This week’s podcast went up today, and on the show we talked about whether Gregory Polanco or Jameson Taillon should come up in September. The argument for Taillon was that the Pirates should be “all hands on deck”, and he could provide value out of the bullpen with a 99 MPH fastball and a plus curveball. At one point in the conversation, I mentioned something along the lines of how the Pirates don’t have a need for a guy with an upper 90s fastball and a plus breaking pitch.
That would probably sound completely absurd if we weren’t talking about the Pirates. But considering how many relievers they have with those two abilities, it’s true. Later tonight I received a report that Nick Kingham had hit 98 MPH in Bradenton before his promotion to Altoona. I had seen him hit 97 before this season, and honestly there’s not much of a difference between 97 and 98. The 98 figure is more or less an arbitrary starting point I’ve been using to keep track of all of the pitchers in the system who have touched that number or higher. Now that Kingham is on the list, the Pirates have 12 guys in their system who can hit at least 98 MPH. Or 13 if you count Stetson Allie, but we won’t. Here is the list:
Gerrit Cole - We saw him hitting as high as 101-102 MPH in his last start against the Angels, and that’s nothing new. Cole routinely tops 98 MPH, even as he approaches 100 pitches.
Jameson Taillon - He’s hit triple digits before, and routinely hits the upper 90s with his fastball.
Justin Wilson - He might be the most impressive on the list, just because he’s a lefty who can hit triple digits, and has been sitting in the upper 90s this year. Wilson pairs that with some great breaking pitches.
Duke Welker - Welker usually sits in the 96-98 range, and has hit triple digits with his fastball. He also has a plus slider.
Vic Black - Black is similar to Welker in that he sits mid-to-upper 90s and has hit triple digits. He also has a plus slider. Welker’s is a hard slider in the upper 80s, while Black’s is in the mid-80s and is more of a wipeout slider.
Tyler Glasnow - It’s amazing that Glasnow has gone from sitting 89-91 in Spring Training last year to sitting 96-97 tonight, and touching as high as 99 this season. What is even more impressive is that he has a plus curveball in the mid-to-upper 70s. An upper 90s fastball followed by a 78 MPH curveball could be impossible for hitters.
Nick Kingham - As I mentioned, Kingham hit 98. He’s another projectable pitcher who has slowly seen his velocity creep up. He went from 90-93 to hitting 95. Then he started hitting 95 regularly and touching 96. Now he can sit in the 93-95 range and touch 97-98. He’s a strong pitcher with an easy delivery, so he might not be done with the increases. I’ve been saying for the last two and a half years that Kingham profiles as a strong number three, innings eating starter, but I’m giving serious consideration to bumping that up, especially after some reports I got tonight (more on that this week).
Stolmy Pimentel - Pimentel has touched 98 MPH this year, and he hits 96 on a consistent basis. He also has a plus slider which I feel has been the key to his turnaround from last year to this year. Black, Welker, and Pimentel could give the Pirates three relievers in September who can hit 98+ with a plus breaking pitch.
Luis Heredia - He has said he’s hit 98 MPH, and since I’ve seen him hitting 96 before, that’s not out of the question. However, he’s been working more in the 89-91 MPH range this year, and worked 91-94 MPH last year during the season, focusing more on control. When the velocity goes above that, he loses control. If you ever wonder why Heredia is a prospect, it’s the fact that he’s 18, and can already hit the mid-to-upper 90s. One day he might be able to control it in that range.
Jeff Inman - He’s hit 98 MPH in the past, but has also dealt with a lot of injury problems, and hasn’t been the most dominant reliever in Double-A. Early this season he was sitting 94-95 MPH, and he pairs the fastball with a strong curveball.
Yhonathan Herrand - He can hit 98 MPH, but he doesn’t know where it is going. Herrand is a rookie league pitcher, and will stay there until he gets command of his fastball.
Erik Cordier - I was watching Indianapolis video last week and saw Cordier throw an inning. In that inning he hit 100 and 101 about 6-7 times. I’m not sure if the stadium gun is fast, but even if it’s 2-3 MPH fast, that’s 98 MPH. In Spring Training I saw Cordier sitting around 94-96, so this isn’t surprising. He’s dealt with a lot of control problems, but has a lively fastball. If you believe the 100 MPH reading, then that gives the Pirates six pitchers who can hit triple digits (Cole, Taillon, Wilson, Welker, Black, Cordier).
If you drop the velocity down to 97, you add a lot more guys. Today there was a prep draft pick in the GCL who was amazed at Miguel Rosario throwing 89-92 MPH with every pitch. With the way the Pirates’ system has trended the last few years, 89-92 seems slow, 94-95 is the new 88-92, and upper 90s and triple digits become a normal thing. Come September we could see that in the majors, with four relievers in the bullpen who can hit 98+ and have a plus breaking pitch (Wilson, Black, Welker, Pimentel). And that’s without even considering bringing Taillon up.
Links and Notes
**Check out the latest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 10: More Stanton Talk and Should Polanco Be Called Up This Year?