Pittsburgh Pirates' Prospect Spotlight: Aaron Shortridge
In many of my prospect articles I talk about how the Pittsburgh Pirates need to find a diamond in the rough, an undervalued player, a player with potential that hasn’t been realized yet; someone who has flown under the radar. In my opinion the Pirates found a player with all of these attributes in the 4th round (114 overall) of the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft when they drafted right-handed pitcher, Aaron Shortridge out of the University of California, Berkeley.
The then 20-year-old had just spent his first year as a majority of the time starter for the Golden Bears after spending the first two years in the bullpen, mostly due to the fact that he was working toward becoming a pitcher after being a shortstop for the majority of his baseball life. In his final year at CAL, the 6’3’’ 196 lb. righty posted a 2.77 ERA, a 1.132 WHIP, had 74 strike outs, 2 saves and only 14 walks across 91 innings, 17 appearances and 12 starts. Much of the success that Shortridge experienced during his last year in college could be credited to all of the hard work that he put in while playing in the Northwoods Collegiate Summer League as a starter for 11 games over two seasons for the Eau Claire Express.
Immediately after being drafted, the Pirates sent Shortridge to the West Virginia Black Bears (Pittsburgh’s Short Season/ Low A Affiliate) of the New York-Pennsylvania League. In his first taste of professional baseball, the success that he experienced in his season at CAL continued throughout the entire season. In 8 games and 8 starts he had a 2.67 ERA, a 1.121 WHIP, 38 Strike Outs and Only 7 Walks in 30.1 innings. Due to his accomplishments and clear command of his pitches it was an easy decision of the Pirates to bypass Low A and promote Shortridge Straight to the Bradenton Marauders (Pittsburgh’s High A Affiliate) of the Florida State League, where he participated in extended Spring Training prior to beginning the season.
In his first full year in the minors, Shortridge was the same consistent and solid pitcher he has been since converting from a position player. He started 24 games for the Marauders and pitched 135.2 innings, averaging a little over 5 and 1/3 innings per start. His ERA rose slightly to 3.25, but his WHIP remained consistent at 1.14, mostly due to his extremely low walk rate of 1.66 per 9 innings. The only area in which he struggled was with the swing and miss. His K/9 rate was almost cut in half; going from 11.27 the previous year to 6.90 in 2019. After I saw these numbers I had to “nerd-out“ for just a moment to attempt to discover if there was any reasoning for this or if his numbers changed drastically in any other areas. I will save you the pain of reading through all of the advanced metrics I dove into by letting you know that I couldn’t find anything. His BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) decreased from the previous year, he didn’t have a “bad” month or slump and his LOB% (Left On Base Percentage) actually rose. Whatever happened, it is something that I will definitely be keeping an eye on as he progresses through the system.
If you have read any of my other prospect articles, particularly the one on Pirates #25 Prospect Max Kranick, you may remember me mentioning the Pirates #27 Prospect Aaron Shortridge, along with the log jam that currently exists as it pertains to right-handed starters in Pirates' farm system between Bradenton and the Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh’s AA Affiliate) of the Eastern League. Three other pitchers that are a part of this log jam are RHP Brad Case, #15 Pirates' prospect RHP Cody Bolton and #26 Pirates prospect RHP Travis McGregor, returning off Tommy John Surgery that he had in September of 2018. What if anything will set Shortridge apart from the others? If I had to guess it would have to be his control and his fastball, which are both currently listed at a 55 Grade. He also has a solid change up (50 Grade). What if anything could hold him back? A lack of a consistent third pitch. Shortridge has been working on developing a breaking ball, a slider; currently a 45 Grade.
It is tough for me to say where Shortridge, will or should start, until I am able to see how this pitch has developed over the off-season. What I will say is I can really see no benefit in him repeating a year with the Marauders and that I am hoping that there is room for him on the Altoona Curve’s starting rotation come April 2020.
Follow Craig on Twitter: @BucsBasement