2-3-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement On Twitter)
Obviously this off-season hasn’t really been close to normal in any way, shape, or form; unless of course you take the regular posts and articles from armchair GM’s, attempting to predict potential lineups and rotations for the Pirates during the upcoming season into consideration. Because on that front, things have been business as usual; and, they don’t seem to be showing any indication of slowing down either.
To a certain degree I can’t really blame the people who choose participate in these exercises since it gives fans the chance to talk about actual baseball, rather than focusing on the current mess that is the MLB Lockout. On the other hand I feel a sense of frustration, simply based on the confusion that sharing uneducated opinions could cause, as many of these projections lack any reasonable explanations and/or analysis.
Yes, I understand-and believe-that people are inherently entitled to their opinions; and no, I don’t always think I’m right. Yet, when I-at the very least-possess more substantiated evidence to back up my convictions, it’s hard not speak up.
A recent example of this is the expectation-held by some-that Carmen Mlodzinski will be in the Pirates starting rotation at some point in 2022, with the major reasoning being that he finished the year with Triple-A Indianapolis.
To a causal fan this would make total sense, and in most cases would be a safe assumption to make. Except for the fact that in this specific situation, it completely ignores all of the mitigating circumstances surrounding Mlodzinski’s promotion; some of which originated prior to him even being selected by the Pirates with the 31st Overall Pick in Competitive Balance Round A of the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft.
Following what could reasonably be described a fairly unremarkable Freshman year at the University of South Carolina in 2018-mostly due to a 5.52 ERA, a 1.489 WHIP, 43 strike outs and 21 walks across 45.2 innings-Mlodzinski presumably had his sights set on a spot in the Gamecock’s starting rotation for the remainder of his collegiate career.
Unfortunately these aspirations would be short lived as his Sophomore and Junior seasons were both cut short by unforeseen obstacles. First he broke his foot after only 10.2 innings in 2019. Then the pandemic came along to officially end his time in Columbia; leaving him with just 14 starts over 26 appearances and a total 81.2 innings in 3 years.
Luckily for Mlodzinski, he was able show out at the Cape Cod League-a clear focus of the Cherington Regime -during the summer in between to bolster his stock; posting a 2.15 ERA while striking out 40 and only walking 4 in 29.1 innings. Now, clearly his polished three pitch mix of a 60 grade fastball that sat around 92-96 mph with good movement/sink and run, a 55 grade slider that bottomed out in the low 80’s with an almost cutting action at times and an above average change played into Pittsburgh’s interest as well; but, it’s hard to see it being as peaked as it was without his time in Eastern Mass.
Flash forward to the Spring of 2021, and a place in the Greensboro Grasshopper’s highly touted staring rotation for Mlodzinski; a distinction that he lived up to for the first few months of the season. Through the beginning of July, Mlodzinski posted a 2.88 ERA, a .994 WHIP and 11.85 K/9 in spite of struggles over his last two starts; eventually ending up on the injured list with a sore shoulder for about month. When he returned his action was limited-11.1 innings-and his pitches were ineffective-9.64 ERA and 2.57 WHIP-over his final five starts in Greensboro; which ultimately brings us back to the remaining aforementioned mitigating circumstances surrounding his promotion.
Leading up to Mlodzinski’s October 3rd appearance with the Indians-his first outing since September 19th-Indianapolis experienced losses in the pitching department because of injuries and promotions to the Big League Club. During the month of September alone the Pirates brought eleven pitchers up to PNC from Victory. The result being a combination of unlikely starters like John O’Reilly, consistent taxing of the bullpen and even an a late season appearance of a position player on the mound. The Indianapolis Indians desperately needed a place to find innings.
Enter Carmen Mlodzinski, in a perfect storm situation. The Indians required arms to finish the season, Mlodzinski needed to put in work after missing a month, and he was set to be assigned to the Arizona Fall League to continue pitching three days later; with the result being a two inning piggyback outing, where he allowed one earned run on three hits, while striking out and walking two batters a piece.
After all of this was said and done, Mlodzinski would go on to pitch an additional 11 up and down innings in the AFL; ending the 30 game season with a 4.91 ERA and a 1.273 WHIP, with 9 Ks and 5 walks.
When taking all of this into consideration, does this honestly appear to be a pitcher who is ready for MLB action anytime in 2022? At this time it’s a pretty resounding no for me; and, I think I would be hard pressed to find too many that would disagree. Could this outlook change? Well, obviously. Carmen Mlodzinski is a talented pitcher, with lot of potential. Still, the facts remains that in the past five years he has pitched a total of 174.1 innings, boasts a combined 4.08 ERA and a 1.308 WHIP and probably has only experienced success in about 10 starts during this time.
Moving forward, it almost goes without saying that the expectations for Mlodzinski in 2022 are directly tied to health; most likely beginning with the desire to have a solid start in Altoona. Beyond that pretty much anything is possible. Except for contributing in any meaningful way at PNC by the end of this season. That’s probably a little bit too much to ask; or to predict/project if that’s your thing.