James McDonald has been pitching great this year. After his start tonight, the right hander has a 2.68 ERA in 50.1 innings, with an 8.9 K/9, a 2.9 BB/9, and a 0.4 HR/9 ratio. His numbers aren't impacted much by luck, with a 3.22 xFIP. He's currently in his third year of service time, and will be arbitration following the 2012 season. The strong start, and the pending arbitration raise the question as to whether the Pirates should extend him.
In the next few years, the Pirates will have Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon breaking in to the rotation. That could happen next year if both prospects keep up this solid pitching in the upper levels. McDonald would be a strong number three starter to add to those two groups. The Pirates have a lot of pitching depth in the upper levels (Rudy Owens, Justin Wilson, Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson), but none of those guys have the upside of McDonald, who was one of the top prospects in baseball prior to the 2009 season.
Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.