These are strange days that we are living in right now. The Pirates are above .500 and are being discussed as contenders for a division title and playoff run. To that end, there may be some fans of teams that are out of contention and looking to trade veterans that have stumbled on to Pirates Prospects. Perhaps they Googled “Pirates prospects” to familiarize themselves with the system and landed here. We would like these series of articles to give them a sense of what types of players the Pirates have to offer to meet their needs.
There will be three articles – Starting Pitchers, Relief Pitchers, and Hitters. The write-ups of these players will be based on the Pirates Prospects Guide Book, plus updates with this season’s stats and changes to their profile from new information gathered.
The players will be listed not in prospect order, but rather by classification from AAA down to Low A. It is not assumed, for purposes of this article, that any short-season players will be included in potential trades. The age listed is the player’s 2011 season age, using July 1st as the cutoff date.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some potential starting pitching candidates:
Rudy Owens (23) LHP – 6-6, 5.27 ERA, 83.6 IP, 102 H, 23 BB, 50 K, .304 BAA – Owens had a dominating 2010 season in AA, highlighted by a 90-92 mph fastball and plus changeup. He was assumed to be the closest to the majors among Pirate prospects for pitchers. His 2011 has not been kind, as his fastball has dipped into the high 80’s for most of the year and his strikeout rate has dropped from 7.92 K/9 in 2010 to 5.38 K/9 in 2011. His current ceiling is a #4 or #5 starter.
Justin Wilson (23) LHP – 9-5, 3.80 ERA, 94.6 IP, 91 H, 46 BB, 72K, .251 BAA – Wilson has always been “the 4th guy” in the list of starters in the upper levels behind Owens, Bryan Morris, and Jeff Locke. This year with Owens’s struggles, Morris’s move to the bullpen, and Locke staying in AA, Wilson has had perhaps the best year of the four. Wilson has an 89-92 mph fastball, big curve, and a slider that functions as his offspeed pitch. Wilson’s Achilles’ heel has always been his control, due to his pitches having so much natural movement. This year has been no different than his whole career, as his BB/9 is 4.38 in 2011. Many feel his ultimate spot is in the bullpen, but for now he could be a #4 or #5 starter.
Jeff Locke (23) LHP – 5-8, 4.67 ERA, 94.3 IP, 99 H, 38 BB, 92 K, .273 BAA – It’s been a weird season for Locke, as he was very good in April, fell apart in May, and then rebounded strongly in June. His stuff is good, but not great, with a 89-91 mph fastball, a curve, and a changeup. His control numbers have been off this year, as his BB/9 is 3.63 as opposed to 1.63 last year, but his strikeout rate has remained strong at just under 9.0/9. Locke’s blend of strikeout rate and control could lead him to a #3 ceiling, but his overall stuff is more like a #4 or #5 pitcher.
Kyle McPherson (23) RHP – 6-4, 3.11 ERA, 104.3 IP, 95 H, 16 BB, 91 K, .238 BAA (combined at A+/AA) – McPherson has firmly established himself as a prospect with his excellent performance in High A and then his promotion to the more age-appropriate AA. McPherson has excellent control and is not afraid to pitch inside, as evidenced by his number of hit batters. He uses a 91-94 mph fastball, curve, and perhaps the system’s best changeup as his out pitch. His ceiling is that of a #3 starter.
Aaron Pribanic (24) RHP – 5-8, 4.37 ERA, 92.6 IP, 107 H, 13 BB, 43 K, .289 BAA – Pribanic was obtained from Seattle (along with Nathan Adcock and Brett Lorin) in the Ian Snell/Jack Wilson trade of 2009. Pribanic is a low 90’s sinkerball pitcher that has habitually had a low strikeout rate (4.18 K/9 in 2011) that does not portend future success as a starter. His ceiling is most likely that of a middle reliever, but he could be a spot starter as well.
Mike Colla (24) RHP – 4-5, 3.47 ERA, 85.6 IP, 72 H, 24 BB, 68 K, .224 BAA – Colla has sort of come out of nowhere as a starting pitcher candidate in 2011, after being exclusively a reliever since being drafted in 2008 by the Pirates. He was chosen to fill in for Bryan Morris and has not relinquished it since then. His stuff is pretty run-of-the-mill (low 90’s fastball, curve, and changeup) but it has been effective in 2011. He is prone to the home run, as he has given up 11 this year. Most likely a #5 starter or reliever as his ceiling.
