance and production throughout the year I was pleasantly surprised by a drop in his FIP from 4.13 to 3.83 over the course of the year; a sign of improvement, as well as an explanation for his unlucky BABIP. It’s is also possible that a lingering knee injury was responsible for a decline in production, as his season was cut short by surgery due a right knee meniscus tear.
After an intense rehab and plenty of hard work Ogle started 2018 with the West Virginia Power (Pittsburgh’s Low-A Affiliate through 2018), a clear promotion, rather than being assigned to the Short Season-A, West Virginia Black Bears. His first start was a struggle. He fought through 3 innings, giving up 3 runs while walking 4 batters and striking out 4. The next two games he hit his stride pitching 6 innings each game striking out 12 and allowing 2 runs. The fourth game of season he struck out 5 batters in 2 innings, only to be removed with shoulder inflammation. He did not return the remainder of the the season.
Due to concerns about his ability to maintain health as well as the fact that he was able to increase his K/9 to 11.12 the Pirates made the decision to move him to the bullpen. In an attempt to adjust Ogle to a reliever role he began the season with the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Pittsburgh’s Low-A Affiliate) for the second season in a row, appearing in 20 games and starting 2. In those 20 appearances Ogle was able to live up to his potential, increasing his command and reduced his BB/9 to a career low 2.84. He also maintained a K/9 above 1 per inning. This resulted in Ogle being promoted midsession to the Bradenton Marauders (Pittsburgh’s High A-Advanced Affiliate) of the Florida State League. In 11 innings, a small sample size, he reduced his WHIP from 1.200 to .971, his ERA from 3.69 to 3.18 and continued his decline in BB/9, landing at 2.4.
Prior to the delay in this current season I was curious as to whether or not the new regime would give Ogle another shot at being a starter due to the high K/9 (11.12) during his last chance in a rotation or would choose to transition his 96 mph fastball and his 84-86 mph slider into the bullpen for good. There is no doubt he would have started his season back in Bradenton, but depending on his path he could have quickly climbed the ladder; taking the mound at PNC Park as early as 2022. The only real question at this point is will he be a starter or will he be summoned from the bullpen by Derek Shelton in the later innings to preserve a lead and Pirates victory? Only time will tell.