Pirates’ Bubba Chandler Hits Reset And Redeems Season With Breakout


Righthander Bubba Chandler took a 12-day break from baseball last July.

Struggling with a 6.79 ERA through 62.1 innings at High-A Greensboro, Chandler went home and didn’t pick up a baseball during his break. He played golf, went fishing for 10 hours a day and reflected.

He entered the 2023 season with goals of making the Futures Game and receiving a midseason promotion. With those goals out the window, he needed a reset.

The 2021 third-rounder out of high school in Bogart, Ga., returned and posted a 1.85 ERA in 43.2 innings in his final eight South Atlantic League starts.

That earned him a bump to Double-A Altoona, where he threw five shutout innings in his final start, allowing one hit and striking out eight.

“That was a big step for me in my maturity process,” Chandler said of the second half. “I don’t ever want to pitch like I did in the first half again.”

Chandler worked as a pitcher only for the first time last season after playing both ways at North Oconee High and hitting a few times a week in his first two pro seasons.

On the mound, he has been developing his secondary stuff.

Chandler’s mid-90s fastball works best up in the zone, with up to 20 inches of vertical movement. He spent the year developing a hard, tight mid-80s slider that forces hitters to cover a large swath of the strike zone and wide velocity band.

“This game really is just about killing depth,” said Chandler. “I’ve got a fastball that goes up. You just need stuff that goes down.”

In the offseason, Chandler worked on refining his changeup from the sinker he was throwing last year. He worked with Pirates pitching advisor Dewey Robinson, along with former LSU coach Wes Johnson.

The pitch now looks like it’s “on a string” and works down off his fastball with up to 10 mph of separation.

Chandler’s finish to the season got him noticed on prospect lists, but he remains humble and focused on the future.

“It’s cool to get recognized, but at the same time, there’s 10 guys in this organization who are just as good, or better than me,” Chandler said. “At the end of the day, everyone wants to be playing in PNC Park.”


Bubba Chandler is participating in his first big league spring training this year, joining fellow Top 100 Prospects Paul Skenes, Termarr Johnson and Jared Jones in Pirates camp.

—The Pirates agreed to an extension with their top pitcher, Mitch Keller, who is now signed through the 2028 season. Keller has a 4.08 ERA in 353 innings over the last two seasons and was named this year’s Opening Day starter.

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