BRANDON WADDELL, LEFT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: June 3, 1994
Drafted: 5th Round, 157th Overall, 2015
How Acquired: Draft
|Waddell was a mainstay in the UVa rotation from the beginning of his freshman season, when he was their opening day starter. He made 50 starts over his three seasons without ever pitching in relief. He had a strong sophomore year, posting a 2.45 ERA in 114 innings and showing excellent control with 19 walks and 73 strikeouts. In his junior year, he ERA rose to 3.93 in 91 innings, as he walked 49 batters in 110 innings. A blister issue may have contributed to his up-and-down season. Waddell has a three-pitch mix, throwing his fastball 89-91 MPH, along with a curve or slider, depending on the source, and a changeup that are at least average. His upside may be as a fifth starter or possibly a middle reliever. Baseball America ranked him 343rd on their list of the top 500 draft prospects. Waddell didn’t sign until two days before the deadline. His bonus was slightly under the slot amount. The delay resulted from UVa’s title run in the College World Series, in which Waddell starred as the winning pitcher in the final game.
As a result of signing late, Waddell didn’t make his debut until August 9. He pitched well in his first two starts, then struggled for three, including one in which he lasted only a third of an inning. He pitched well in his final start. The Pirates were cautious with him, letting him go beyond four innings only in his final game. Some of his struggles resulted from a high BABIP of .348. He had a large platoon split, with left-handed batters managing only a .409 OPS against him (in a very small sample size) and right-handed batters doing much better at .806.
Waddell’s season got off to a great start. As they typically do with advanced college draftees, the Pirates jumped him up to Bradenton. He was so dominant there that his manager commented that he looked bored. After five starts, the Pirates promoted him to Altoona and it was a different story, as he couldn’t throw strikes. He wasn’t exactly wild, but he consistently missed the strike zone by just enough that hitters didn’t chase his pitches. Eventually he’d catch too much of the plate and he’d get hit. Even then, he didn’t get hit all that hard. At Altoona, opponents batted .271 against him and slugged .397. Those were above the league averages, but not terrible. He also remained a strong groundball pitcher. On the season, left-handed hitters had a .628 OPS against him, compared to .719 for right-handed hitters. He may or may not have made progress later in the year. His ERA was 4.88 in May and June, and 3.53 from July 1 onward. His walk rate actually increased, though, from 4.0 to 5.2.
Waddell’s showing at Altoona was concerning but not alarming. As a finesse pitcher, he may simply have reached a point where he needs to adjust his approach after having too easy a time against lower level hitters. He’ll return to Altoona in 2017.
|2017: Minor league contract|
|Signing Bonus: $315,000
MiLB Debut: 2015
MiLB FA Eligible: 2021
MLB FA Eligible:
Rule 5 Eligible: 2018
Added to 40-Man:
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|June 9, 2015: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 5th round, 157th overall pick; signed on July 16.|