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Pirates Prospect Profile: One Way Enough for Bubba Chandler



Bubba Chandler, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pirates prospects

Bubba Chandler is kind of like the person who juggled part-time jobs until they finally found full-time work.

The Pittsburgh Pirates right-handed pitching prospect became a full-time pitcher last season after spending his first full year in professional baseball in 2022 as a two-way player in which he pitched and played shortstop. The Pirates and Chandler then decided to simplify things. It has been a good decision.

The 21-year-old is off to a good start with Double-A Altoona. He has no record in two starts but a 2.45 ERA while allowing four hits and striking out 10 in 7.1 innings.

Chandler has also developed one of baseball’s best prospects. Baseball America ranks him 58th, FanGraphs has him at No. 64 and he’s 85th on’s list.

The Pirates selected Chandler in the third round of the 2021 amateur from North Oconee High School in Bogart, Ga. They gave Chandler a $3 million signing bonus to forego a football scholarship to play quarterback at Clemson.

Chandler played three games as a shortstop and eight as a designated hitter in his debut season of 2021 in the rookie-level Florida Complex League.

The following year, he pitched 14 times, played shortstop in 46 games between the FCL and Low-A Bradenton, and fared much better on the mound than at the plate. He hit .196/.331/.382 with four home runs and four stolen bases while compiling a 1-1 record and a 2.61 ERA.

Last year, as strictly a pitcher, Chandler went 10-4 with a 4.54 ERA in 25 starts between High-A Greensboro and Double-A Altoona. In his only start in Double-A, Chandler pitched five shutout innings and allowed one hit to finish the season.

Chandler came to realize in 2023 that dropping the two-way experiment was a boost to his career.

“I think pitching has always been my calling,” Chandler said. “I don’t have great eyesight so hitting is probably not the best for me. It’s a lot easier to focus on one thing. One of the hardest things to do in sports is to be a starting pitcher and focusing on that daily has been a mental grind but also a physical grind as well. It’s a little easier on the back and body not swinging a bat every day but I enjoy it. I really believe I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Chandler also has plenty of other talents. He was a dual-sport star in high school and, most impressive, was ambidextrous in both football and baseball.

Despite being a natural right-hander, Chandler would throw passes as far as 50 yards with his left arm in football. He also pitched as a lefty once at North Oconee and threw an immaculate inning – striking out the side on nine pitches.

However, Chandler has no dreams of being a switch-pitcher in the big leagues. The last major-leaguer to throw with both hands was Pat Venditte, who played for five seasons between 2015 and 2020 with six different teams.

“I mean, hell, I can’t even pitch that well from the right side let alone the left side,” Chandler said with a laugh. “Those days of throwing left-handed were pretty fun but it’s way too hard. The only reason I started throwing left-handed is because I hurt my arm, and I don’t want to do that again.”

Chandler is doing fine and dandy as a right-hander. He is also just two levels away from reaching the major leagues.

“It does make it feel like you’re closer to getting to the big leagues when you get to Double-A,” Chandler said. “I told a couple of my friends that the first day I was in the (Altoona) clubhouse, the feel was different, the whole aura and everything. You just feel like you’re getting closer to the ultimate goal.”

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