5:15 PM: Right-hander Geoff Hartlieb will be optioned to Triple-A tomorrow to make room for Kranick, tweets Mackey. The 27-year-old has appeared three times out of the pen, struggling with his control, issuing five free passes en route to four earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. Control was Hartlieb’s bugaboo last season as well when he walked 18.8 percent of opposing hitters in 22 1/3 innings.
1:06 PM: The Pirates will promote right-hander Max Kranick to the majors tomorrow, according to Alex Stumpf of DK Pittsburgh Sports. Kranick will make his MLB debut as the Pirates’ starting pitcher for their game against the Cardinals. (Mackey also shared the amusing way that Triple-A manager Brian Esposito and pitching coach Joel Hanrahan told Kranick about the promotion in prank form.)
A Pennsylvania product born in Scranton, Kranick was an 11th-round pick for the Bucs in the 2016 draft, as the team went well above slot price to land him at a $300K bonus. He has started 54 of 58 career games in the minors, posting a 3.47 ERA over 280 overall innings, and he reached both the Double-A and Triple-A levels for the first time this season. Kranick has a cumulative 4.37 ERA, 24.65% strikeout rate, and 6.16% walk rate over 35 total innings (19 1/3 at Triple-A, 15 2/3 at Double-A) in 2021.
“While he doesn’t have one pitch that jumps off the page, Kranick does have good feel and has shown an ability to throw strikes with all of them,” according to MLB Pipeline’s scouting report, with Pipeline ranking him as the 26th-best prospect in Pittsburgh’s farm system. His fastball has the highest grade (55 on the 20-80 scouting scale) of any of his three offerings, and Kranick regularly hits the 94mph plateau with the ability to get up to 98mph on occasion.
Since the Pirates are firmly in rebuild mode, taking a look at a 23-year-old arm fits right into the organization’s plans about focusing on the future. Room opened up in the rotation when Trevor Cahill was placed on the injured list and Mitch Keller was optioned to the minors, so it makes sense that the Bucs would take a shot with Kranick after his solid (if unspectacular) showing at Triple-A.