21 earned runs in 10.2 innings. That’s how Brandon Cumpton started his 2011 season with West Virginia. The 2010 9th round pick signed out of Georgia Tech, where he didn’t have the best numbers, putting up a 5.50 ERA in 73.2 innings, along with a 6.5 K/9 and a 3.9 BB/9 ratio. Cumpton pitched in State College last year, with a 2.53 ERA in, coincidentally, 10.2 innings after signing. But it was after 10.2 very bad innings this year that Cumpton was removed from the rotation.
His absence from the rotation only lasted 13 days. Part of that was due to an injury to Tyler Waldron, which opened a rotation spot. Part of that was also due to three perfect innings out of the bullpen, with three strikeouts. From that point forward, Cumpton hasn’t looked back, dominating low-A, and getting promoted to high-A, where he’s put up decent results.
In his starts in West Virginia, after his poor first three outings, Cumpton combined for a 1.76 ERA in 56.1 innings. He had a 6.7 K/9, a 1.9 BB/9 and a 0.3 HR/9 ratio. The most impressive thing might have been his control. He had a 4.2 BB/9 ratio last year in State College, and struggled some with his control in his junior year at Georgia Tech. So far in high-A he has a 4.33 ERA in 43.2 innings, along with a 34:6 K/BB ratio. He’s had some rough starts, but is starting to come around recently, with three earned runs in 12innings over his last three starts, along with a 14:2 K/BB ratio.
Like all promising pitching prospects, the Pirates will give Cumpton every opportunity to make it as a starter. He throws an 89-93 MPH fastball, with an inconsistent curveball. As a starter, he’s more of a back of the rotation option, although with the starting prospects that surround him in the lower levels (Jameson Taillon, Colton Cain, and after August 15th, Gerrit Cole), he might not get a chance to crack the rotation. That might not be a bad thing, as he profiles as a power reliever in the bullpen, getting his fastball up to 95-96 MPH in short relief outings. In either case, Cumpton has been a bright spot in a system filled with pitching issues this year.