First Pitch: Brandon Cumpton Should Stay in the Pirates Rotation

Brandon Cumpton replaced the injured Wandy Rodriguez in the rotation today, and had another great outing in the majors. Cumpton gave up two runs on four hits in seven innings, with a walk and five strikeouts. That’s just a continuation of what Cumpton has done so far in the majors. In his 37.2 innings in the majors, he has a 2.15 ERA, along with a 27:6 K/BB ratio.

Rodriguez will be starting a rehab assignment soon, and it’s hard to say at this point how long it would be until he returns. Teams have up to 30 days to keep pitchers on a rehab assignment, once that assignment begins. Regardless of when Rodriguez eventually returns, he should be replaced by Cumpton in the rotation.

I don’t believe that Cumpton is as good as his career numbers in a small sample size in the majors so far. His stuff makes it more likely that he will be a number four or five starter over the long-run. But he also deserves a chance. He’s done nothing but put up strong numbers in the minors, and his numbers in the majors so far have been impressive.

On the other side, Wandy Rodriguez has a concerning drop in his velocity, and the numbers have been poor this season. It’s hard to say whether that was due to his knee injury, or if the knee injury is a convenient way to get him out of the rotation for now.

What we do know about Rodriguez is that he’s a free agent at the end of the year. The Pirates only have two starting pitchers under control next season — Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton. Brandon Cumpton could emerge as another option for that rotation, especially if he keeps pitching the way he has been pitching so far in the majors.

Rodriguez might be better in his return, but if Cumpton continues his success, then we already know the Pirates have good production coming from that rotation spot. It would be foolish to replace a successful Cumpton in the hopes that Rodriguez suddenly reverses course and finds success upon his return from the DL.

Depth wouldn’t be an issue either. Rodriguez could move to the bullpen as a long-reliever, serving as depth. The Pirates also have Stolmy Pimentel in the same role. Jeanmar Gomez would probably be the odd man out in this scenario, so he couldn’t be counted on. However, Triple-A has Jeff Locke, Casey Sadler, and a few minor league free agents like Adam Wilk and Jake Brigham.

At this point, Cumpton has earned a look in the majors, and a shot at keeping his starting job for the long-run. He should get a few more starts with Rodriguez on rehab. If those starts go well, then there would be no reason to replace Cumpton with Rodriguez at the end of that rehab assignment.

Links and Notes

**Neal Huntington on the Upcoming Amateur Draft

**Prospect Watch: Homers From Gregory Polanco, Tony Sanchez and Stetson Allie

**Minor League Schedule: Tyler Glasnow Makes Season Debut

**Minor Moves: Bradenton Bullpen Gets A Makeover

**Prospect Highlights: Watch Stetson Allie’s Two Home Runs

**Pirates Promote Brandon Cumpton

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

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.

Share This Post On
  • S Brooks

    If it came to it, Gomez would very likely pass through waivers, I think.

    • CamJay87

      Gomez wouldn’t get through waivers. Mazzarro did because he is stuck as a middle reliever. Gomez proved last season that he can pitch in pretty much any role. The way Tommy John surgery has plagued the league this season, someone would likely claim him to start, especially at his salary.

      • S Brooks

        I would have thought the same thing about Lucas Harrell, but he made it through. I don’t know, maybe the Phillies would look at him, given their RH relief pitching woes? Can’t think of anyone else for whom Gomez would be an upgrade.

        It’s early yet, but you have to wonder if last year was just a low-BABIP (.243) aberration and what he really is is what you see now, which is what he was the 3 years before we got him. Too many hits, not enough Ks, not enough control.

        • emjayinTN

          SB: Could have been a BABIP aberration, or coming from the AL to the NL, or getting away from a Cleveland team that was 68-94 in 2012, but I think he gave an excellent account of himself in 2013 and he is only in his age 26 season. Regardless, if it is a decision between he and Cumpton, the Pirates would not think twice about losing Gomez.

          And, if this offense continues to struggle, we may see some wholesale changes coming as early as June.

    • gregenstein

      I doubt that. Right at the end of Spring Training, you are sometimes able to sneak a guy through waivers because everyone’s happy with their roster, and in Mazzaro’s case, he didn’t represent a definitive upgrade over what you had that would have made it worth DFA-ing one of your own guys.

