Throughout most of the summer, it looked like the Pitcher of the Year award was a one man race. Kyle McPherson had an amazing season, starting off with a 2.89 ERA in 71.2 innings in high-A, with a 60:6 K/BB ratio and an 0.95 WHIP. McPherson moved up to Altoona, and didn’t miss a beat, ending up with a 3.02 ERA in 89.1 innings, along with an 82:21 K/BB ratio and a 1.08 WHIP. For his efforts, McPherson has been named the 2011 Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Year.
The decision for McPherson was unanimous. The 6′ 4″, 215 pound right hander captured the pitcher of the year awards for both Bradenton and Altoona in our season ending recaps, and was named the number two prospect on each team this year. Overall he had a 2.96 ERA in 161 inings, with a 142:27 K/BB ratio and a 1.02 WHIP.
McPherson’s decision was unanimous, but it’s not as if he was without competition. Nick Kingham put up a nice season in State College, with a 2.15 ERA in 71 inings, along with a 47:15 K/BB ratio and a 1.10 WHIP. However, Kingham was playing three levels below McPherson, and lacked strikeouts, which hurt his chances.
Zack Dodson might have been a bigger contender if he was healthy all year. In 66.2 innings in West Virginia he had a 2.56 ERA and a 46:15 K/BB ratio, along with a 1.14 WHIP, although he missed three months with a broken hand.
Brett Lorin had a 2.84 ERA in 117.1 innings in high-A, along with a 99:19 K/BB ratio and a 1.04 WHIP. The fact that McPherson performed for half a season in AA, and carried his performance over 161 innings made him the choice over Lorin.
The only pitcher with comparable results to McPherson was Phillip Irwin, who also split the season between high-A and AA. Irwin had a 2.02 ERA in 53.1 innings in high-A, with a 40:12 K/BB ratio and a 1.11 WHIP. He moved up to AA, where he had a 3.81 ERA in 87.1 innings, along with a 69:10 K/BB ratio and a 1.16 WHIP. McPherson had the better numbers in AA, giving him the edge.
McPherson led the Pirates’ minor league organization in strikeouts (142), innings pitched (161.0), games started (28), and out of all pitchers with 100+ innings he led in strikeouts per walk (5.26), hits per nine innings (7.7), and WHIP (1.019). His wins, BB/9 ratio, and ERA were second among pitchers with 100+ innings, and his K/9 ratio was third. McPherson broke on to the scene last year with a 3.59 ERA in 117.2 innings in low-A, along with a 124:31 K/BB ratio. Given his innings at the AA level, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him starting the 2012 season in Indianapolis, with a shot at the majors by June.