First Pitch: Who Should Replace Wandy Rodriguez in the Rotation?

Wandy Rodriguez went on the disabled list today, meaning the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to need a starting pitcher on Thursday. Jeff Locke made his start tonight for Indianapolis, so that starter won’t be him. Casey Sadler is expected to make his start tomorrow for the Indians, which would remove him from the running.

The two players who are the top candidates for the starting role are Stolmy Pimentel and Brandon Cumpton.

Pimentel is in the majors, and currently has a 1.29 ERA in seven innings. That’s a bit misleading, since he also has a 7.7 K/9 and a 5.1 BB/9 ratio in that stretch. Pimentel’s average velocity has also been down, at 90.8 MPH this year, compared to 95.4 MPH last year in the majors. Both represent small sample sizes. In 2014, Pimentel has only thrown in three games. The first game he hit 95 MPH. The next two he was in the 88-92 MPH range.

All around, we’re dealing with small sample sizes here. But Pimentel has been prone to inconsistent performances in the past. Not so much with his stuff, but definitely with his control. He’s got the upside to be a starter in the majors, possibly taking a rotation spot next year.

His stuff this year could be impacted by the way he has been used. Pimentel has almost been treated like a Rule 5 pick. He threw four frames in an extra innings game on April 2nd. His next appearance was on April 16th, when he threw one inning. He went two innings on the 18th. That kind of schedule definitely could lead to the issues with his stuff and control. It also could eliminate him from consideration for the start, since he probably isn’t stretched out enough to make a full start at this point.

As for Cumpton, he is scheduled to make his next start on Wednesday. The Pirates could delay him one day, and have him make that start in the majors. In his last outing, Cumpton threw seven shutout innings, allowing five hits, no walks, and striking out five. On the season he has a 1.42 ERA in 19 innings, with an 11:3 K/BB ratio.

Cumpton doesn’t have the best upside. What he does have is a history of getting the job done. He did well in his brief time in the majors last year, and has performed well in every stage of his career. He’s also a guy who could be a rotation candidate in 2015. So just like Pimentel, the Pirates could benefit from seeing what Cumpton can do with a few starts in the majors this year.

Right now it looks like Cumpton is the best option. Pimentel would be an intriguing option, but with the way he has been used early in the season, and the small sample of control and velocity concerns, it doesn’t make sense to start him. If Pimentel was the only option, it might be different. But the Pirates have several other options, and one of them — Cumpton — has strong numbers and almost lines up perfectly with Rodriguez’s next start. That’s why Brandon Cumpton makes the most sense to take over for Wandy Rodriguez.

Links and Notes

**Wandy Rodriguez Placed on the Disabled List

**Prospect Watch: The Unreal Numbers From the Bradenton Marauders Rotation

**Top Performers: Brandon Cumpton Heating Up as Wandy Rodriguez Shuts Down

**Top Performers: Elias Diaz Showing Off a Bat to Pair With His Strong Defense

**Minor League Schedule: Sadler and Sampson Look To Continue Strong Start To Season

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.

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  • bmcferren

    time to cash in some chips and make another trade

    • blainehwl

      I disagree. Considering what Wandy has brought to the table this season…if Cumpton implodes, it’ll be no difference in performance.

      What I’m really curious about is next season’s rotation. Liriano will be gone–as will Wandy and, most likely, Volquez. As it stands, Cole and Morton will be the only holdovers with, perhaps, Pimentel and Cumpton as the top internal candidates. That still leaves one open slot for a retread to fill.

      • Y2JGQ2

        Well…..Wilson could be given an opportunity next year and you are forgetting Locke, i’m pretty sure we see him in the rotation next year, even if some fans don’t. Don’t rule out Mcpherson either, and Taillon would be a stretch, but isn’t out of the question. Assume Nick Kingham should be ready potentially to open the season in the rotation as well, barring injury. We will likely pick up a vet as well to fill a 4th or 5th rotation spot again next year, its been a trend i’d expect us to continue.

        • blainehwl

          Those are good options, the problem I have with those guys is an overall lack of experience.

