Born: May 8, 1996
Height: 6′ 2″
Weight: 200
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Drafted: 21st Round, 624th Overall, 2018
How Acquired: Draft
College: Carson-Newman University
Agent: N/A

Gardner was the sixth straight college right-handed pitcher drafted and signed by the Pirates in rounds 16-21 in the 2018 draft.  He was the only senior of those six.  He was also a football player in high school and suffered a torn ACL that ultimately cost him his original college scholarship at Coastal Carolina.  He went to Tennessee Tech, but after two rough years transferred to Carson-Newman.  He was a starter there in 2017, then strictly a reliever in 2018.  Gardner had a 4.37 ERA in 35 innings as a senior, with a 55:17 K:BB ratio, much higher walk and K rates than he’d had as a starter.  He throws a low-90s four-seamer that can reach 96, along with a sinker.  His out pitch, at least against right-handed hitters, is a slurve and he’s also adding a splitter.

R+:  0-0-3, 0.82 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 11.0 IP, 6.5 BB/9, 12.3 K/9
A-:  0-2-0, 2.45 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 14.2 IP, 5.5 BB/9, 9.2 K/9

The Pirates employed Gardner strictly in relief, initially at Bristol, then after eight games at Morgantown, where he appeared in another 11.  Overall, opponents batted only .193 against him and slugged only .250, and he fanned over a batter an inning.  He did have control problems.  He was far more effective against right-handed hitters, holding them to a .484 OPS.  Left-handers managed .735 against him.

A:  3-1-4, 3.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 48.0 IP, 5.4 BB/9, 10.9 K/9

Gardner began the season in extended spring training, then went to Greesboro in May.  He pitched in relief, putting up good numbers, including a high K rate.  The one issue was a high walk rate.  His numbers were even more impressive before a late-season meltdown in which he allowed six runs in an inning and a third.  He had no platoon split at all.


AA:  2-5-0, 7.71 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 42.0 IP, 6.2 BB/9, 9.2 K/9

Gardner spent the season in the Altoona bullpen and mostly struggled.  He probably wasn’t quite as bad as the ERA, as he was beset by a very low strand rate of 53.1%, but his problem with walks increased.  He also gave up a lot of hard contact, with opponents hitting a home run every six innings and slugging .472 against him.  He had a reverse platoon split.

Gardner could try AA again in 2022.

2022: Minor league contract
Signing Bonus:
MiLB Debut: 2018
MLB Debut:
MiLB FA Eligible: 2024
MLB FA Eligible:
Rule 5 Eligible: 2021
Added to 40-Man:
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
June 6, 2018: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 21st round, 624th overall pick; signed on June 13.