(Photo Credit: David Hague)

Top 10 Pitchers: Brandon Cumpton Continues Pitching Well…For Indianapolis

Below are the pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The top ten scores are highlighted in the write-up below. The rankings include every pitcher who made a start for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, with no limitations on whether the starting pitcher has prospect eligibility.

*Game Score is a stat created by Bill James used to determine how good a pitcher’s outing really was. The formula for game score is simple: Start with 50 points, add one point for every out recorded, add two for each inning completed after the fourth, add one point for each strikeout. Subtract two points for each hit, four points for each earned run, two points for each unearned run and one point for each walk. There tends to be an advantage for pitchers who can go longer in the game, as they have more time to pile up strikeouts, while getting bonus points for extra innings beyond the fourth frame.

In terms of pitching game scores, anything that scores a 65 or better is considered a “gem”. The Pirates farm system had just two “gems” this week. Five of the top ten starters all had game scores of 60 or higher. This was the second poor week in a row for starting pitching in the minors. Here are the top performers.

1. A.J. Morris – Morris made two starts this week for Altoona, giving him three starts overall since Zack Dodson went down with an injury a few weeks ago. He has made the most of that time, combining for a 1.83 ERA in 19.2 innings, with a 14:8 K/BB ratio. He topped the list this week with six shutout innings, giving up two hits, no walks, and striking out five. Morris was selected in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft this past off-season. Most of those players are capable of putting up good numbers in the minors, even in Double-A, but they don’t profile as prospects. Morris would have to do a lot to establish prospect status, especially since any results are clouded by the fact that he has already spent a season in Double-A, and he’s currently 27-years-old.

2. Brandon Cumpton – He returned to Indianapolis, and in his first start back he picked up where he left off. Cumpton threw seven innings, giving up two unearned runs on five hits, with one walk and three strikeouts. He has four starts with Indianapolis this year, and all have gone 6-7 innings.  Overall he has a 1.04 ERA in 26 innings in Triple-A this year, with a 14:4 K/BB ratio and a 1.50 GO/AO ratio. Wandy Rodriguez will be returning to the Pirates’ rotation on Thursday, but Cumpton is the guy who is more deserving of the fifth starter role right now.

3. Vance Worley – After spending time in extended Spring Training getting stretched out, and working with Jim Benedict on some mechanical adjustments, Worley finally made his debut in the Pirates’ system. The outing was a good one, with one run on five hits in six innings, along with no walks and four strikeouts. The returns of Jeff Locke, Brandon Cumpton and Casey Sadler to the rotation leave Worley’s status up in the air. The final two rotation spots belong to Adam Wilk and Jake Brigham. To get a rotation spot, Worley would either need to bump one of those two from the rotation, or see one of the other starters get called back up to Pittsburgh.

4t. Adam Wilk – Wilk has made several appearances on the top ten list this season. He had two starts this week, and they couldn’t have been more different. His first start ended up being the worst start of the week in the system, with seven earned runs on 11 hits in 5.2 innings. He rebounded well in his second outing, giving up one earned run on six hits in seven innings. Wilk has Cumpton, Sadler, and Locke ahead of him on the starting pitching depth chart. His best path to the majors would be as a lefty reliever if one of Tony Watson or Justin Wilson were to go down with an injury.

4t. Jeff Locke – Locke made two starts this week, with the first one occurring in the majors. That start didn’t go so well, falling apart in his final inning of work. He returned to Indianapolis on Sunday, and had a great outing. Locke gave up two earned runs in seven innings, with two walks and five strikeouts. At this point, I’d say Cumpton deserves the first shot if there’s an opening in the rotation, although Locke could get in that picture with a few more outings like this one. Ryan Palencer wrote about Locke earlier in the week, looking at how he’s trying to rebound from the second half of last season.

6. Jake Brigham – Once again, Indianapolis makes up at least half of the top ten. And once again, Brigham finds himself in the top ten. The minor league free agent gave up two earned runs in six innings of work. Just like Wilk, he doesn’t have much of a shot to make the majors as a starter. His best path is in relief, although it would be harder for him to make it to the majors as a right-hander. I’d actually move Brigham to the bullpen, and let Worley have his rotation spot, since Worley has a better track record as a starter.

7. Tyler Glasnow – He made two starts this week, with the first one landing him on this list. Glasnow gave up two earned runs on two hits and one walk, while striking out six. The next start, which I recapped on Saturday night, didn’t go as well. He struggled with walks, and opposing runners were stealing at-will on him. Glasnow was working mostly with his fastball, and in his first three starts he has been working mostly with the fastball/changeup in the early innings. He has less than a strikeout per inning right now, which is to be expected since he’s not throwing his curve often.

