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.
1. A.J. Morris – Morris had great numbers in Altoona this year, although they came with the disclaimer that he was 27 and had been at the level before. This is his first run through Triple-A, and so far he’s doing great. He tops the list this week after a complete game shutout, which was the first of his career, and is rare to see in the minors. He has a 1.20 ERA in 15 innings over two starts, along with a 12:4 K/BB ratio. I still wouldn’t call him a prospect or speculate on any specific MLB future, but he could have a shot at the majors by the end of the year if he keeps this up. His start this past week was enough to earn him the International League Pitcher of the Week award.
2. Nick Kingham – Kingham was promoted to Indianapolis this week, and made a strong debut. He went seven shutout innings, giving up five hits, one walk, and striking out eight. His issue earlier in the year with Altoona was that his control was struggling. In his final starts with Altoona, he fixed those control problems. This start with Indianapolis showed Kingham’s potential. If he can string together some more starts like this, he could have a shot at the majors by the end of the season, especially if the Pirates are in a playoff race and still having rotation issues.
3. Tyler Glasnow – He missed the first month of the season, and started slow in Bradenton his first few starts. Since then, Glasnow has been dominant, with an 0.70 ERA in 25.2 innings, along with a 33:13 K/BB ratio. In his last three starts, he has combined for 15.2 shutout innings, with six hits allowed, and a 23:8 K/BB ratio. The walks are still an issue, but Glasnow is starting to look like the dominant pitcher he was last year, only this time at a higher level. Because of the missed time, I’d expect him to get at least another month in Bradenton.
4. Jay Jackson – Jackson had one of the best starts and one of the worst starts this week. He gave up one run in six innings to get on the top ten list. He followed that up with five runs, two earned, in less than an inning. With all of the promotions to Pittsburgh, Jackson should have a rotation spot locked down in Triple-A.
5t. Adam Wilk - The Pirates had removed Wilk from the Triple-A rotation near the end of May, but put him back in after the promotions of Jeff Locke and Casey Sadler. Sadler is back, but with Vance Worley going up to Pittsburgh, Wilk should remain in the rotation.
5t. Joely Rodriguez – Rodriguez has had mixed results in Altoona this year. He has a 4.22 ERA in 70.1 innings, with some great starts, but some disaster starts mixed in. He had two starts this week, one of each variety. The first one saw him giving up five earned runs on ten hits in six innings. The start that got him on this list saw two earned runs on four hits in seven innings. He isn’t striking out a lot of hitters, but also has been limiting the walks this year, which is a good sign.
7. John Kuchno – Kuchno has been on fire lately, and continued his hot streak this week. He gave up one earned run on six hits in seven innings. In his last three starts, he has given up four earned runs in 21 innings, throwing seven innings each outing. He doesn’t strike out a lot of guys, but has one of the best ground ball ratios in the system. He looks like a future power reliever, but will remain in the rotation to get innings for as long as possible. As a college guy drafted in 2012, he could be looking at a promotion to Altoona later this season.
8t. Tyler Waldron – Waldron has had some impressive numbers in Triple-A this year, with a 3.64 ERA in 29.2 innings, along with a 26:9 K/BB ratio. As a starter, he has a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings, with a 17:5 K/BB ratio. With a depleted rotation, he was asked to fill in as a starter again this week. He gave up one run in six innings, with a 4:2 K/BB ratio.
8t. Marek Minarik - The Pirates added Minarik as a minor league free agent this off-season. He’s a tall pitcher from the Czech Republic who sits 91-94 MPH with his fastball, but lacks control. In his first start with Jamestown, he threw four shutout innings, giving up one hit, walking three, and striking out three. The walks are going to be an issue for him, but the frame and the velocity are interesting, and should make him a guy to watch in the lower levels this year.
10. Tyler Eppler - Eppler was taken in the sixth round of the 2014 draft, and will be pitching out of the Jamestown rotation. His first start was impressive, with three perfect innings and two strikeouts. He should get more innings per start going forward, but will probably be built back up slowly, since his last start for Sam Houston State was at the end of May.