Brandon Cumpton Moves into the Pirates Rotation, Maybe For Good

Neal Huntington said today that Brandon Cumpton will start for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday, replacing Wandy Rodriguez in the rotation. Previously Huntington said that Jeff Locke could be a candidate for the spot, although Locke seemingly was out of the mix after throwing six innings on Thursday.

“It just happened to align right now where Brandon is in turn to take Wandy’s spot,” Huntington said. “Jeff would’ve had to either pitch on nine days rest or pitch on four days rest and we didn’t want to do that to him.”

Cumpton seemed like the obvious choice, even if Locke was on normal rest. He has put up excellent numbers this year in Triple-A, with a 1.35 ERA in 40 innings, along with a 21:10 K/BB ratio and a 1.65 GO/AO ratio. In his brief career in the majors, he has a 2.70 ERA in 43.1 innings, with a 6.4 K/9, and a 1.3 BB/9. He’s also put up an impressive 50% ground ball rate. His advanced metrics suggest he won’t be this good going forward, but his xFIP of 3.59 says he could still be a good member of the rotation.

A big reason for Cumpton’s success comes from his fastball. It’s a four seam fastball, but moves like a sinker, generating so many ground balls. Cumpton leans heavily on the pitch, throwing it 67.6% of the time so far in the majors, with an average velocity of 92 MPH.

“He does a great job of moving his fastball around the zone,” Huntington said. “He’s got a little bit more velocity than most people give him credit for, it’s got some life to it. He uses all quadrants of the zone. The slider has gotten better, the changeup has gotten better. He’s fearless. He attacks the zone, he attacks hitters and those are some things that we like a lot.”

This shot in the rotation could allow Cumpton to win a job for the long-term. The only starters who are under contract for next season are Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton. That leaves three rotation spots available. Jameson Taillon probably won’t be ready by Opening Day, and probably wouldn’t be called up for Opening Day if he was ready. Nick Kingham would be a candidate to take a rotation spot, although he has had some issues in Altoona this year, with a drop in velocity and an increase in walks. The Pirates could turn to free agency for a starter, but they’re not getting three external starters from free agency. If Cumpton does well, he could lock down a spot for the 2015 season. And if he continues pitching the way he has been so far in the majors — at least pitching to his xFIP — then there would be no reason to remove him from the rotation any time soon.

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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  • johndw28

    Pirates HAVE to sign at least 1 quality starter

    • blainehwl

      With Wandy, Liriano, Volquez, and Martin off the books, that’s $27M+ the team won’t be spending next season. More than enough left over for arbitration raises and a legitimate starter.

      The biggest problems will be replacing Martin’s contribution to the team and finding a quality SP in next year’s thin free agent class. Jason Hammel and Dan Haren are possibilities. Lester, Shields, and Scherzer are going to be way out the Bucs spending range.

      • bucsws2014

        Martin will be on the books and at a higher cost.

        • blainehwl

          He may. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Bucs try to sign him at 3/what he’s making now in order to wait on McGuire to make the ML roster.

          • https://profiles.google.com/117072260031604417798 PikeBishop65

            I still have visions of right handed hitting Tony Sanchez and left handed hitting Reese McGuire becomings the second coming of “SlaValliere.”

            • blainehwl

              That may happen. Sanchez hasn’t scared me with his bat…at all.

              With a small sample size, McGuire has batted .290 against lefties and .297 against righties this season. While he’ll need some off days, there’s no severe discrepancy that indicates McGuire will require a platoon.

              • leowalter

                McGuire is now in A-. Projecting ahead a bit too far maybe ?

                • blainehwl

                  Without a doubt, but he gets a little projection leeway as a first-round pick. And it doesn’t hurt that his hitting and behind-the-plate play are, at least, as good as was hoped for at this stage.

                  Granted, he could get to AA and not be able to break .100, but the signs of that inability aren’t there…at least with what I’ve read of him. If he stays healthy and continues to progress, there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be on the ML roster in three years…at the latest.

                  • leowalter

                    I am certainly hoping Reese McGuire makes it to Pittsburgh in the next few years, BUT, projecting that far in the future for a kid that hasn’t yet hit one HR as a professional is a bit of a stretch in my opinion.

        • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

          Martin batted .226/.377/.703 last year, and .127/.222/.437 for Sept/Oct. Why do we keep writing about it as a “given” that he’ll be wanted back at a higher price next year? This year he’s 3% above the league caught stealing % so far. If his offense falls off the cliff again, I fail to see the argument for a large financial commitment to him.

