The Cumpton vs. Locke question is no debate

When Neal Huntington came out and said that the organization was torn between whether Brandon Cumpton or Jeff Locke would replace the recently DFA’d Wandy Rodriguez, the decision seemed clear – Cumpton.

Cumpton has been dominant all season in Indianapolis, boasting a 1.35 ERA in 40 innings, with a 21:10 K/BB ratio. Since coming back to Indianapolis from Pittsburgh, Cumpton has gotten even better. He has allowed just three earned runs in his 21 innings over three starts.

However, the stats for Locke show a different story. Locke has seven starts with Indianapolis and has a 3.92 ERA. While he has 31 strikeouts, Locke also has 15 walks. Locke has also allowed five home runs in 39 innings in Triple-A.

While the stats may not paint a clear picture, my assessment goes beyond the numbers. It is based more on what I am seeing on the field in their starts. By watching the two throw, Cumpton is just much more polished than Locke at this point in the season. Cumpton has been hitting 94 MPH consistently much of the season and his stuff just looks electric, as he works consistently down in the zone. He seems to mix his pitches better and just have the hitters more off-balance. I just don’t see as many hard hit balls off Cumpton as with Locke.

When it comes to Locke, there is no secret that it is a good day when he hits 91. However, it is more than velocity. So many times this season, I have seen Locke fall behind hitters early in games and innings, working with three ball counts. This has been a constant struggle in the past for Locke with command and it has continued this season. I see Locke working more elevated in the zone as well, which will not lead to success in Pittsburgh. Rodriguez can attest to that. Locke does seem to be getting more action with his curveball lately than he was early in the year, but it’s more about the placement.

It is clear why the Pirates brass is high on Locke, based on his stuff, experience, and potential. However, I just don’t see him as big league ready at this point in the season. To me, Locke would be third on the list of possible replacements, behind Casey Sadler. Sadler has thrown much more consistently than Locke this season. The only aspect that Locke has over Sadler is experience. Sadler works down in the zone similar to Cumpton, but does not have the same zip on the fastball.

Vance Worley is another option. However, based on just a handful of starts this season, Worley still is working on getting completely stretched out and seems to be about a month away from the big leagues.

While Cumpton got just a cup of coffee last time up, when Rodriguez went on the DL, he will get a real look this time. With the chance, I see Cumpton making the most of it and etching his name into the rotation for the rest of the season and moving forward into next season.

Ryan Palencer

Author: Ryan Palencer

Ryan joined Pirates Prospects as the Indianapolis Triple-A writer in 2014. Prior to joining Pirates Prospects, Ryan covered high school, college and professional sports in the Indianapolis area. For more updates throughout the season, follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanpalencer.

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  • ElGaupo77

    If Locke is only hitting 91 he’s not an option. His off speed stuff isn’t that good to overcome an average fastball.

    Looks like Mazzaro, Sadler and Kingham are our next choices in that order.

    • Lukas Sutton

      91 from a LHP is often considered as good as a 93-95 from a RHP. The off speed isnt very good, but if his fastball could sit at 91 all day itd make him useful.

      • Y2JGQ2

        Despite what Tim said Above, Locke has hit 93 numerous times this year, including a couple at least during his start in pittsburgh, because i was specifically paying attention to that.

    • freddylang

      Locke at 91-92 is fine. It is the 5 walks and 98 pitches in 6ip that is the issue. Locke needs excellent control to succeed unless he is just lucky like he was early in 2013 when his control also wasn’t very good. You can’t bet on luck from a guy unless you are desperate. With Cumpton, Sadler, and even Worley the Pirates are not…Locke may soon be the 4th option rather than the 1b NH seemed to imply just yesterday.

    • leowalter

      Right now,Kingham is not any where near ready for AAA let alone MLB. His command has been pretty inconsistent. Hopefully he will get it resolved soon though.

  • Travis Persinger

    Good article! I was perplexed on what half of the room Neal Huntington was in that were saying Locke over Cump. Lol
    I think it was just all smoke and mirrors with that comment though. If Cumpton can legitimately give the Buccos a solid season we may have our 1,3,4, and 5 slots already filled for next season. And no, not the Maholm, Gorz, Duke already set kinda rotation (Well we hope not).

    • bucsws2014

      I think Neal said there was a 1a and 1b to send a message to Eddie and Frankie that even though they’ll be using one of the two to take Wandy’s place, there’s another guy ready to take theirs… so they better step it up.

  • leadoff

    Cumpton to me is another player that the Pirates have that is labeled. The Pirates do not like to go away from their labels, Cumpton is a 4 or 5 to them and Locke is similar, but left handed to the Pirates. Cumpton could have an ERA under 1 and it would not change their thinking. If Worley was ready sooner, I would not be surprised if he would be ahead of Cumpton on their depth chart and be the guy pitching on Monday.

    • Doug

      But he’s not, so give up on your Pirates conspiracy

      • leadoff

        What are you talking about?

  • Scott Kliesen

    Cumpton has earned the opportunity to show what he can do over an extended period of time. I still think Locke has a future in Pitt, but that future is not on Monday vs Mets.

  • Ecbucs

    thanks for details. What is Worley’s stuff like? Is he a soft tosser? Based on record with Phillies he looks like he could be a contributor.

    • freddylang

      Worley averaged 91.5mph on his fastball in 2010 in his early days. He was down to just 89.5 last year coming back from surgery though. He used to throw a slider but scrapped it last year in favor of a cutter according to fangraphs. Not sure about this year. He also has a curve and a change but he has a history of being 2/3 fastballs so he fits the fo’s mold of a guy that is a strike throwing sinker-type groundball pitcher. He’s also a big horse that doesn’t throw as hard as he looks like he could. At worst I think the Pirates have at least another valuable bullpen piece.

    • bucsws2014

      Worley relies on a deceptive delivery. His stuff isn’t all that great, but he makes it hard for batters to see it quickly.

  • freddylang

    NH just not saying Cumpton brings me back to my 16 years in the corporate world. These guys in management get so used to bs’ing that they can’t even tip their hand when everyone knows what they are holding. Just say it Neal! Everyone knows. It’s OK…and Cumpton is a pro. No need to dangle a carrot in front of him. It’s insulting for a guy that does whatever has been asked of him and more.

    • Lee Young

      All GMs do it.

  • Jared

    Cumpton is the clear choice because all he’s done is consistently defied the expectations and pitched well. He’s perfectly suited to the pirates as a pitcher who works down in te zone and generates a lot of ground balls. He’s consistently been productive at each level, even if not spectacular, and in his time in the majors he’s been very good. Locke is not the pitcher from the beginning of last year and, while he might not be the pitcher from the end of the year either, he is not as consistent or polished as Cumpton. Cumpton gives his team a chance to win each time out and is consistent with that. That is more than we can say about 3/5th of the major league rotation right now.

    • Lee Young

      Jared….I am a Locke fan, but I agree with you 100%.

      Jeff needs to get his control, uh, under control!

  • Lee Young

    I hope you’re right about Cumpton!!!!