Phillip Irwin (24) RHP – 8-1, 2.52 ERA, 82 IP, 76 H, 15 BB, 61 K, .240 BAA (combined at A+/AA) – Irwin has a fairly standard arsenal of pitches (low 90’s fastball, curve, and changeup) that has been working well for him this year. He has not been moved aggressively through the system, so considering his age and his 21st round draft selection, he is probably not more than a #5 starter.
Nathan Baker (23) LHP – 5-6, 3.87 ERA, 90.6 IP, 99 H, 30 BB, 65 K, .279 BAA – Baker had a very nice 2010, including a half-season at High A, so his initial placement at High A in 2011 was disappointing. His season has been rather nondescript, as well, but he still holds enough promise to be considered a #4 or #5 starter. Baker throws his fastball from 88-92 mph, with a curve, and slider in the mix.
Brett Lorin (24) RHP – 4-5, 2.87 ERA, 75.3 IP, 71 H, 14 BB, 74 K, .240 BAA – Lorin was obtained, along with Nathan Adcock and Aaron Pribanic, in the aforementioned Ian Snell/Jack Wilson deal of 2009. Lorin has been beset by injuries during his time with the Pirates, but has been effective when healthy with a low 90’s fastball and curve. However, his age, level placement, and upcoming Rule 5 decision status are all working against him in 2011. His ceiling is a #3 starter, but he is more likely to be a #4 or #5 starter long-term. He seems like the perfect guy to be added into a potential trade.
Brandon Cumpton (22) RHP – 8-4, 4.23 ERA, 83 IP, 81 H, 21 BB, 59 K, .259 BAA – Cumpton was a 2010 9th round pick that had perhaps one of the worst starts to 2011 that you could have. Since those first 3 starts, where he gave up 7 ER in each start, Cumpton has quietly been one of the better pitchers in the system. Coming into the season, he was seen by most as a setup man long-term, but he has shown enough to at least be considered as a #4 or #5 starter. Right now he has a low 90’s fastball and a so-so curveball.
Quinton Miller (21) RHP has had an awful year – 5-7, 6.56 ERA, 70 IP, 93 H, 16 BB, 35 K, .321 BAA – and can’t be expected to be on many trade radars for teams.
The West Virginia Power pitching staff is home to an interesting mix of 2009 overslot signings and two picks from the 2010 draft, including the prize of the system in Jameson Taillon. Taillon (19, RHP, 2-2, 3.66 ERA, 51.6 IP, 51 H, 8 BB, 49 K’s) and his mid-90’s fastball, hammer curve, and burgeoning changeup are not going anywhere in any trade.
Colton Cain (20) LHP – 5-7, 3.15 ERA, 85.6 IP, 63 H, 24 BB, 68 K, .203 BAA – Cain uses a low 90’s fastball and curve to work his way through a lineup. Currently his ceiling, due to a 7.15 K/9 that says his out pitches need work, is a #3 starter. But he has the frame and the potential to a few mph to the fastball and elevate himself to a #2 starter.
Zack Dodson (20) LHP – 2-4, 3.32 ERA, 43.3 IP, 43 H, 13 BB, 37 K, .253 BAA – Dodson was injured in May and is currently working his way back in the Gulf Coast League. Before his injury, he was considered by many to be the 2nd best pitcher on the Power behind only Taillon. He has a typical lefty arsenal of a 88-91 mph fastball, curve, and changeup.
Zack Von Rosenberg (20) RHP – 3-6, 7.39 ERA, 74.1 IP, 96 H, 14 BB, 67 K, .317 BAA –von Rosenberg has had an awful season in 2011. He currently has a high 80’s fastball, but enough polish on his curve and changeup. His frame (6’-5” and 205 lbs) allows people to dream on his potential, but currently right now he would not be targeted in a trade.
Tyler Waldron (22) RHP – 6-5, 4.48 ERA, 82.3 IP, 79 H, 21 BB, 55 K, .248 BAA – Waldron has a low 90’s fastball, curve, and changeup. His overall ceiling is probably a #5 starter or a middle reliever.