          • bucsws2014

            Martin was also 4th in WAR in MLB among all catchers in MLB in 2013. Currently he’s 10th in MLB despite having only 67 ABs, so that’s only going to go up. He also had a 1.011 OPS in the playoffs.

            What’s your alternative? Chris Stewart?

            You’re one of those guys who wants to field a team with a $50 mill payroll and who doesn’t give a hoot about trying to win, eh?

            • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

              Yeah, don’t tell me “I’m one of those guys that…”. All I want is a winner. I’m looking at some numbers, you are looking at other numbers. I watch him and love his attitude but I don’t see it for him with the bat. Just my opinion.

      • Y2JGQ2

        Unless we want to sign Martin at 3/40 he isn’t coming back

        • blainehwl

          I don’t think it’ll go that high in the NL. AL, yes. NL, 3/28. I’m pretty much considering him gone though…someone will overpay.

          Sanchez + someone next year.

      • Monsoon Harvard

        Dude, Al Martin has been off the books for years!

        • blainehwl

          Tell that to his wives :)

          • glassers

            Now that was funny

    • Matt Beam

      most likely agree, but Cumpton and Locke will probably start the year in the rotation with Worley and Sadler as dark horses

  • blainehwl

    Congrats and best of luck to Cumpton. He’s earned it.

    Now if the Bucs would just promote someone to take Volquez’s spot in the rotation…

    • lfhlaw

      Volquez or Liriano? TBH at least I feel Volquez knows where his pitches are going……Liriano…i’m not so sure. Wondering how that groin is doing for him? Is it still an issue and if so, just DL him rather than having him pitch poorly.

      • blainehwl

        Fair enough, over their last five starts they’ve been equally miserable.

        Liriano: 24 2/3 IP 1.78 WHIP 6.57 ERA
        Volquez: 27 2/3 IP, 1.34 WHIP, 6.83 ERA

        • bucsws2014

          Volquez’s problem is that his mistakes are leaving the yard (thus the halfway decent WHIP), while Liriano is just all over the place.

          • blainehwl

            No disagreement there…when you’re allowing 3.07 HR/9 IP, Bob Kipper is having fits.

        • https://profiles.google.com/117072260031604417798 PikeBishop65

          2 out of Volquez’s last 3 starts have been very good. That’s what I am seeing. I think he will be solid, if unspectacular, the rest of the season.
          I think Liriano is still hurt.

          • blainehwl

            Not seeing 2/3.

            4/27: 5 2/3 IP, 6 ER, 2 HR
            5/4: 5 IP, 6 ER, 2 HR
            5/10: 4 2/3 IP 3 ER, 0 HR
            5/17: 6 1/3, 5 ER, 4 HR
            5/22: 6 IP, 1 ER, 1 HR

            Not saying he’s a bust yet, but I’m seeing: 4 good starts, 4 bad, 1 good. Where he goes from here, I don’t think anyone has any idea. But, when you’re paying $5M/year and don’t know what you’re getting…I don’t think that’s a good sign.

          • pilbobuggins

            I agree on both counts, looks like volquez is a solid #5 starter( hate to say it but it’s true) as far as liriano I see a trip to the dl. In his very near future. The bucs have no margin for error here so get him right or get him gone.

      • Y2JGQ2

        Valid point. Issue is- Liriano’s problem is easy to fix, Volquez’s isn’t. Liriano has a problem with 1st inning because he insists on establishing his change up and he always has mechanical problems with his release point early in the game, so he almost always walks people early in the game. Sometimes once he gets that fixed, we are already down a few runs. When he has good stuff, he’s okay after that, but those mechanics issues seem to come back off and on throughout the start. He just needs to keep working on that consistency, when he has it, basically unhittable. His stuff is there. Volquez….we are getting the best hes got already.

  • lfhlaw

    Well Cumpton is in the lineup hopefully he seizes the chance and takes hold.
    Granted we still have Locke and Possibly Worley.

  • pilbobuggins

    I agree the pirates need to sign a quality starter next year, ( no more rec. Projects as the only off season signing.)as far as martin is concerned, the pirates overpaid to get him so if they would “pay market value or better I think it would be him, gold glove catchers are hard to find even more so ones who want to play in the burgh. Sad but true.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

    I thought that we had determined Cumpton could handle a starting spot in 2013. Why did we flush so much of the 2014 season down the drain in this Wandy/Volquez experiment before coming back around to the same conclusion? We should have handed Cumpton the job out of spring training, never signed Volquez, and been busy preparing Locke, Sadler and Taillon to battle it out to replace Wandy as soon as he self-combusted.

  • glassers

    There will be some growing pains here IMO , hopefully they will give him a fair shot !