Pittsburgh Pirates: What Should be Made of Brennan Malone This Year?

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Pirates

 Before the minor league season started, I broke down some of the prospects that I was the most excited about watching. Among them was Brennan Malone, who I even took it a step further and say that he alone was the prospect I was looking forward to watch the most this year.

That, hasn't worked out the way that most had hoped, as this has been far from the kind of year that Malone, and the Pirates, would have liked to seen.

Being cautious with one of their top arms in the system, Malone get a late start to the season, eventually getting assigned to the Bradenton Marauders

Things didn't start off bad for Malone, as he pitched a scoreless inning in his Pirates debut - walking one, and hitting another batter in the process. He allowed two runs his next outing, but neither were earned and struck out a hitter in another inning of work.

Finally getting a chance to pitch more than a single inning, Malone walked four batters and allowed two more unearned runs despite surrendering a single hit. He was pulled from that game, which took place on May 21 and he didn't pitch again in a live game until on Friday.

That game also didn't go well, as he didn't even finish the first inning, allowing three runs on one hit, and three walks. He recorded a single out in the start, before giving way to the bullpen.

So in his last two appearance Malone has walked seven batters, allowed five runs (three earned), two hits all in just 2 total innings of work.

On the season, Malone has eight walks, two strikeouts, five hits and a hit batter - all in just four innings pitched.

Not a great start for a player who was one of the top prep pitchers in the 2019 draft, the same that the Pirates took Quinn Priester in.

So what does all of this mean? Should the Pirates be worried about his performance this year?

I mean, to an extent it should be concerning that he has had this kind of issue finding the strike zone this year. Only 46% of his pitches have gone for strikes this season, and he hasn't missed many bats when he has found the zone (two strikeouts). 

Also, he's barely 20 years old, hasn't pitched much in the last three years and has been dealing with an injured lat muscle as well. His control was also something that was noted going into the draft as something he'd have to improve if he wanted to make the majors.

But also on the same side of that, the most concerning number for Malone is four. As in that's how many innings he has pitched this year, his age-20 season. Not the ideal way to go about things considering 2020 was washed out, and he signed late in 2019 and didn't pitch much then.

Drafted in 2019, Malone has 12 professional innings pitched to his credit.

I think that some people forget that there isn't one straight path to get to the majors, especially for pitchers. For every Priester, who got an aggressive push to Greensboro this year, there are others like Malone that need a couple of years to fine tune their game before making the jump to affiliated baseball.

Come the 2022 minor league season, Malone will be in his age-21 season - still young but definitely will be a crucial year for his development. The best thing he can do this season to prepare himself for next year is to stay healthy, and log as many innings as possible.

Baseball America had him one of the biggest droppers in their updating rankings falling from ninth at the beginning of the year all the way down to 28th, so they are obviously concerned about him as a prospect at this point.

In the Pirates system, 28th still is a respectable spot and could be in the top-15 in most other organizations, and still being 20, he has plenty of time to jump back up.

Whether he does or not will be determined by if he can stay on the field, and find the strike zone better than he has been.

At this point, I am a bit concerned that Malone continues to look like he is falling behind but I have little doubt his talent can help him catch back up quickly. I may have missed the mark about him being a player to watch in 2021, but that means he's an easy addition to next year's list.

What are your thoughts on Malone? Should we be concerned about his lack of progress, or are we reading too much into results at a level where it goes beyond some of the basic numbers we usually go by? Let us know in the comment section below, subscribe to the site with the link at the top, and follow us on Twitter @SportBlogMurphy.

Also, follow me on Twitter @__Murphy88.

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