Tonight, Buddy Borden had another good start with West Virginia, continuing an impressive run lately for the right-handed pitcher. Borden has been dominating since the start of July, looking like a pitcher with a lot of upside. The dominant results have quietly been hidden in a season that looks good, but not great.
The same situation exists for Luis Heredia and Cody Dickson. Neither player has strong overall numbers this year. However, when you look at what they’ve done recently, you’ll see that both pitchers have shown improvements as the season has gone along, and those improvements have been hidden inside the overall numbers.
This is always something you want to see, with minor leaguers showing positive trends. When it comes to West Virginia, this isn’t a new story. Over the last two years we’ve seen several pitchers who have finished the season in a much better way than how they started the season. The second half improvements have been much like what we’re seeing this year with Heredia, Dickson, and Borden. Most of those guys have carried their late-season success over to the upper levels. Obviously that’s a good sign for the three guys in West Virginia this year.
We’ll take a look at Borden, Heredia, and Dickson, but first let’s look at the success stories from the last two seasons.
First Two Months: 2.95 ERA in 42.2 IP, 13.5 K/9, 6.3 BB/9
Last Three Months: 1.70 ERA in 68.2 IP, 13.1 K/9, 4.1 BB/9
Analysis: Glasnow saw his walk rate drop after the first two months of the season, and his ERA dropped with it. He hasn’t had the same horrible walk rate in Bradenton, although control is still an issue that he needs to work on. Glasnow has told me several times this year that the routine of throwing every five days really helped him when it came to repeating his mechanics.
First Two Months: 5.60 ERA in 45 IP, 6.2 K/9, 6.4 BB/9
Last Three Months: 3.16 ERA in 74 IP, 7.2 K/9, 4.5 BB/9
Analysis: Holmes continued to get better as the season went on. He had some struggles in June, then posted a 2.70 ERA in the final two months, with an 8.1 K/9 and a 3.9 BB/9. Unfortunately, he went down with Tommy John surgery this Spring, so we didn’t get a chance to see how he could follow that up in Bradenton.
First Two Months: 4.91 ERA in 47.2 IP, 7.2 K/9, 4.0 BB/9
Last Three Months: 3.45 ERA in 75.2 IP, 6.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
Analysis: Just like Holmes, Kuchno got better as the season went on, and really picked up the pace the final two months. He combined for a 2.84 ERA in 57 innings, with a 6.2 K/9 and a 2.7 BB/9. Kuchno did get a chance to pitch this year, working out of the Bradenton rotation. He has a 3.56 ERA in 144 innings, with a 3.9 K/9 and a 3.6 BB/9. The strikeouts aren’t there, although Kuchno has kept the walks low. Part of the reason for the lack of strikeouts could be due to the approach, as Kuchno works heavily with his fastball, generating a ton of quick ground ball outs. This has led to an impressive nine starts of seven innings or more, with one start that went eight innings. That’s unusual for a player in A-ball with the Pirates.
First Two Months: 4.95 ERA in 40 IP, 8.3 K/9, 2.5 BB/9
Last Three Months: 4.14 ERA in 87 IP, 8.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9
Analysis: The ratios were about the same for Kingham, although he did struggle in June, along with his first two starts in July. After that point, Kingham finished strong, with a 1.68 ERA in 48.1 innings over his final nine starts, with an 8.2 K/9 and a 1.7 BB/9. Those ratios were similar to what he did the following season in Bradenton. Kingham has now moved up to Triple-A and looks like a middle of the rotation candidate next year in the majors, just two years after struggling for the majority of the season in West Virginia.
Now, let’s look at the guys in West Virginia this year who have quietly seen a second half improvement.
2013 Season: 3.05 ERA in 65 IP, 7.6 K/9, 5.1 BB/9
2014 Through July: 4.86 ERA in 53.2 IP, 3.7 K/9, 4.4 BB/9
2014 August: 2.40 ERA in 30 IP, 5.1 K/9, 1.8 BB/9
Analysis: I approached Heredia differently because of his unique situation. He only pitched half a year last year due to conditioning issues coming into Spring Training. He missed two months this year with a shoulder issue. He dealt with control problems all along the way, up until his five starts in August. The control problems have been going away. It’s too early to tell if this is a small sample, or a trend that will continue going forward. For now it can only be look at as a positive sign for Heredia’s future. His strikeout ability, and eventually finding a breaking pitch that works for him is another issue.
First Two Months: 2.63 ERA in 51.1 IP, 7.9 K/9, 3.7 BB/9
Last Three Months: 3.21 ERA in 73 IP, 9.2 K/9, 3.3 BB/9
Analysis: Borden is in a similar situation to guys like Kuchno and Kingham. He struggled in June, and has been on fire over the final two months of the season. In this case, he moved to relief for an appearance after his struggles in June, then got back in the rotation and really showed some improvements. Since the start of July, Borden has a 2.00 ERA in 54 innings, with a 10.5 K/9 and a 2.5 BB/9 ratio. His numbers on the season are good, but he’s quietly putting up some amazing numbers in the second half, while cutting down on his control. If he continues this next year in Bradenton and possibly Altoona, he could easily jump to being one of the top 10 prospects in the system, especially with a fastball that can reach 96 MPH and a breaking ball that works well as a strikeout pitch.
First Two Months: 4.93 ERA in 45.2 IP, 6.5 K/9, 3.7 BB/9
Last Three Months: 3.52 ERA in 76.2 IP, 7.3 K/9, 4.2 BB/9
Analysis: This is another case where the numbers get better as the season goes on. Dickson really struggled during the first three starts in June, walking ten in 14 innings, with 12 earned runs. Since that point, he has a 2.59 ERA in 62.2 innings, along with a 6.9 K/9 and a 3.7 BB/9. He’s finishing strong, with a 2.38 ERA in 22.2 innings this month, along with an 8.3 K/9 and a 3.2 BB/9. There are still the occasional starts where control totally escapes Dickson, and that hurts the overall numbers. However, he’s showing improvements this year, getting more strikeouts as the season goes along, giving up fewer hits and runs, and seeing a drop in the walks down the stretch.
Links and Notes
**The 2014 Prospect Guide is on sale in the Pirates Prospects store. The paperback version has dropped to $14.99 plus shipping. We currently only have one case of books remaining, and the offer is only valid while the books are in stock. There is also an eBook version available for $9.99. The 2013 Prospect Guide is on clearance for $1.