Top 10 Pitchers: Pirates Are Seeing New Pitching Prospects Emerge This Year

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 seven “gems” this week. Here are the top performers.

1. Buddy Borden – Borden got off to a great start this year, with a 1.37 ERA in 19.2 innings in the month of April. He had a good month of May, then struggled in June, with a 6.63 ERA in 19 innings, along with a 12:12 K/BB ratio. He looks to be back on track in July, and fueled his stats with two strong outings this week. Borden combined for 11.2 shutout innings, giving up three hits, walking three, and striking out eight. Borden’s best start saw him throw 6.2 shutout innings, with one hit, two walks, and four strikeouts. He’s got a great fastball that can hit mid-90s, and a good curve that can be a strikeout pitch. The control has been a problem for him, but he’s doing a better job in that area. Borden could be a candidate to move up to Bradenton by the end of the year, although it’s possible he could remain in West Virginia to continue focusing on his fastball command, with a chance to split the 2015 season between Bradenton and Altoona.

2. Nick Kingham – Kingham has been amazing since being promoted to Indianapolis. He has a 1.62 ERA in 39 innings, with a 30:6 K/BB ratio. He might end up with enough innings to receive a promotion to the majors by the end of the year. Jeff Locke only saw 28 innings in Triple-A before his first promotion. Casey Sadler had 33. Brandon Cumpton had 65. Gerrit Cole had 74 innings. Kingham has 39 innings in one full month at the Triple-A level. He could end up with more innings at the Triple-A level than Cole had after another month. I wrote last night that the Pirates don’t need to trade for an ace. If they need to turn to a starting pitcher, Kingham would be a great option.

3. Jason Creasy – Creasy has been a constant fixture in the weekly top ten, getting here due to some impressive control. He has now gone five straight starts without giving up a walk, spanning 32.2 innings. He has just five walks in 72.2 innings since the start of May. The 2011 draft is known for Gerrit Cole, Josh Bell, Tyler Glasnow, and the currently injured Clay Holmes. Creasy was an over-slot guy in the eighth round that year, and has been emerging as a possible back of the rotation starter in the majors over the last two years.

4. Adrian Sampson – There’s not much question about who the breakout pitcher has been this year. Adrian Sampson is having a great season, with a 2.79 ERA in 113 innings in Altoona. This comes after he had a 5.14 ERA in 140 innings in Bradenton last year. A big reason for the improvements has been his changeup. He worked on developing the pitch last year, and is now comfortable with the pitch, and showing obvious improvements against lefties. Sampson has a .722 OPS against lefties in 229 plate appearances this year, compared to a .908 OPS against lefties last year.

5. Buddy Borden – Borden’s other top start of the week came on Monday, when he threw five shutout innings, with two hits, one walk, and four strikeouts.

6. Tyler Glasnow – Glasnow continued his amazing season by throwing 5.2 shutout innings, and striking out ten in the process. This came against the same Tampa team that Glasnow dominated at the end of May, striking out 12 batters in 5.2 innings. The right-hander is showing better control lately, with two or fewer walks in seven of his last ten starts. He has just two walks allowed in his last two outings combined.

7. Chad Kuhl – Bradenton has had plenty of strong starting pitching. Creasy and Glasnow have been great all year, and Orlando Castro just received a promotion to Altoona. Chad Kuhl is another guy who has been having a lot of success this year. He gave up two runs in seven innings last week, going seven innings for the third time in his last four starts. Kuhl is an extreme ground ball pitcher who has a 1.78 GO/AO ratio in 104.1 innings. That has led to a 3.45 ERA this season, including a 2.18 ERA in 57.2 innings over his last ten starts.

8. Dario Agrazal – Agrazal has been impressive in his GCL debut, with a 2.55 ERA in 17.2 innings, along with a 10:0 K/BB ratio. He went five innings this week, giving up one run on three hits, with no walks and six strikeouts. He’s been hitting 93 MPH with his fastball this year, which is impressive for a 19-year-old pitcher.

9. Dovydas Neverauskas – Neverauskas has a great arm, and has been able to consistently hit 95 MPH for the last few years. The problem is that his command has been inconsistent, leading to inconsistent results. He’s starting to show better control, with zero or one walks in four of his last five starts. This week he threw seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits, with one walk and four strikeouts. His second start of the week didn’t go as well, but he did limit the walks, with one in five innings.

10. Tyler Eppler – Eppler, drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 draft, has been impressive in his pro debut. He has a 3.12 ERA in 26 innings, with a 15:5 K/BB ratio. This week he threw five shutout innings, giving up two hits and two walks. He can reach 92-93 MPH with his fastball, and has been reported to touch 95. He needs to work on improving his secondary stuff, and developing a strikeout pitch.

Tim Williams

Author: 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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  • Lee Young

    I was very impressed with Sampson’s changeup Friday when I saw him.

  • leadoff

    Tim, do you think with the glut of pitching the Pirates have in the low minors that someone like Kuhl could be converted to a bullpen pitcher.

    • deacs

      What goes into that decision? Lack of a quality third pitch? I’ve often wondered that.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

      Are you talking about in the minors, or in the majors?

      I could see his upside being similar to Casey Sadler. Back of the rotation starter/depth option, and more likely to crack the team as a reliever.

      • deacs

        Admittedly I didn’t get a chance to read the Watson article which probably would’ve answered my question. My question was in the minors. At some point Watson, Hughes, etc. are kind of branded relievers and that’s their shot to make it in the majors. Seems like a conscious decision not to stretch them out again. I was wondering what goes into that decision in the minors I suppose.

      • Matt Beam

        I think Dovydas is the type more likely to make it in the ML’s in a bullpen role