This is one in a series of stories breaking down members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster.
The Pirates acquired lanky left-handed pitcher Jackson Wolf from the San Diego Padres as part of the 2023 trade deadline deal for Rich Hill and Ji-Man Choi.
While Wolf looks every bit the part of a young power pitcher, standing 6-foot-7 and 205 pounds. Instead it’s deception, not velocity, that is his main calling card, as Wolf’s fastball tops out in the low 90s. He throws a sweeping slider, a looping curveball and a changeup, releasing them from a variety of arm slots and angles to shake up a hitter’s timing and keep them off balance. MLB Pipeline rates Wolf as the No. 10 player in the Pirates’ system, and he posted a 4.13 ERA in 124.1 minor league innings last season.
Wolf made his big league debut in a spot start for the Padres in July, so he’s on the cusp of being ready for a big league role. With Johan Oviedo out for the season following Tommy John surgery and an as-of-yet lackluster free agent class, it looks like the Pirates need starting pitching badly.
Wolf could establish himself as a major piece in the Pirates’ 2024 rotation if he steps in to fill that void, as he’s served as a starter throughout his minor league career.
With that said, he may fit in best as a reliever in the big leagues. Velocity isn’t everything, but it helps to smooth over mistakes. When one considers that 17 of the 18 home runs Wolf allowed in 2023 came from right-handed hitters, he may fit better mowing down his fellow lefties out of the bullpen… but it’s a moot point if the Pirates need him to play elsewhere.