          While, barring injury, it’s safe to pencil in Cole and Morton as 1-2, and Pimentel and Cumpton have a decent shot at 3-4. Let’s assume that’s the top four and one of the four you offered gets the #5 nod. The rotation minus Morton would, most likely, have less than 100 career starts between them…and that’s if Locke gets the final spot. If it’s not him, then the rest will have 75 or less starts with the vast majority of them going to Cole.

          In short, unless the team grabs another reclamation project, this is going to be a very green staff…and not one that would be looked at as being the core of a contender.

          • johndw28

            Rotation next year is a big concern- sure Kingham, Glasnow and Taillon (who knows how his rehab will shake out)look promising but can’t really count on any to contribute in 2015. I like Charlie Morton but he isn’t a #2. He is a #3 at best and I don’t even know if he is solid #3 more like a below average #3, above average #4. There are a lot of guys in system who project as decent 4 or 5s like Cumpton or Sadler, maybe more if we get lucky but we are going into next year with Cole and Morton and that leaves a lot of spots to fill. For all the crap Volquez took it’s sort of a shame they couldn’t sign him to 2 year deal or with an option on 2nd year.

    • Ron Loreski

      We don’t have to make a trade everytime someone gets injured. That’s why you have depth.

    • Y2JGQ2

      We have rotation depth coming out the wazoo….why exactly would we make a trade when we have an all-star sitting in AAA?, and two long men in the majors, not counting Cumpton….. that is the silliest thing i’ve heard this week

  • emjayinTN

    Tim: Not sure it has anything to do with the subject, but next week, after 20 games in 20 days, the Pirates have Monday and Thursday off, and then 3 more off days during the first 20 days of May. Therefore, whoever pitches Thursday may not be needed again until May 5 – is that the day the 15 day will run out? And then, with days off on the 8th and 12th this 5th SP will probably miss another turn. I would think that type of schedule favors somebody already on the 25, and why waste a Cumpton option for possibly only one start? I think the Pirates know that Pimental may only be able to go 60 pitches, but I think they want to see what they have under MLB conditions. The number of days off also supports using the BP more to keep them sharp. The loss in velocity is a real concern.

    • PiratesFan1975

      Cumpton was optioned to AAA from the Pirates when he was sent down at the end of March. His option for 2014 has already been used. They could send him back and forth from AAA to the Pirates 20 times and that still counts as just 1 option. So nothing is wasted by bringing him up. If the Pirates were really that concerned with seeing what Pimentel has under MLB conditions he wouldn’t be rotting on the bench since the 2nd game of the season. The way Pimentel has been used so far is very disappointing.

      • Monkshot

        Apparently I don’t know how options are used. I thought it was every time he’s sent down, it counts as one. I admit, I haven’t read up on it.

        • PiratesFan1975

          The wording MLB uses is confusing. If they referred to them as option years it would make much more sense.

          • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

            They are referred to as option years. Options for short.

      • emjayinTN

        PF 75Thanks for the info on the option system, I was not aware of that twist on the rule.

      • smurph

        One caveat to PF’s post: You are limited in the number of roster moves you can make during the season – not sure what that number is. Therefore it would be foolish to bring him up 20 times. Otherwise he is right about just using one option.

        • PiratesFan1975

          I think you are thinking of fantasy baseball. MLB does not have a roster move limit/cap.

    • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

      I hadn’t considered the days off. I’m not sure Clint will want to optimize the rotation like this- he may prefer to simply give everyone an extra day. I also think they are concerned with overuse of the bullpen.

    • Y2JGQ2

      Cumpton option boat has already sailed emjay

    • Y2JGQ2

      Its not a real concern in April, in the cold, not being used much. In June, its a concern

  • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

    I would have liked Locke against the Reds because he is a lefty but it’s pretty obviously either Cumpton or Stolmy/Gomez. I favor Cumpton.

    • emjayinTN

      gw: I think that Locke is getting prepared for a call up later in the season. A nice outing last night and living in the low 90′s. Better command, but got burnt on a couple of HR’s. Cumpton gave us 5 strong starts last year – 2-1, 2.05 ERA and is the most deserving as a result of those numbers. That said, I want to find some way to get to see Stolmy Pimental – but not the 88 to 91 mph Pimental.