  • clemo83

    Assuming the worst, and the Pirates are out of contention at the trade deadline, what do you think the Pirates could get in prospects for a trade of one or more of their big 2015 free agents – Liriano, Martin, Volquez? Right now, with Polanco in the wings for right field and Mercer struggling, shortstop seems like the biggest need position-wise (assuming Tony Sanchez is the real deal- which is unclear at this point). And we always could use top of the line starting pitching, especially with Liriano, Volquez leaving. We have a lot of replacement SP candidates but only Taillon and Glasnow have #1 or #2 ceilings and both are a ways away at this point. Any chance we could get either of those in a trade, considering our trade bait is all two-month rentals? I guess we could throw in Snider or Tabata too if anyone would be interested.

    • Ron Loreski

      IMO, if the Pirates have any intention of competing the next few years, they need to extend Russell Martin. His defense and his affect on the pitching staff is just as important to this team than Ray Searage. Other than a couple timely hits, and one over-the-railing catch, Tony Sanchez hasn’t shown anything to prove he can be “the guy”. Trading Martin, or letting him walk away would be a travesty.

      • moose7195

        The guy has less than 100 plate appearances in his career. He couldn’t show you that he can be “the guy” even if he hit .400 during that time. I’d give Sanchez a chance at least. He has the pedigree and defense was always his best tool.

        • Ron Loreski

          But why take a risk on Sanchez, when you already have THE GUY in Russell Martin? The Pirates need to spend the money to keep him here.

          • moose7195

            I love Martin, and I wish they could keep him. But he’s 31 now and his OPS will probably never hit .750 again. They need some offense, and I think Sanchez may have the better tools to provide that offense which is a fair trade-off for the small drop in defense that results in the move.

            • Ron Loreski

              I don’t care what his OPS is. There is much more to baseball than offensive stats. The Pirates can get need to get offense from all 3 OF positions, 3B, 1B, and 2B. They need great defense at SS and behind the plate. Martin is invaluable to this pitching staff. Not to mention how great he is at throwing out runners.

              Catchers are field generals, and Russell Martin personifies that more than any other catcher in the league, besides Yadier Molina. He is a gritty, veteran leader, who has also shown he will backup his teammates. All of those little things that don’t show up on a stats sheet are just as important to winning baseball. I’m sorry, I don’t get that vibe from Tony Sanchez.

              • moose7195

                What do you mean? Offensive stats are important, even for a catcher, especially for a catcher that is hitting 5th or 6th in the lineup. And yes they need offense from those other positions, but please find a readily available offensive improvement at 1B, 2B, and LF. Yes maybe Walker and Marte improve, but maybe they don’t, that slack has to be made up for elsewhere. And the money they would’ve used to keep Martin may be better spent on a definitive improvement at one of those positions above. Yes you’ll lose something defensively at catcher, but maybe it wont be so terrible because Tony Sanchez isn’t so terrible. But that is just one scenario, I do hope they keep Martin, at the right price.

                • Ron Loreski

                  I’m not saying offensive stats aren’t important. What I am saying is everything else Russell Martin brings to the table (pitch framing, game calling, throwing out runners, veteran leadership) is ELITE. While Sanchez may eventually develop those elite skills, the Pirates aren’t in development mode. They are in win NOW mode. Russell Martin gives the Pirates the best chance.

                  • moose7195

                    Those skills may start to deteriorate though, he’s no spring chicken. And the Pirates are never in win NOW mode, their payroll limitations make that impossible. They play the small market game where they rely on a few great players and a whole bunch of cheap and moving parts

                    • Ron Loreski

                      The Pirates are never in win NOW mode? Ask Clint Hurdle about that. I know the Pirates have payroll limitations, which keeps them from signing top tier free agents. But in no way is Russell Martin a top tier free agent. He would have to hit .300 with 25+ HR’s to be out of the Pirates price range. Unless of course, they don’t want to spend money at all.

                    • moose7195

                      He wont have to be that good to be out-priced for this team. It all depends on the free agent market. Either way, Martin shouldn’t be payed 10M by this team just to coast to the backend of his career.

                      And of course Hurdle wont agree with me, he shouldn’t be the manager if he didn’t. And they may not want to spend 200M on a team but you can’t demand them to do otherwise because that’s what you think makes a successful baseball team. They are trying to work within the parameters given by the ownership with a model that has had success, see Rays, Tampa Bay. In can work with an 80M dollar payroll

              • Cato the Elder

                Martin was the largest free-agent signing in Pirates history coming off a down year hitting in a hitters park, before the effects of pitch-framing were widely appreciated. Put quite simply, if he would take the same deal that we signed him to at that point, then absolutely, but it is hard to imagine that somebody else will offer way more money than the Pirates could/should pay.

                • Ron Loreski

                  See my comment below. I wouldn’t expect him to take the same contract. Give him 3yrs/$30mil.

