Small Change Yields Big Results For Carmen Mlodzinski

When the Pirates drafted righthander Carmen Mlodzinski out of South Carolina with the 31st pick in 2020, he was known for his power sinker that could hit 99 mph. But he faced questions about his ability to miss bats.

This season the 6-foot-2 Mlodzinski scrapped the sinker and switched to a four-seam fastball. The overall results from a swing-and-miss standpoint were 64 strikeouts in 50.1 innings for High-A Greensboro.

Mlodzinski worked with the Pirates and Cressey Sports Performance on making the switch to the four-seamer, with all parties involved suggesting the pitch would play better.

“I feel like for the most part this year, it really has,” Mlodzinski said. “I’m confident to say that was the right move.”

In addition to his fastball, Mlodzinski throws a cutter, slider and changeup. Those were all pitches that he threw when drafted, with the cutter profiling as his best pitch. The move to the four-seam fastball was in part due to how the pitch would play off his secondary stuff.

“How my other pitches morph off of it, and then my arm action, the ball flight—there’s certainly a lot that goes into it,” Mlodzinski said. “I’ve sat down and studied it, looked at other people’s data with similar slots, similar release heights, similar spin—and those are four-seam guys as well.”

Mlodzinski put up a 3.93 ERA in High-A this year. His season was shortened by a right-shoulder injury that kept him out for almost two months. He had a rough finish to the season, allowing 13 runs over 9.1 innings over his final five appearances.

The Pirates followed up by sending Mlodzinski to the Arizona Fall League to get additional work. His results were an improvement over his finish to the season.

Mlodzinski has the upside to be a back-of-the-rotation starter or a power reliever in the majors. He should move to the upper levels in 2022, sticking with the same group of top pitching prospects that he joined in Greensboro this season.

That group included Quinn Priester, Tahnaj Thomas and Michael Burrows.


— Michael Burrows is one of the pitchers who joined Mlodzinski in the Greensboro rotation, and also joins him in Peoria in the Arizona Fall League.

— The Pirates were getting strong early results from two hitters in the AFL. Second baseman Nick Gonzales, the 2020 first-rounder, posted a 1.008 OPS through 59 at-bats. Speedy middle infielder Ji-Hwan Bae compiled a .370 on-base percentage through 17 games. Bae was getting work at second base and in center field.


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