  • https://www.facebook.com/steve.peipock Bonds Top Hand

    It’s times like this when I wish they would’ve stretched Wilson out in Spring Training. The injury bug seems to hit early in the cold weather each and every year. And he would be, in my opinion, the best option by far for a rotation spot. Then again, I just may be higher on Wilson than most people. Because if he is to stay in a relief role, I think the 9th inning should be his as the closer. He reminds me of a taller, and potentially nastier, version of Billy Wagner. You just can’t teach 97-100 mph with movement from the left side. And the ability to hit his spots the majority of the time makes him virtually unhittable when he is right.

    • moose7195

      We’ve seen Wilson stretched out and in a starters role. He barely threw
      92 mph. I like him sticking in the reliever role, keep him where he is
      most effective.

    • Andrew

      I think the ship has sailed on Wilson being a starter. Walking almost four batters/nine in a relief role doesn’t exactly scream ability to hit spots. He always had issues with walks in the minors and was moved to the bullpen twice in AAA.

      • https://www.facebook.com/steve.peipock Bonds Top Hand

        Andrew, I think the evolution and improvement of his change up will help with those numbers. But in 86 IP, to have 3.8 BB/9, 7.5K/9 (which I think will end up above 9 this year with the improved change up), and an 1.233 WHIP. I would take that from my closer who is still developing. And I think as hard as he throws paired with our defensive shifting, his ERA will always outperform his FIP or XFIP. Nature of the beast when you throw so hard. I guess more than anything, my gut tells me there’s a very specific reason he was highly sought after in trade discussions this winter by other teams. A power left with a very special arm.

        • Andrew

          I agree Wilson has value, an upper 90s fastball and a curve with great whiff rates. He could certainly be a back end reliever but will need a change up for that. As far as beating FIP that is a dangerous game, for all the potential Wilson has, his K% is still below average for a reliever and you have to attribute some of his success last year to a .229 BABIP.

          • Remember92

            I agree on his BABIP. But I also feel his low BABIP is directly indicative of his over powering stuff. Hitters have a hard enough time putting it in play let alone squaring him up. So he will have a low BABIP because his stuff is so nasty. Direct correlation of the two in my humble opinion.

    • krinks

      Right. See Jesse Chavez,

  • Monkshot

    Travis Snider should fill in, some already had him at first, it shouldn’t be a difficult transition.

    • https://www.facebook.com/steve.peipock Bonds Top Hand

      Unfortunately, with his upcoming suspension from the brawl, he will have to get stretched out in the California Penal League. Forget the curve ball lunchbox, give him the heater…

      • Monkshot

        Good point, let’s have him play short when he comes back.

  • CTBucco

    What about a Cumpton/Stolmy piggyback where Stolmy is essentially the long man-in-waiting if Cumpton needs to be pulled early? I suppose that’s not really a true piggyback, but it covers them if Cumpton struggles. I admit, though, that Stolmy’s velocity loss is worrying. I hope it is just from lack of regular work or adjusting to not being on a starter’s schedule.

    • Ron Loreski

      I think the piggyback should only be used in an emergency situation. If a SP isn’t good enough to go 5-6 innings, then he shouldn’t be in the big leagues.

  • piraddict

    I think Cumpton is the obvious choice to replace Wandy, but I would like to see some consideration given to Sadler. He is on the 40 man, pitching great, and is where Cumpton was last year when he pitched well for the Pirates. I think you have to include Sadler in the mix for 4th or 5th starter next year now that Taillon’s rehab is questionable.

  • piraddict

    If Wandy doesn’t regain his velocity and the effectiveness of his curveball in rehab it’s time to bite the bullet on his salary and DFA him, replacing him in the rotation with the best of Cumpton, Pimental, Sadler or Locke. Also, add Wilk to the 40 man roster when Wandy’s gone.

  • Michael Shaeffer

    Let Straight Outta Cumpton pitch Thursday.

  • http://batman-news.com Jay Hart

    Agree with you whole-heartedly. Hurdle has talked about getting Pimental more work — but I don’t think this is what he means. I’ve always, personally, considered Cumpton “next man up”. I can’t see any reason not to be comfortable with him in the rotation.