                  • Cato the Elder

                    I’d take that, but that is the upper limit on what we could/should offer and I see know reason why Russell Martin would take that when a 35 year old Carlos Ruiz just signed a 3 year/$26 million dollar contract this offseason. And just look at that list of potential free agent catchers, yikes! My guess is the Rangers will out bid us for his services and it won’t be close.

                    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/02/2015-mlb-free-agents.html

                    • Ron Loreski

                      Honestly, I’d be more worried about the Red Sox outbidding the Pirates. Martin is a perfect fit in Boston. That’s why I’d like to see the Pirates extend him before he hits the open market.

                    • stickyweb

                      Oh great, a bidding war between the Rangers and BoSox. If the Bucs want a chance they better lock him up this weekend.

                    • Cato the Elder

                      What motivation would he have to extend before hitting the open market?

                    • Ron Loreski

                      $30mil

                    • Cato the Elder

                      Hahah. Fair point, but he >30 million reasons not to.

  • johndw28

    Is that 11 or 12 games now we’ve scored 2 runs or less? I think Polanco may have made a difference in 1 or 2 of those games.

    • gregenstein

      Hard to say. A timely hit, sure, that would have made a difference. It’s also possible he’d come up empty in those situations. In baseball, defense wins the battle 2/3 times.

      It is also possible that his significant contributions would have come in games they won anyway.

      • Ron Loreski

        Having runners on base when we hit all these HR’s would absolutely make a difference!

        Polanco has a career .356 OBP in the minor leagues so putting him at the top of the order with Marte (.330) and Cutch (.382) would definitely help the Pirates offense.

        • Cato the Elder

          Well, RF for the Pirates has a 293 OBP right now, which is not very good, but even assuming that Polanco would carry his 356 OBP into his firs 123 MLB plate appearances he would have gotten on base only 8 more times this season. Moreover, it is not fair to assume that Polanco would have a 356 OBP, Steamer projects him to have a 306 OBP, which translates into 1 more appearance on base. And even if you wanted to be more bullish than his Steamer projections split the difference your are talking about 4 or 5 extra appearances on base. Given that the Pirates have hit a homerun in 3% of their PA and converted about 1/3 of their baserunners into runs, I don’t think it is fair to that Polanco would have contributed more than 1 to 3 extra runs offensively had he played the entire season – and it is not out the question that he would have contributed 0.

    • moose7195

      If that’s all then I don’t think it is justified to call him up. He’s had 70 AAA ABs, and you want to risk the development of our best prospect because he can make a difference in maybe 1 game.

  • gregenstein

    I’ll agree that I’d like to see Cumpton get some action. I disagree that it will need to be at Wandy’s expense. These things have a way of working themselves out. Much like Wandy developed a knee injury, I would expect that somebody’s big toe will get stepped on or someone will have a fingernail infection that “forces” them to be put on the DL to make room.

  • johndw28

    This team has a lot of holes to fill for 2015- Russ will be gone- Tony Sanchez’s defense even if it improves will be a dropoff, could be a big dropoff.

    Starting pitching
    Cole
    Morton
    Cumpton

    Morton is poor #3 at best, possibly much worse.

    Are Kingham, Sadler, Glasnow, or Taillon late in the year in the rotation?

    Short stop- Mercer is looking like a utility player, not a starting short stop.

    • moose7195

      What is to say young Alen Hanson will not be ready by 2015? He’s a decent hitter with decent defense at SS, and he could be an early 2015 callup if he can develop well this year

  • moose7195

    I don’t think they have much of a choice in the matter. This team is in disarray right now, and they can’t find anyone to stop the bleeding. If Cumpton is pitching better than Wandy, then please don’t submit us to any more Wandy.

  • Dom DiDominic

    As long as Cumpton continues to fill in with Wandy out, we should know a lot of answers in the next 30-45 days. If Cumpton can continue to preform like a 4-5 starter he deserves to stay. No reason for putting Wandy back in there, we have seen what he can do the last 10 months.

  • Monkshot

    Barring injury Wandy is depth at this point, even though I see him being this years James McDonald. Hopefully the warm weather will help his arm/velocity. Starting last year I heard the coaching staff wasn’t thrilled with Wandy’s attitude and preparation once injured.

    • smurph

      Yeah, at this point Wandy would need to earn a spot back with the big club. He was beyond terrible in his 4 starts. Agree you can’t expect Cumpton to maintain the numbers he has had so far. However, he looks like a gritty guy who will give you everything he has every outing. Not a bad #4 or 5 option.

