Max Kranick Moves Forward With New Approach
In a world without the coronavirus pandemic, Max Kranick would have made the jump to Double-A Altoona this year. His family, living a few hours away in central Pennsylvania, would have gotten a chance to see him on the mound every fifth day.
Even in a world with COVID-19, the 2016 11th-rounder from Valley View High in Archibald, Pa., made it to Altoona, though the pandemic has him pitching intrasquad games in an empty stadium.
Shoulder injuries, such as shoulder tightness, have limited the 6-foot-3, 175-pound righthander's progress in the past, with his arm strength waning late in the season.
“I would hit July and I’d start hanging a little bit,” Kranick said. “I knew that just can’t happen if I want to continue to move up in the organization.”
He turned to Vic Black, a former Pirates reliever whose career was derailed by arm injuries, for help. Black has the 23-year-old working on simple weighted ball drills to build up his shoulder strength.
This approach, along with shorter arm action, has Kranick’s velocity in the 93-94 mph range and touching 96, to go along with higher spin rates.
The new front office in Pittsburgh has been incorporating more analytics and technology into the development process, which has resulted in Kranick dropping his two-seam fastball. He’s throwing his four-seamer exclusively now, and throwing more often up in the zone, playing off his curveball that he likes to locate down in the zone.
The curveball has gotten help from Joel Hanrahan, who Kranick is working with in Altoona. Hanrahan has Kranick focusing on pitch tunneling, to make his curveball look like his fastball out of the hand.
“I’m not a guy who spins a breaking ball like other guys, so I need it to look like my fastball,” Kranick said, referring to his breaking ball spin rate as below-average.
The work with the former major league pitchers has Kranick showing more consistent velocity, a better fastball, and more deception on his breaking pitch. The long-term hope is that the strength work will help him maintain that progress throughout a full season.
— Minor league players were still getting built up at the alternate training site in Altoona, Pa. The buildup is similar to spring training, with a gradual progression toward playing full games. In the first week of August, Kranick was pitching five innings in a start for the first time. The Pirates had one week of minor league camp in March prior to the season shutting down.
— Righthander JT Brubaker had made two appearances with the Pirates, throwing five shutout innings. Brubaker had worked to improve his cutter the last few years in the minors.