When the Pittsburgh Pirates added right handed pitcher Kyle McPherson to the 40-man roster this past off-season, it was seen as a surprise. McPherson was coming off a strong season in low-A, in which he posted a 3.59 ERA in 117.2 innings, along with a 124:31 K/BB ratio. His strikeout rate was the best in the organization among starting pitchers. The surprise was due to McPherson’s low level, as he had only four innings above low-A ball.
So far this season, McPherson has been excellent. He was great in Bradenton, with a 2.89 ERA in 71.2 innings, along with a very impressive 60:6 K/BB ratio. He has since been promoted to Altoona, where he has a 3.26 ERA in 38.2 innings, and a 37:10 K/BB ratio. That includes his start last night, in which he allowed one run in six innings, with six strikeouts and no walks. Terry Mathews of Pirates Prospects saw McPherson earlier in the year, noting that he was throwing 92-94 MPH, with good command, and the ability to pitch inside. He also showed a very nice changeup, and had trouble early with his curve, but rebounded nicely to use it as a strikeout pitch later in the outing.
We interviewed Jim Callis of Baseball America, and asked him about McPherson. This is what he had to say:
McPherson has tremendous command of a solid fastball, and he has a good changeup as well. The key for him is going to be how well he can develop his breaking ball. His ceiling is as a No. 3 starter, but he’s probably going to wind up being more of a No. 4 or 5. I don’t think he has the one standout pitch to put him in the front half of a rotation.
McPherson is putting up impressive numbers, but I’d have to agree that a 3-5 starter is most likely, with a #3 starter being the best case scenario. In fact, that’s very similar to the report we provided in that same interview. If he continues putting up strong numbers in AA, we could see McPherson making it to AAA next year, and possibly arriving in the majors in 2012. As we saw with the 2010 Altoona rotation, nothing is guaranteed in the jump to AAA, although their struggles this year don’t do anything to rule out any possible success by McPherson.