  • smurph

    As for throwing in the towel for this season or thinking what they need to do for next year, it is still very early. Yeah, this team doesn’t look like they have what it takes, but let’s give them a little more time. Russell Martin – they should make him an offer to return, but I would be surprised if he does. They just can’t match what other teams can offer, and Sanchez shoul be the starter in 2015, or at least a 50-50 split if they somehow could sign Martin. Volquez – we don’t know if he will be this good all year, but maybe he realizes that Ray Searage is a big part of why he is being successful, and decides to re-sign with the Pirates.

    • Ron Loreski

      The Pirates should offer Martin a 3yr/$30mil extention. That’s not breaking the bank, and will also give Martin the largest contract of his career. That’s the same contract the Pirates offered to that stinkbag Edwin Jackson a few years ago. So they can’t say the budget isn’t there. Then that allows the Pirates to use Tony Sanchez as trade bait to get a SS or another SP.

      • moose7195

        That sounds like the wrong price for Martin as that would make him the highest paid player on the team and keep him here until he’s 34. What about poor Reese McGuire? Why keep him blocked? Martin’s skill set is bound to drop off, and that money could help elsewhere

        • Ron Loreski

          McCutchen is the highest paid player on the team.
          2014 – $7.25mil
          2015 – $10mil
          2016 – $13mil
          2017 – $14mil
          2018 – $14.75mil (option)

          And that contract wouldn’t keep Reese McGuire blocked. We shouldn’t expect him to be major league ready until at least 2016/17. Even if he is ready in 2017, a 34 year old Martin could serve as backup, or could be traded at that point. Martin needs to be the Pirates catcher as Cole matures, and as guys like Glasnow, Tallion, and Kingham reach the major leagues.

          • moose7195

            A 10M dollar/year average in 2015 also makes Martin the highest paid player on the team, unless your fictional contract is backloaded, which you never specified. And what if McGuire is ready in 2016? Then he would be blocked for at least an entire year, and probably be a better catcher. There is also the fact that you’ll be paying roughly 10M for a backup catcher, unless the contract is backloaded which means you’ll be wasting more money. And I doubt NH will want a 10M dollar backup catcher, he would probably keep McGuire blocked until the contract ended, no matter how bad Martin played

            • Ron Loreski

              Going by your logic of Martin blocking McGuire, should the Pirates not have signed Marte to an extention? Or should they not extend Polanco if he pans out? Because then they would be blocking Austin Meadows.

              • moose7195

                There is always a “right price”, and the Marte deal was a very team friendly deal. It was so team friendly that if Austin Meadows turns out better than Marte, then I have no issue making Marte the 4th outfielder, or even trading him, which will certainly bring a good return, especially with that fantastic contract. The scenarios are a little bit different, and having a 3-5M dollar backup OF is much more easy to live with than a 10+M backup catcher

              • stickyweb

                Well they’re locking up Marte’s (and potentially Polanco’s) prime age years as opposed to Martin’s (likely) declining mid 30′s, so it’s not exactly apples to apples. Plus it will be easier trading a 30 year old Marte making $10 mil, than it will be trading a 34 year old Martin making $10 mil (though since Martin’s making $8.5 mil this year, I’d quibble that it will be $15 mil or more in his FA contract)

        • smurph

          I like ron’s idea. 34 is not really old. And 10 million is not a lot of money for a top player at one of the most important positions on the field. But as johnd said, he would likely get more than that in the open market.

          • moose7195

            10M dollars for a 70M dollar payroll is a lot of money. Now add Martin’s 10M and you have 14% of the payroll into 2 players. And only the Phillies and Red Sox currently employ catchers over the age of 34. There may just be a reason for that.

      • johndw28

        I’d be shocked if Russ signed for 3 years 30 million- but would love to resign him at that cost. I’m guessing he will be getting at least 15 million a year annually- not sure on length of contract

  • leadoff

    I don’t buy this label that Cumpton is a 4 or a 5, if he gave up 2 runs or less 5 times out he would still be called a 4 or 5, OH wait, I think he has somewhere around 2 runs a game in the majors. The same problem exists for Cumpton as it does for so many Pirate players in their system, they get labels. He does not really have a small sample size when you consider his work at AAA and the majors combined. Hurdle addressed this issue yesterday and made the confession that sometimes they miss on a players talent, IMO, Cumpton is one of them, he looks like a lot of the old time pitchers, very calm, pitched 7 innings and did not overwork, did not get beat on a bad pitch, has a nice fastball, a nice curveball, a changeup and the three most important things that a pitcher needs to have, He throws the ball where he wants to, he throws inside a lot and he pitches, he does not throw, in todays major leagues that can move you to the top in a hurry.
    It is the same deal with Volquez, you have to watch the guy pitch and forget the stats.

