First Pitch

First Pitch: What is Brandon Cumpton’s Upside?

First Pitch: What is Brandon Cumpton’s Upside?

Brandon Cumpton made his first start in place of Wandy Rodriguez today, and he didn’t disappoint. The right-hander went six innings, allowing two runs, one earned, on seven hits, with one walk and one strikeout. Cumpton now has a 3.38 ERA in his three starts this year, and a 2.55 ERA in 49.1 innings in his young major league career.

The scouting reports say that Cumpton will be a back of the rotation starter. His advanced metrics say that he won’t be this good. Still, his xFIP is around league average numbers, and if that continues, he could have a chance to be more than just a back of the rotation guy.

Back in Spring Training, I spoke with Cumpton several times about his sinker, which isn’t actually a sinker at all. It’s a four seam fastball that just has so much movement that it gets classified as a sinker. Cumpton was a main feature for an article I did on the sinkerball, and in the process of researching that article, I found a lot of similarities between Cumpton and Charlie Morton.

When Morton was in the minors, he threw a four seam fastball, which also had a lot of movement. He eventually switched to a two-seam fastball, which generated even more movement, and thus gave him #ElectricStuff. I’m not saying that Cumpton should follow the same path and switch to a two-seam fastball. The four seam is obviously working for him. He has a 50% ground ball rate in the majors, and has put up strong numbers at every level. But Cumpton has some nasty stuff, and it’s often underrated.

Cumpton isn’t really a Jeff Karstens type, who just gets by due to pitching, despite a lack of stuff. Unlike Karstens, Cumpton has some velocity on his fastball. He averages 92 MPH and can touch mid-90s. Add in the movement, and you’ve got a nice pitch to work off of. Cumpton does exactly that, throwing his fastball 70% of the time. He also has a nice slider, which can get a decent amount of strikeouts, although his focus is more on pitching to contact and getting ground balls.

Most guys who excel beyond the “back of the rotation” title are guys who can take the game in their own hands, and dominate an opposing lineup. Cumpton doesn’t do that with strikeouts, but he does have the stuff to get more easy ground ball outs than the average pitcher. This is a case where you’d want to play things safe, and say that Cumpton is a number four starter.

So far, he’s been performing like a middle of the rotation guy, based on his advanced metrics. It would be hard to call him a back of the rotation guy if the stats continued to tell a different story. He’d need a lot more innings than he currently has for the stats to be considered legit. But if those stats eventually say that he’s a middle of the rotation guy, then it wouldn’t be the first time Cumpton has surprised and exceeded expectations.

Links and Notes

**Week In Review: Wandy Gone, Grilli Back, Prospect Reports, Mock Drafts

**Pirates Recall Brandon Cumpton, DFA Vin Mazzaro

**Prospect Watch: Alen Hanson Homers, Nick Kingham With a Strong Start

**Minor League Schedule: All-Stars Square-Off In Indianapolis

**Top 10 Hitters: Everything is Coming Together For Mel Rojas

**Top 10 Pitchers: Cumpton Dominates in Final Triple-A Start; Sampson Breaking Out?

**Prospect Highlights: Base Hit From Willy Garcia, Two Homers From Indianapolis

**Could Local Prep Star Be an Early Round Draft Option For Pirates?

First Pitch

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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