8. Cody Dickson – Dickson looks like a nice sleeper prospect from the 2013 draft. He was taken in the fourth round, but could have the upside of a middle of the rotation starter. The lefty can hit 94 MPH with his fastball, and has a nice breaking pitch. His issues are a lack of a changeup, and a lack of control at times. The control issues have popped up lately, with Dickson walking four and giving up four runs in four innings during his second start this week. The first outing showed what he could do when he limits the walks. Dickson threw five innings in his first outing, with one run on four hits and two walks, along with three strikeouts.

9. Brandon Mann – The lefty wasn’t the scheduled starter on Friday night, but came in for Altoona in the first inning after Tyler Sample had control issues. He gave up three earned runs in 5.2 innings in relief, with one walk and eight strikeouts. Mann has made two starts in the Altoona rotation since Zack Dodson went down with an injury, combining for two earned runs in nine innings, along with a 7:7 K/BB ratio.

10. Joely Rodriguez – Rodriguez has been inconsistent in his jump to Altoona, showing a few good performances, but having just as many bad outings. One concern is that he hasn’t been striking out hitters, with just ten strikeouts in 29.1 innings of work. He has never been a big strikeout guy, combining for 101 in 140 innings between West Virginia and Bradenton last year. However, his current pace is very low. Altoona’s infield defense has had some issues this year, which means that Rodriguez isn’t going to be in the best situation if he relies primarily on his 60% ground ball rate.

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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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  • Ron Loreski

    Brandon Cumpton is a major league pitcher. I’m hoping the Pirates are keeping him at AAA until they need a regular 5th starter again. They can’t expect to contend if they keep trotting Wandy out there.

    • R Edwards

      Agreed….and although he pitched much better after the first inning last night, Morton needs to pitch better than he has been of late. Yes, Alvarez’s error in the first resulted in 3 of the 4 runs being unearned, but Morton seemed to become unglued after the error and did not help his cause and did not pickup his third baseman. Morris’ performance of late has been very disappointing as well – especially last night. His stuff is too good to be pitching like he has. I thought Mazzaro and Hughes both pitched well last night. Based loaded and no outs – in the 9th – and we get a first pitch popup and a double play. Terrible. Another missed opportunity.

      • emjayinTN

        R: Charlie did not have it in the first inning, and everything was running too far inside or right over the plate and up in the zone. Sometimes when a GB pitcher is too pumped, the balls have a tendency to stay up rather than sinking. I hope that Vance Worley gets into the AAA Rotation, because he has the ability to be attractive down the stretch run for the Pirates, if contending, or another team short on a SP who can throw GB’s.

      • Scott Kliesen

        If there ever was a night that epitomizes the Pirates season to date it’s last night. The errors by Alvarez were just the tip of the iceberg. Not advancing the runner on 2nd with no outs down by 3 by T Sanchez was painful. Morris being one strike away from getting out of the 8th unscathed than hanging a slider on 1-2 to Bourjos was also painful. And of course the missed opportunities in the 9th by Davis and Mercer were just the cherries on top. Tough pills to swallow.

  • Lee Young

    Tim….”The outing was a good one, with one run on five hits in six innings, along with no walks and four strikeouts.”

    That’s a 1.50 ERA with NO walks, better than Locke’s 2.57 with TWO ! Why isn’t Cumpton’s start GREAT???

    :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

    • emjayinTN

      Lee: That was in the Worley summary, but I think all 3 of them Cumpton, Locke, and Worley are deserving of praise for their outings.

      • Lee Young

        emjay…I was just having some fun with Tim….but thanks.


  • Lee Young

    I keep thinking Dickson is the PTBNL in the Davis deal.

    • Ron Loreski

      I’m thinking it’s gonna be Jacoby Jones. I hope you’re right though.

      • Monsoon Harvard

        My ‘reality’ brain section keeps telling me it’s JaCoby Jones. My ‘hopeful’ brain section says Cody Dickson.

        Though I’ve been wondering lately if it may be Erich Weiss, (11th pick last year) since he got bumped off of third base by Wyatt Mathisen.

  • johndw28

    Haven’t watched stream yet but from box score looked like Worley had another fine outing. 82 pitches, 65 strikes. Pitched 7 innings gave up 2 runs on 6 hits, Ked 6. I’m kind of excited about this guy even though people knock him for not having great stuff. If he could get back anywhere near what he was with Phillies that would be welcome addition to rotation.

    • emjayinTN

      john: It was a great pickup for CASH CONSIDERATIONS only and that is reflective of strong scouting. There are at least 10 MLB teams right now who would love to have this guy in AAA throwing like he has the first two outings. Big secondary stat is the 11/2 GO/FO ratio today.

      • johndw28

        agree. I’m pretty excited about him helping out here in the next month or 2.

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