    • Ron Loreski

      I couldn’t agree with you more. If a pitcher doesn’t have great “stuff”, or light up the radar gun, he isn’t considered a top-of-the-rotation guy. The ability to actually pitch is very undervalued. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember Greg Maddux ever lighting up the radar gun.

      • piraddict

        Greg Maddux is a good comparison when considering the way Cumpton pitches. Obviously Cumpton has a long ways to go before he has a HOF career. But his best strengths are mental, which can’t be measured by a radar gun or inches of break on a pitch.

        • lonleylibertarian

          Great catch piraddict – first time I saw Cumpton last year he reminded me of a young Greg Maddux – the ability to locate is not quite what it was for Maddux at times -but Cumpton is still young.

          I thought Cumpton earned a spot in the rotation coming out of spring training.

          The Pirates are accumulating a lot of “dead wood” – Wandy has no trade value -and makes the rotation worse – Snider and Tabata are worthless and should be replaced with Polanco and Lambo. Stewart is a one year rental and a better offensive weapon at catcher than either Stewart or Martin is sitting in Indy.

          What would be wrong with putting the best 25 in the dugout and trying to be competitive now.

          • moose7195

            Putting the best 25 in the dugout now may make the best 25 available to be in the dugout in a couple of years a much worse group of 25. So you may or may not get better immediately, and you’ll definitely get worse later on.

            • lonleylibertarian

              That may be the most idiotic post ever – can you predict with certainty TJ surgeries – Blown out knees or achilles tendons. All you can do if you are a responsible steward of the resources you have is to use the best players that you have available as long as they are available…

              Polanco could get hit by a bus in 2016…

              Tonights starting lineup should be….

              Polanco
              Marte
              Cutch
              Walker
              Pedro
              Lambo
              Tony S
              Mercer
              Cole

              • moose7195

                Are you sure that its the most idiotic EVER? I’m sure some troll somewhere outdid my last post. And I don’t have to predict with any certainty about injuries to know that if you start ML service time clocks ASAP, then prospects get to get paid sooner rather than later. The sooner they have to get paid, the sooner they go bye-bye. Of course any responsible steward of resources should know this. The Pirates can’t pay players with monopoly money, and I’m pretty sure Nutting doesn’t own a money tree. If prospects go bye-bye, the team goes back to losing 100+ games for 20 straight years. But yeah, realizing that is completely idiotic.

                Oh and assuming that decent AAA numbers guarantee that guy to be the better player than the guy with mediocre MLB stats is actually the most idiotic thought ever. God forbid, but what would your ego do if Polanco comes up and struggles? You don’t know more than anyone else who the “best 25″ are right now.

                • lonleylibertarian

                  Well nutting does own a money tree – he is a Billionaire – yes that Is a Billionaire with a big B!

                  And I will give you a second chance to prove you are not as stupid as it appears you might be….

                  Below is a list of players – you are starting a new franchise as the new owner of the Orlando Mickeys
                  - who do you draft/pick

                  Gregory Polanco
                  Travis Snider
                  Jose Tabata
                  Starling Marte
                  Jordy Mercer
                  Clint Barmes
                  Ike Davis
                  Chris Stewart
                  Josh Harrison
                  Gabby Sanchez

                  • moose7195

                    For a libertarian you sure love spending other peoples money. I don’t care how much money he has, it isn’t yours to determine how to spend it.

                    Your challenge wont prove anything, as your current string of logic makes your opinion meaningless to me. Who are you to decide how stupid I am? All you want to do is throw money at the team until they become the Yankees. The challenge itself is flawed because I don’t know if this fantasy draft starts with current contracts or fair market value. Does my fictional owner have the last name Steinbrenner or Nutting? My strategy would certainly be different if I had strict or lenient financial parameters placed on my fictional team.

  • dr dng

    Tim began the article with a question.
    I think I have this one.
    “Yes”
    -

  • leadoff

    The Pirate starters have been doing a pretty good job lately, but the Pirates are in a rut right now, can’t hit at all, can’t trust the pen and they are very hard to watch right now, but these situations will change and when the weather warms up I believe the Pirates will warm up with it. Hope they don’t get buried too far down in the standings before they start to jell, the talent is there for considerable improvement. One thing is for sure, it is way to early to start trading off the team or worrying about next year. Polanco will be up in a month or so, he should add a spark to this lineup.

  • piratemike

    test

  • Pie Rat

    Id keep Gomez over Wandy, and he costs a lot less. If they DFA wandy after his rehab. Let someone claim him and take on his salary. If he clears waivers because nobody wants his salary and he refuses assingment they will be free of him