By Jason Shetler
Over the past several years, the Pirates have put together one of the better farm systems in baseball with quality drafting, as well as being more aggressive in signing players out of Latin America. In an effort to really think outside the box, they decided to explore the Independent ball scene by purchasing John Holdzkom from the Sioux City Explorers of the American Association in 2014. Just three months after being brought into the organization, Holdzkom was a September call up and gave the Pirates bullpen a huge shot in the arm, as he helped them advance to the National League Wild Card Game. Unfortunately for Holdzkom, he dealt with shoulder discomfort for much of 2015 and was released earlier this year. Last month, the Pirates purchased two more pitchers from Indy ball. One of those pitchers was Evan Piechota.
Piechota spent four years at Madonna University, a small college located in Livonia, Michigan. He pitched primarily as a starter there, posting a 2.48 ERA. Piechota relied on excellent control, as he put up a 1.8 BB/9. Despite the solid numbers at Madonna, he was overlooked and went undrafted this year in the process. Shortly after not getting drafted, Piechota signed on with the Utica Unicorns of the United Shore Professional Baseball League. He appeared in seven games with them, four of which were starts, where he had an ERA of 1.60 along with a 10.0 K/9.
On July 3rd, Piechota had his contract purchased by the Pirates and reported to the Gulf Coast League. He was then promoted to Bristol on August 1st. Combined with the two affiliates, Piechota has been lights out, as he’s pitched 12.2 scoreless innings, while striking out 11, allowing just one walk and holding opposing batters to a .178 average. Although the control is outstanding, Piechota has a curveball and changeup that still need to be developed into above average offerings. If he’s able to continue throwing strikes consistently and is able to develop his secondary pitches as he climbs the ladder of the minors, the Pirates may have themselves a solid relief arm down the road.