Adrian Sampson looked much better tonight compared to his last start.

Prospect Reports: Adrian Sampson Searching for Consistency

Bringing up the name Adrian Sampson won’t ring many bells across the baseball world. Most fans, including some that follow the Pirates, likely have never heard of the 2012 5th round pick. He didn’t receive an excessive signing bonus when drafted, and he wasn’t particularly effective in 140 innings in High-A last year. That all seems like it is about to change for the young Pirates right-hander.

The only ranking Sampson received from a major publication on their preseason prospect list was 27th in the system from Baseball America. He grabbed a handful of sleeper rankings, or high follow type remarks, but he could not crack most of the top rankings lists out there. In part this is a testament to the depth of the Pirates’ system, but at the same time, Sampson’s 2013 season that included a 5.14 ERA and 4.32 FIP certainly was a factor.

What is going on right now

It is still early, but Sampson’s age 22 season has started out with a bang. His 2.32 ERA is good for 3rd in the Eastern League, trailing only A.J. Morris for the Curve lead. He places seventh on the Eastern League leader board in WHIP at 1.17, only 0.23 away from the league lead. Sampson’s strikeout rate has dropped slightly from his career high 2012 form, hitting 6.96 K/9 with a 18.9% strikeout rate in 2014, but those spots still place him in the top 20 in each category for the Eastern League.

“Changeup was my big pitch last year, and I’m bringing it back to this year. It’s been good for me.” He said when asked what he is currently working on. “The fastball is always something you can work on. Pitching both sides of the plate, moving feet of the hitters, basically consistency of all the pitches and being able to throw them in any count, that’s what I’ve been basically working on all year.”

So where is this all coming from? One answer could be Sampson’s drastic drop in BABIP. His 2013 campaign saw a .332 BABIP, which was the 3rd highest mark in the Florida State League. Sampson’s first 42.2 innings in Double-A have yielded a .278 BABIP, the 13th lowest in the Eastern League so far. He has also taken a serious leap in LOB%, jumping from 65.8% in 2013, to 80.9% in 2014. The increase in ability to convert batted balls into outs, as well as an increase in stranded runners have clearly been contributors to Sampson’s strong start. He had his own take on his improvement from last year.

“I think the mentality coming into the games. It’s totally different from last year. Last year was my first full season, didn’t really know what to expect. This year I kind of have a grasp on things; have a good foundation from last year. And, coming in with way more confidence, that’s really helped me throw the pitches I want, and execute them.”

What the future holds

Going forward, Sampson is going to have to keep an eye on a few things. His 2.74 BB/9 rate is nearly double his output from last season at 1.41. The low BABIP is also likely at an unsustainable point, as the league average BABIP currently sits at .300. The difference in FIP and ERA, 3.40 to 2.32, clearly suggests that we are in for some regression from this impressive start. His past however, does suggest some sustainability and continued improvement. Sampson’s home run rate is currently the same as the level he reached in 2012, he has a solid strikeout rate to go along with a focus on groundballs, and his walk rate surely has a chance to improve.

Sampson believes his development, as well as where he wants to be at the end of the year, hinges on both a consistent approach, and understanding his stuff.

“I just want to be consistent. I want to be able to throw all the pitches when I have to. I want to be able to be a pitcher instead of a thrower. I want to know times to throw a certain pitch to get a groundball when I need to. Keep my pitch count down, three pitches or less outs, and few three ball counts. I just want to be able to throw the ball where I want to, and get a groundball when I need to.”

Will Adrian Sampson be a top 10 prospect for the Pirates going into 2015, or be an anchor on a major league staff? Unlikely. Does he have a chance to contribute at the major league level in some capacity? Absolutely. Consistency is going to have to play a key part in his continued development. He can’t revert back to his 2013 form if he wants that opportunity. 2012 and his strong start in 2014 suggest that he has the ability to be a Major League pitcher, he just has to continue on that path.

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

Share This Article

John Kokales

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, John has been a devoted Pirates fan his entire life. Before joining Pirates Prospects, he worked for STATS LLC, and interned for Perfect Game, utilizing advanced tracking software for analysis and scouting purposes. Along with covering Altoona, John is currently interning for Baseball Info Solutions, and operating pitch tracking software for the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Follow John on Twitter, @jkokales

Prospect Highlights: Double From Alen Hanson, Two Key Hits By Mel Rojas Jr.

Next Story »

New Mock Draft and Rankings From

  • R Edwards

    Another great start by Cumpton tonight – ERA in Indy now 1.35. Given the current state of our starting pitching – in shambles – you would think it would be a no brainer that he would be pitching in Pittsburgh – instead of trotting Volquez out there every 4-5 days. I thought we had the best baseball management team in MLB??

  • R Edwards

    BTW, another dominant start by Sampson tonight. Unfortunately, his team was shutout on 3 hits. In a season where Tallion, Heredia, and Holmes were all lost to injury – and Kingham and Glasnow have been shaky – Sampson, Cumpton, Sadler have all been outstanding.

    • leowalter

      I’ll keep this short, but I thought Sampson was terrific last night. Good command of three pitches and in the low 90’s with his fastball. He also appeared to be more of a flyball/popup pitcher than a groundball guy in this particular game,but I really didn’t keep track of those numbers. That also might account for his BABIP so far.

Latest Analysis

  • Arquimedes Caminero

    Breaking Down the Final Pirates Roster Battles After Today’s Cuts

    19 hours ago

    With less than a week remaining in camp, the Pittsburgh Pirates made their latest round of cuts this morning, sending three relievers to minor league camp, including ...

    Read More
  • Keller Supak Hinsz

    Even With the New Draft Rules, the Pirates Are Still Loading Up on Projectable Pitchers

    2 days ago

    From 2008-2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates spent a lot of resources on projectable pitchers out of high school. So far, this approach has led to breakout performances from ...

    Read More
  • Josh Bell made the move to first base over the off-season. (Photo credit: David Hague)

    Why Should You Care About Prospects?

    4 days ago

    Yesterday I had a shorter day than usual. The Pirates had cuts at the MLB level, and a road game. The day was shortened at Pirate City, ...

    Read More
  • Gregory Polanco

    Q&A: Trading Prospects For Rentals, Polanco Concerns, Meadows vs Appel

    5 days ago

    I missed the Q&A last week due to a common problem in Spring Training: I forgot what day it was. It was around 6:00 that I was ...

    Read More
  • Nick Kingham f

    Improving His Two-Seam Fastball will Make Nick Kingham a More Effective Pitcher

    6 days ago

    With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero 3

    The Roster Situations That Could Impact the Makeup of the Pirates Bullpen

    1 week ago

    There are less than two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the one area where the Pittsburgh Pirates had actual position battles is heating up. There were ...

    Read More
  • Jordan Luplow

    How the Pirates are Trying to Stay Ahead of the Curve With the New Draft Rules

    1 week ago

    The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement brought a lot of changes to Major League Baseball. The biggest change for the Pittsburgh Pirates came in the draft. From 2008-2011, ...

    Read More
  • Alen Hanson

    The Key For Alen Hanson to Help the Pirates in the Majors This Year

    1 week ago

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at ...

    Read More
  • Tyler Glasnow 2

    What the Stats Don’t Tell You About Tyler Glasnow

    2 weeks ago

    The stat line for Tyler Glasnow’s start at Pirate City yesterday looked great: 3 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. The lone run ...

    Read More
  • JaCoby Jones Josh Bell

    JaCoby Jones Did Fine in the Move to Shortstop, But Needs to Cut Down on Strikeouts

    2 weeks ago

    The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted JaCoby Jones as an outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft, then surprised everyone the following year when they moved him ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles