Pirates Prospects » Prospect Reports http://www.piratesprospects.com Your best source for news on the Pittsburgh Pirates and their minor league system. Sun, 25 May 2014 23:59:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Prospect Report: Nick Kingham’s Drop in Velocity and Increase in Walks http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-report-nick-kinghams-drop-in-velocity-and-increase-in-walks.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-report-nick-kinghams-drop-in-velocity-and-increase-in-walks.html#comments Sun, 25 May 2014 17:08:21 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=79545 Despite finally picking up some of the recognition he deserves, Nick Kingham isn’t letting anything outside of the field affect his game.

“I don’t put any pressure on myself,” Kingham said. “I feel like the game puts enough pressure on you just to go out and do whatever you know how to do, and know your role. Just be yourself out there.”

The 22-year-old prospect started to creep into the national media’s eyesight over the offseason, gaining praise and rankings across the four major prospect publications. Kingham saw average rankings of 5.5 in the organization, and 79.75 overall this offseason. Of the 2 outlets that rank 25-year-old and younger organizational talent, Kingham came in at 7 and 8 from Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus respectively for the Pirates.

Marc Hulet of FanGraphs called Kingham a potential “solid mid-rotation starter capable of chewing up innings thanks to his strong, durable frame”. John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com gave him a B borderline B+ grade, saying he “thrived in High-A and Double-A by throwing strikes with low-90’s fastball, good curve and changeup.” Clearly industry expectations for the 2010 4th round pick were present going into the season.

Tools

Kingham works with a 3 pitch mix, fastball, curveball, and changeup. Baseball America credits him with both the best changeup and control in the system. He has been working most of the year in the low 90’s with his fastball and the low to mid 80’s with both his curveball and changeup.

“I feel like the fastball is the most important pitch,” Kingham said. “I feel like the fastball does more to a hitter than people realize. It’s hard to hit something that is coming in really fast, especially when you mix up pitches. Also, I feel like my fastball has been kind of, my bread and butter this year. Just trying to locate and put it where I want, and just keep it down in the zone to try and get those ground balls.”

While minor league Pitch F/X and Trackman data is unavailable, the following should give an idea of young pitchers in the majors that display similar repertoires to what we should expect to see out of Kingham via Pitch F/X:

FB CB CH OTHER
Kingham (approximate from scouts radar gun) 91 82 85
Alex Wood 91.19 79.37 83.98
Kyle Gibson 92.83 80.85 84.52 92.55 (SINK) 85.05 (SL)
Kyle McPherson 94.75 78.56 85.01 93.71 (SINK)
Rafael Montero 93.06 87.23 93.15 (SINK) 82.89 (SL)
Anthony Desclafani 93.77 81.47 85.36 92.85 (SINK)

The Pitch F/X readings used above were from the pitcher’s most recent year in the majors, Kingham’s from a radar gun. Kingham may add velocity, or break to his pitches as he continues to develop, but this should give somewhat of a visualization as to what he is presently working with.

Reports from 2013 had Kingham touching as high as 96 MPH, sitting 93-95. There is a possibility that he has changed something from last year, as the 90-92 readings suggest that he might have altered his mechanics, or shifted to a two-seamer, although Kingham has stated that he hasn’t changed anything. The apparent drop in velocity from last season is definitely something to keep an eye on.

As all starting pitching prospects ideally should display, Kingham has shown a steady increase in innings pitched. From his first full season in 2011, he has seen a jump from 71 IP, progressing to 127 and 143.1 in 2012 and 2013. Kingham is on pace for approximately 150 innings this year, barring a late year shutdown.

Output

2014 has been somewhat up and down for Kingham so far. Five of his nine starts have come with at least a 15% strikeout rate, narrowly missing a 6th with his May 16 start falling slightly under at 14.8%. However, only three starts have had a walk rate under 10%.

Kingham’s first 50 innings pitched of 2014 have looked incredibly similar to Jeff Inman’s 2012 campaign.

IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 oppOBP oppSLUG FIP
Kingham 50 6.66 4.14 0 .325 .361 3.30
Inman 51.2 6.27 3.31 .35 .326 .385 3.42

This is not to suggest that Kingham and Inman are in line for similar career paths. Kingham is 4 years younger than Inman, and still has quite a bit of projection left. Inman’s career has been offset by injury quite a bit as well. This is merely an interesting coincidence, shown to display the type of year Kingham is having.

Throughout his early career, Kingham has been able to maintain a very reasonable distance between his FIP and ERA, and 2014 has proven to be no different. He is maintaining a 3.30 FIP compared to a 3.06 ERA so far this year. That, along with a BABIP hovering just above league average, could tell us that we are seeing a fairly raw representation of Kingham himself, rather than anything luck, or defense driven.

Some glaring outliers from his career norms have popped up upon Kingham’s promotion to Altoona. In his 73.1 innings with the Curve last year, Kingham saw an increase of almost two full BB/9 from where he left Bradenton at, jumping from 1.80 BB/9 to 3.68 in Altoona, and it hasn’t gotten any better in 2014. His drop in control has led to a 4.14 BB/9 rate over his first 50 innings of the year. That is good for 41st among 45 qualified pitchers in the Eastern League. This will absolutely be a concern going forward.

The other big surprise that accompanied Kingham’s jump to Double-A is his home run rate. In 123.1 innings with the Curve, Kingham has only allowed one home run, translating to 0.07 HR/9. He has yet to allow a home run in 2014. This is by all means a very positive sign, however the following graph of the staff’s career home run rates may show a cause behind the difference:

Kinghamchart

Only pitchers with at least 25 IP were used. With the exception of Rodriguez, the staff clearly saw a drop in home run rate upon promotion to Altoona, which may provide some explanation to Kingham’s drastic improvement in the area.

Outlook

Kingham’s outlook and expectations for the rest of the year exude a clear sense of confidence and a desire to reach his potential.

“Nothing new, just trying to really crisp and fine tune my delivery,” Kingham said. “Just trying to work on the little things and try to really crisp those and make them as best as I can.”

The drop in velocity is something to keep an eye on. The walk rate is an issue. But Nick Kingham is still very much a prospect. He is every bit of his 6’5” 220 pound listing. He has a strong history. He has shown some good signs in 2014, both in maintaining and developing. As he stated, he just has to continue to do what he knows how to do.

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-report-nick-kinghams-drop-in-velocity-and-increase-in-walks.html/feed 5
Prospect Report: Tyler Waldron sees success at all levels with new pitch http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-report-tyler-waldron-sees-success-at-all-levels-with-new-pitch.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-report-tyler-waldron-sees-success-at-all-levels-with-new-pitch.html#comments Wed, 21 May 2014 15:24:50 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=79286 Through a month and a half of the season, Tyler Waldron did some serious suitcase living.

After starting the season pitching in six games with Bradenton, Waldron made a relief appearance after being promoted to Altoona on April 24. When Casey Sadler was recalled by Pittsburgh, Waldron was promoted to Indianapolis for an emergency start three days later on April 27. With all of the uniforms that Waldron has put on in 2014, there is one thing that he has not lacked – consistent success.

“Everything feels good and is going in the right direction,” Waldron said. “I just keep working hard every day and whenever my name gets called, I try to go out and put up a zero.”

Waldron has put up plenty of zeros this campaign. In 22.2 innings, Waldron boasts a 1.19 ERA with just nine hits and four walks. In addition, Waldron has struck out 25 hitters over the span. Opposing batters are hitting just .122 against him this season and he has a ground ball to fly ball ratio of 1.93.

Waldron works with an arsenal that includes a two seam fastball, a cutter, curve ball and a changeup. While he lives in the low 90s, Waldron is aware that he must keep the ball down and rely on movement to get hitters out.

“I am a contact guy,” Waldron said. “I want to keep the ball down and keep it on the ground on the infield. When I have a chance to put someone away, I am definitely going to try to expand the strike zone and try to get a swing and miss for strike three.”

The cutter is something that Waldron has been working on recently and he said that he “has picked it up pretty quickly.” Depending on the feel that day, Waldron will utilize the pitch as a cutter or a slider. With the command that he has acquired with the pitch, he named it as his most comfortable weapon.

Indianapolis pitching coach Tom Filer sees the cutter as a major reason for Waldron’s resurgence.

“I have really been impressed with [Waldron], coming up here and doing what he has done,” Filer said. “He has the ability with this cutter thing that has turned his career around. He has really come into his own with that.”

Along with the individual pitches, Filer is extremely pleased with the command that Waldron has shown in Indianapolis. The stats back up what Filer has seen, as Waldron has thrown 64 percent of his pitches for strikes in Triple-A.

“I like that he is able get into the left-handers and command that ball,” Filer said. “That is the biggest part of being able to pitch here is to command certain pitches. He has been able to do that and that is what really impresses me.”

Filer also said that they have been working with Waldron on being quicker to the plate in an effort to control the opposing running game. He said that this transition has been successful and “he hasn’t skipped a beat and looks even more comfortable.”

Outside of the work on the mound, Waldron said that last season he learned the importance of taking care of his body. After dealing with nagging injuries, Waldron had a 5.57 ERA in 13 games between Altoona and Bradenton. He allowed 42 hits in 32.1 innings. He also spent a great deal of time on the DL. In order to stay healthier, Waldron put in the work during the offseason to put him in the position he is in 2014.

“Being on the DL for about three months last year taught me a lot about how to take care of a shoulder,” Waldron said. “I did a lot of strengthening stuff in the offseason and cleaning up my mechanics. It has transitioned to this year with cleaner mechanics than what I was dealing with.”

Waldron is also benefitting from finding a routine that works for him on the off days during the grind of the season. He said that relieving may be part of this transition and a major reason why he feels healthier.

For Waldron, he is not satisfied with the leaps that he has made in 2014. He is always looking for more and will not stop until he gets to the top.

“I started out this season with a plan,” Waldron said. “I have tried to pitch with a little chip on my shoulder. It is about just never being satisfied where you’re at. All I care about is going out there and putting up a zero. If I give up a hit or walk a guy, as long as they don’t touch home plate, I did my job.”

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-report-tyler-waldron-sees-success-at-all-levels-with-new-pitch.html/feed 1
Prospect Reports: Adrian Sampson Searching for Consistency http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-reports-adrian-sampson-searching-for-consistency.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-reports-adrian-sampson-searching-for-consistency.html#comments Tue, 20 May 2014 15:00:14 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=77056 Bringing up the name Adrian Sampson won’t ring many bells across the baseball world. Most fans, including some that follow the Pirates, likely have never heard of the 2012 5th round pick. He didn’t receive an excessive signing bonus when drafted, and he wasn’t particularly effective in 140 innings in High-A last year. That all seems like it is about to change for the young Pirates right-hander.

The only ranking Sampson received from a major publication on their preseason prospect list was 27th in the system from Baseball America. He grabbed a handful of sleeper rankings, or high follow type remarks, but he could not crack most of the top rankings lists out there. In part this is a testament to the depth of the Pirates’ system, but at the same time, Sampson’s 2013 season that included a 5.14 ERA and 4.32 FIP certainly was a factor.

What is going on right now

It is still early, but Sampson’s age 22 season has started out with a bang. His 2.32 ERA is good for 3rd in the Eastern League, trailing only A.J. Morris for the Curve lead. He places seventh on the Eastern League leader board in WHIP at 1.17, only 0.23 away from the league lead. Sampson’s strikeout rate has dropped slightly from his career high 2012 form, hitting 6.96 K/9 with a 18.9% strikeout rate in 2014, but those spots still place him in the top 20 in each category for the Eastern League.

“Changeup was my big pitch last year, and I’m bringing it back to this year. It’s been good for me.” He said when asked what he is currently working on. ”The fastball is always something you can work on. Pitching both sides of the plate, moving feet of the hitters, basically consistency of all the pitches and being able to throw them in any count, that’s what I’ve been basically working on all year.”

So where is this all coming from? One answer could be Sampson’s drastic drop in BABIP. His 2013 campaign saw a .332 BABIP, which was the 3rd highest mark in the Florida State League. Sampson’s first 42.2 innings in Double-A have yielded a .278 BABIP, the 13th lowest in the Eastern League so far. He has also taken a serious leap in LOB%, jumping from 65.8% in 2013, to 80.9% in 2014. The increase in ability to convert batted balls into outs, as well as an increase in stranded runners have clearly been contributors to Sampson’s strong start. He had his own take on his improvement from last year.

“I think the mentality coming into the games. It’s totally different from last year. Last year was my first full season, didn’t really know what to expect. This year I kind of have a grasp on things; have a good foundation from last year. And, coming in with way more confidence, that’s really helped me throw the pitches I want, and execute them.”

What the future holds

Going forward, Sampson is going to have to keep an eye on a few things. His 2.74 BB/9 rate is nearly double his output from last season at 1.41. The low BABIP is also likely at an unsustainable point, as the league average BABIP currently sits at .300. The difference in FIP and ERA, 3.40 to 2.32, clearly suggests that we are in for some regression from this impressive start. His past however, does suggest some sustainability and continued improvement. Sampson’s home run rate is currently the same as the level he reached in 2012, he has a solid strikeout rate to go along with a focus on groundballs, and his walk rate surely has a chance to improve.

Sampson believes his development, as well as where he wants to be at the end of the year, hinges on both a consistent approach, and understanding his stuff.

“I just want to be consistent. I want to be able to throw all the pitches when I have to. I want to be able to be a pitcher instead of a thrower. I want to know times to throw a certain pitch to get a groundball when I need to. Keep my pitch count down, three pitches or less outs, and few three ball counts. I just want to be able to throw the ball where I want to, and get a groundball when I need to.”

Will Adrian Sampson be a top 10 prospect for the Pirates going into 2015, or be an anchor on a major league staff? Unlikely. Does he have a chance to contribute at the major league level in some capacity? Absolutely. Consistency is going to have to play a key part in his continued development. He can’t revert back to his 2013 form if he wants that opportunity. 2012 and his strong start in 2014 suggest that he has the ability to be a Major League pitcher, he just has to continue on that path.

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-reports-adrian-sampson-searching-for-consistency.html/feed 3
Prospect Reports: Dovydas Neverauskas Flashing a Plus Fastball http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-reports-dovydas-neverauskas-flashing-a-plus-fastball.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-reports-dovydas-neverauskas-flashing-a-plus-fastball.html#comments Mon, 19 May 2014 13:00:06 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=79160 On a beautiful 60 degree spring afternoon in Charleston, the West Virginia Power sent Lithuanian righty Dovydas Neverauskas to the mound. Neverauskas would not only face a very good hitting Delmarva Shorebird line-up but also one of Baltimore’s top pitching prospects, Hunter Harvey, as his mound opponent. In the end, Neverauskas out-dueled Harvey to earn his third win of the season. Below is a breakdown of Neverauskas’ pitches on the day.

Fastball

Neverauskas featured a plus fastball all game long. He controlled the pitch from the first inning through the fifth and did not walk one Shorebird batter. The pitch ranged from 92 to 96 MPH on the Appalachian Power Park radar gun but mostly sat in the 93 to 94 range.  Of the batters he faced, he only struck out two, but he produced weak contact during his entire start. When the Shorebirds did get a runner on, Neverauskas was able to control the fastball down in the zone to produce ground balls. The Power defense turned two nice double plays to keep him out of trouble. (READ: Prospect Watch: A Good Report on the Defense From JaCoby Jones)

Changeup

As with many of the young pitching prospects at this level, the Pirates encourage them to first learn fastball control. This seems to be the plan with Neverauskas, who only threw the changeup a few times his second time through the Shorebirds lineup. The changeup registered 87 on the gun each time and the opposition did not put it in play.

Curveball

During the game, Neverauskas threw what appeared to be a curveball only one time. The pitch came in at 81 mph, on a two strike count to a right-handed batter. Neverauskas delivered the pitch low and off the plate attempting to get the Delmarva batter to chase for strike three. The batter held his ground and the pitch was called a ball.  This was the only time that I noted that the pitch was used.

Overall

Due to the limited use of his off-speed offerings it was hard to get a read on if these pitches will become weapons in the future for Neverauskas. The fastball however, was a plus offering today. If Neverauskas continues with the plan and is able to command the fastball down in the zone for strikes it could set him up for more starts like today. Once he starts to incorporate his secondary pitches more, I can see his strike out totals spiking upwards.

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-reports-dovydas-neverauskas-flashing-a-plus-fastball.html/feed 5
Prospect Reports: Phil Irwin Getting Back the Feel For His Pitches http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-reports-phil-irwin-getting-back-the-feel-for-his-pitches.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-reports-phil-irwin-getting-back-the-feel-for-his-pitches.html#comments Sat, 17 May 2014 16:33:27 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=78996 April was a month to forget for Phil Irwin. In the month, Irwin had an 11.57 ERA in 14 innings, with 20 hits allowed.

“When you take a year off from surgery and don’t get as many innings in the spring as you want, I was just struggling to find the timing on my delivery,” Irwin said. “I just did not get the feeling of comfort on the mound early in the season. It obviously resulted in a bad April.”

However, Irwin turned it around in May. He started the month with 7.1 shutout innings, after being sent to the bullpen after a pair of April outings. The right-hander struggled last night, with three runs allowed, but has a 3.52 ERA on the month. He also has eight strikeouts in 7.2 innings in May.

“Right now, I have been working on my delivery,” Irwin said. “Everything feels good. My timing and my arm feels good. It was just feeling the ball out front. I did not have a lot of feel for it at all.”

Due to this lack of feel, Irwin’s walks were way up as well. While he walked a staggering ten hitters in April, he has yet to allow a free pass in May. He also hit four batters. Irwin said that this was because he “literally did not know where the ball was going.”

The fastball command is back for Irwin, but most importantly, he said that the command of his patented curve ball is back.

“For a lot of guys, if the fastball feels good, everything else feels good,” Irwin said. “For me, it is the other way around. It has always been to build my delivery around my curve ball. If the curve ball feels good, everything else does. If the fastball doesn’t feel good, I throw a curve ball to get back to the fastball. It’s really backwards. The curve ball felt awful (early in the season).”

Irwin said that he can tell how the curve ball is by how the hitters are seeing it and the contact that they make. He also said that they were getting good wood on it and not chasing the ones in the dirt. With this, batters were hitting an astonishing .339 in April against .200 in May. He also allowed three home runs and a double in April. In May, he has kept every offering inside the park and allowed just one double.

The biggest mechanical adjustment for Irwin is getting to the back leg and generating power from it. He said that this also allows his arm time to get around in the back. When he is late in this action, the ball will spray back to the right-handed hitters. Indianapolis pitching coach Tom Filer concurs and said that they have been working on it.

“His timing was off a little bit,” Filer said. “He was a little bit out in front of himself. He is now getting back up over the rubber. He is staying in the box and his arm is catching up and he is throwing downhill. Also, his breaking ball has come back, which is the biggest thing.”

With the command and the feel coming back, Irwin has also seen an increase in velocity. He went from around 86 MPH in his first few outings to 90-92 in his last appearance. He said that he has “not seen that (velocity) for a while.”

Even though he did not pitch early in May when he was recalled by the Pirates for bullpen help, Irwin said that the organization showing confidence in his abilities was nice to see and boosted his confidence tremendously.

“It was good for me,” he said. “It got me back into feeling comfortable and good about baseball again. It can change your mindset whether you throw or not. It shows that the organization does still believe in you still, even though I hadn’t been pitching as well as I want to. I came back down and everything has been good since.”

In addition, Irwin is pleased with working out of the bullpen. He said that it has been in discussion for the past two years. He realizes that two-pitch hurlers don’t tend to have long-term success in the big leagues. Despite the success at most levels in the organization as a starter, he said that “all they have to do is sit on the fastball if they recognize my curve ball” as a starter in Pittsburgh. Irwin is also pleased that he can pitch and help the team win every day.

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-reports-phil-irwin-getting-back-the-feel-for-his-pitches.html/feed 0
Scout: Gregory Polanco has a chance to be a star http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/scout-gregory-polanco-has-a-chance-to-be-a-star.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/scout-gregory-polanco-has-a-chance-to-be-a-star.html#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 14:25:23 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=78739 With the media and fan attention that has been thrown at Gregory Polanco, almost everything has been said about the super prospect. With this kind of attention comes Major League pressure. The pressure and the attention allow some people to forget that Polanco is only 22. In fact, he has had only five at bats this season against pitchers who are younger than him.

The numbers don’t lie for Polanco, with an OPS of 1.015 through 36 games with Triple-A Indianapolis. In addition, he has only struck out 29 times in 144 at bats. He also boasts an on base percentage of .425. The impressive statistical list goes on, but there is one thing that the organization would like to see Polanco do to help the preparation for the big leagues – fail some.

Prior to going 2-for-4 with a home run and a double on Monday, Polanco was mired in a mini slump. He had three out of four games where he went hitless. He was 1-for-16 with three walks over the span. How Polanco responds to this adversity is something that the Pirates brass is quite mindful of, as dry stretches are a guarantee at the big league level. For Polanco himself, he is aware that slumps and cold spells will come.

“Baseball is hard,” Polanco said. “Hitting is very hard and nobody is perfect. I know that I am going to get a game with no hits. (I have to) keep playing and keep working hard, no matter what.”

To avoid slumps like this, Polanco has been working on eliminating holes from his game. One aspect that he is working on at the plate is keeping back on the off speed pitches against tough lefties.

“(With) the left-handed pitching, trying to stay a little bit more back to let the ball carry deep,” Polanco said. “(I am trying) to hit a little bit more to the opposite field.”

With this in mind, one of Polanco’s toughest games of the season came on April 19 against crafty southpaw Jeff Francis. In that game, Polanco went 0-for-3 against Francis with two strikeouts and a weakly hit groundout to first. For Polanco, it is about improving and getting better every day and every plate appearance, regardless of who it is against.

“I’m working on the off speed, like change ups and curve balls,” Polanco said. “It’s hard right now, but I am working every day to get better.”

Polanco is also working hard on his defensive game in Indianapolis. Comfort going back on balls and locating the warning track are two aspects that Polanco listed as focuses.

Scout view

One American League scout, who saw Mike Trout in the minor leagues as well, provided an assessment about the comparison to Polanco.

“I think that Mike Trout was better,” the scout said. “He had off the chart speed and his defense was just off the chart as well.”

Though the scout viewed Trout as slightly more polished at this point in their careers, he said that Polanco “has got a chance to be a star.” The scout pointed to a triple that Polanco had in Saturday night’s game against Kevin Gausman, a top prospect in the Baltimore system.

“On that triple, he just has another gear from first to third,” the scout said. “He’s a big, strong physical kid who can run.”

In addition, another aspect of the game that Polanco possesses stands out – power. The scout said that the power production in the big leagues is what will make Polanco a star. He said that he has all of the other tools necessary for his designation. Of Polanco’s 52 hits, 19 have been for extra bases this season.

Though Polanco will likely go through an adjustment period in Pittsburgh, the question will be how quickly his talent catches up to the talent around him.

“Right now, he is just more talented than players around here,” the scout said. “He will see much better pitching. He is still so young even for this league. There will be adjustments like how he will handle left on left.”

Eyes on Pittsburgh

With the Major Leagues so close, Polanco is visibly ready for the call. The information that leaked about him declining the seven-year deal last week just fueled that anticipation.

“I know that it is difficult, but I have to wait until the time comes,” Polanco said. “I have to play every day hard and wait for it.”

When it comes to all of the ‘Free Polanco’ campaigns, Polanco is extremely happy with the fan support and is just eager to show them what they have been waiting for in Pittsburgh.

“I know that a lot of people support me every day,” Polanco said. “Just let it happen.”

In another month, there will be no more ‘Free Polanco’ campaign or speculation about his Major League debut; this day will become reality. Where everyone has their opinion about what the future holds for Polanco, I can say that he is one of the most talented Triple-A prospects I have ever seen. He is so graceful with every movement and every swing. One thing is for sure, Polanco is going to special, and we will be able to sit back and enjoy come mid-June.

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/scout-gregory-polanco-has-a-chance-to-be-a-star.html/feed 23
Prospect Reports: Breaking Down Nick Kingham’s Stuff Against Akron http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-reports-breaking-down-nick-kinghams-stuff-against-akron.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-reports-breaking-down-nick-kinghams-stuff-against-akron.html#comments Sun, 11 May 2014 15:25:54 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=78605

It was a tale of two Nick Kingham’s on a cool spring Saturday night in Akron, Ohio. Kingham dazzled with consistency during the first three frames, working ahead in the count, repeating his delivery, and working quickly. During his final two frames, Kingham saw diminished control and got out of his quick rhythm on the mound.

On the night Kingham threw three pitches to a line up which featured top Indian prospects Francisco Lindor, Tyler Naquin and former half season big league wonder Bryan LaHair. Below is a break down of Kingham’s pitches on the night.

Fastball

On a cool night in Akron, Nick Kingham’s fastball velocity was a little below expectations according to the readings from the Canal Park stadium gun. The fastball sat all night in the 91-92 MPH range. Not once did it go above the 92 mark and very rarely did it drop below the 91 mark. One thing you can say is that the pitch was consistent. I expected to see some slightly higher readings from Kingham. As for the pitch itself, in the first three innings Kingham located the pitch well and was consistently hitting the bottom of the zone for strikes. The majority of balls the Akron batters hit early on against Kingham produced weak contact, with the exception of a Joey Wendle double down the right field line.  Of the six strikeouts Kingham produced, four of them came in the first three innings.  In the fourth and fifth innings, Kingham lost the solid command of his fastball and began to miss and elevate the pitch. Akron took advantage of this and their patient batters began working counts, producing walks and hits.

Curveball

Kingham seemed comfortable throwing his curveball.  The pitch helped keep the Akron lineup off-balance, and at times locked up the predominantly left-handed hitting line up. He also used the pitch well against the right-handed batters in the lineup, getting them to chase the pitch as it tailed out of the zone away from the hitter. Kingham’s curve sat in the 81-83 MPH range throughout his five innings of work.

Changeup

Kingham did not seem to use his change much in this game, and when he did, the pitch looked a lot like his fastball. On the Canal Park gun this pitch was hitting 86 to 87 MPH. Of his offerings, this was the pitch the Akron line up seemed to have the most success against. In the fifth inning, Franciso Lindor lined a double off an 87 MPH changeup. That was followed up by a hard hit single to center by Bryan LaHair, also on a changeup that came in at 86 MPH. This could have been due to his fastball velocity being a bit low and too close to his changeup speeds. If Kingham’s fastball was sitting a little higher or the changeup was a little lower, velocity-wise, then this pitch may have been more effective on the night.

Overall

Kingham looks like a potential workhorse on the mound. He has the body to be a 200 innings a year guy. He still needs to continue to build consistency throughout his starts. As mentioned above, Kingham looked the part of a pitcher ready to take the step to the next level early on. If he can start to put it together for longer stretches, he won’t be in Altoona by the end of the year.  While his fastball was consistent, I hope to see the pitch sit slightly higher if I get to see him start again in the coming months.

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-reports-breaking-down-nick-kinghams-stuff-against-akron.html/feed 2
Andy Oliver Dominating, But Still Has Questions With His Control http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/andy-oliver-dominating-but-still-has-questions-with-his-control.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/andy-oliver-dominating-but-still-has-questions-with-his-control.html#comments Sat, 03 May 2014 14:00:21 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=77890 For former top prospect Andy Oliver, the only thing that is keeping him out of the Major Leagues is control, or lack there of.

While he led the International League in strikeouts with 138 in 2013, he also blew away the competition with his league leading 112 walks. In fact, Oliver had more walks than hits allowed. He only allowed 99 hits in his 124.1 innings.

Though on the surface, it doesn’t appear that Oliver has seen much improvement this season, the numbers have improved greatly over his past few outings. He has walked 10 hitters in 15 innings. However, in his last 11.2 innings, he has walked five hitters. During this string, he has allowed only one earned run. In fact, Oliver has only allowed earned runs in two appearances. The numbers are skewed by his one inning of work with three hits and three walks, where he allowed four runs on April 9.

Outside of the walks and the one game, Oliver’s numbers are staggering. He has compiled 22 strikeouts in 15 innings and the league is hitting only .158 against him coming into Friday night.

“He has been throwing the ball pretty well since spring training,” Indianapolis pitching coach Tom Filer said. “In going to the bullpen, he has accepted the role and is kind of flourishing in it right now. His confidence is high and he is throwing lots of strikes. His velocity is 93 to 95 and he has the ability to throw a breaking ball over the plate at any time.”

Filer said that the biggest thing that he has worked on with Oliver is making sure that he is in a good posture to start out.

“Before, he was getting on his back side a little bit too much,” Filer said. “For the most part, making sure he is in a good posture is the big thing. He needs to get that front side down and throw the ball hard.”

In addition, Oliver’s outings have been getting longer. Three out of his first five were one inning appearances. Since then, his last three appearances have been two innings, three innings and 2.2 innings, respectively. Oliver threw 57 pitches in his last outing on Sunday.

Filer said that there are no changes on the horizon along with stretching Oliver out. He said that it is more of the product of circumstances with the squad. The goal is to keep Oliver to one to two innings, but with the situations of a consistently changing roster, he has been the guy to be trusted to get some extra work the last few times out.

Along with these numbers, Oliver is not surprisingly much better when working from ahead in the count. He has not allowed an earned run and only three hits while working ahead in the count. While behind in the count, Oliver has allowed three earned runs and opposing hitters average against him goes up to .211.

Oliver’s velocity is in the 90s and he is still fooling hitters to the point where he either walks them or strikes them out. Of his outs, almost half have been by way of the strikeout.

This is a key year for Oliver has he is eligible for minor league free agency if he is not on the 40-man roster by the end of the year. While it seems a long shot for Oliver to impress enough to be put on the 40-man, he certainly has the stuff to get big league hitters out. However, the control has to be consistent over the long-term. Oliver has gotten in stretches in the past where he has been dominant, and then regressed back to high walk rates. If he continues at his current pace, Oliver will at least give the Pirates a decision at season’s end.

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/andy-oliver-dominating-but-still-has-questions-with-his-control.html/feed 2
The sinker is working early for Casey Sadler http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/the-sinker-is-working-early-for-casey-sadler.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/the-sinker-is-working-early-for-casey-sadler.html#comments Tue, 29 Apr 2014 13:00:48 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=77625 Though Casey Sadler admitted that he was trying to “refine the craft and get better as the year goes on,” getting better may be a tough one for the sinker ball throwing right-hander.

In four starts, Sadler has a 1.67 ERA in 27 innings in Triple-A. In his last outing, Sadler was just dominant, allowing just four hits in seven shutout innings. He walked two and struck out six.

The strikeout totals in his last Indianapolis start is what is impressive. Since becoming a starter in the Pirates organization in 2012, Sadler’s K/9 totals plummeted. With Altoona in 130 innings, the total was only 4.6 K/9. Despite striking out six in his last start, Sadler has only struck out 16 in his first 27 innings this season.

With low strikeout totals, Sadler is typically reliant on his defense behind him and strong statistics in those categories. He realizes what the statistics mean and embraces when hitters put the ball in play.

“I don’t really throw hard, by the standards of a strikeout pitcher,” Sadler said. “I throw a lot of strikes, so for me, a good outing might be two or three strikeouts with no walks and eight ground balls.”

This mentality is how the Pirates have developed him. He said that they have told him to let opposing batters hit it into the ground and rely on his movement for outs.

“They wanted me comfortable with people putting the ball in play,” Sadler said. “When I need a big strikeout, I absolutely have that potential, but I would rather go out and have a six to seven pitch inning and be able to pitch seven, eight or nine innings to give my bullpen a rest, instead of throwing 115 pitches in five innings and being done. I have really adopted that, taken it to heart and it seems to be working.”

Adding a Changeup

With a successful spring training, Sadler was working on some adjustments — including adding a new pitch to his arsenal.

“I have started throwing a changeup as well, even as a ground ball pitch,” Sadler said. “Just keeping it down, keeping them off-balance and getting them to roll over. That is my mentality with everything, no matter what I throw, it has to be on the ground. The ball can’t leave the ballpark when it is on the ground.”

Though Sadler began the work last season, he stated that they “really hit it hard in spring training.” This emphasis was drilled into his mentality over the duration of the spring by the Pirates brass.

“There was one game, I think that I threw 18 to 20 change-ups in a five inning span,” Sadler said. “They put some emphasis on it and told me that if I was going to be a starter, I should have a three-pitch mix.”

While he said that he does not pay too much attention to the velocity difference, Sadler said that the fastball is typically in the 91 to 94 range, while the change-up is between 83 and 86. The split, as well as selling the pitch, is what he looks to while making hitters get out in front and drive the ball into the ground.

“There’s not a huge difference in it, but the biggest part is selling the arm speed,” he said. “With just that little bit of difference, if you get a guy who is geared up for the fastball, with the arm speed the changeup is going to be effective regardless.”

Trusting his stuff

For Indianapolis pitching coach Tom Filer, the success is about Sadler trusting his stuff and throwing strikes early in the count.

“(Working ahead in the count) is important for any pitcher, but especially for him since he is a sinkerball guy,” Filer said. “He’s going to pitch to contact. He is going to get his strikeouts, but he is not going to do it so much with his fastball. He’s attacking with his fastball at the bottom of the zone and he’s letting the movement getting people out. He lets the ball work for him. I think that is what he has to understand.”

Filer is also pleased with Sadler’s ability to throw strikes because it lets him work deep into the game. Of Sadler’s 357 pitches this season, almost 65 percent have crossed the plate as a strike.

“I’m quite satisfied with Casey,” Filer said. “He has done a great job of being pitch efficient. He goes out there and goes after guys right away. He gets a lot of quick outs and a lot of balls on the ground. He is doing his job and is working his way into getting even better.”

Bullpen help in Pittsburgh

Sadler was recalled by the Pirates before his April 27th start to provide some bullpen relief. Coming out of the bullpen is nothing new for Sadler, who began his career in the Pirates’ organization as a reliever.

Sadler is in his second full season as a starter, after working as a reliever in the lower levels. He stated that this was not a difficult adjustment moving back into starting, as he was a starter in high school and college at Western Oklahoma State.

“When I first got drafted, there were a lot of arms who were ahead of me,” Sadler said. “They pretty much told me that they were going to put me in the ‘pen and let me get some work and throw me under the lights. They said to always be ready because I was going to get that opportunity at some time. I got that opportunity in High-A, took advantage of it, and here we are today.”

The progression into starting, and now getting some time in Pittsburgh, shows what the leadership truly think about Sadler and his future. With the starting pitching depth in the organization, Sadler seems to project as a reliever. His sinker and groundball ratio makes him a solid candidate to get some much-needed double play balls to get out of jams for Clint Hurdle. However, even with the projection as a reliever, Sadler still has a bright upside with the Pirates and could provide some spot starts in the short-term.

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/the-sinker-is-working-early-for-casey-sadler.html/feed 0
Brandon Cumpton avoids first slow start of career http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/brandon-cumpton-avoids-first-slow-start-of-career.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/brandon-cumpton-avoids-first-slow-start-of-career.html#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 18:08:53 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=77160 Brandon Cumpton is off to a staggeringly strong start this season. However, that is not something that he is generally accustomed to.

This is a trend that holds up statistically as well, as 2014 is the only successful April that Cumpton has compiled in professional baseball. In 2013, Cumpton allowed 16 earned runs in 28 innings with Altoona and Indianapolis. In 2012, he allowed 10 earned runs in 25 innings with Altoona. But the most astounding is the 21 earned runs in 13 innings that he allowed with West Virginia in 2011.

This season, Cumpton got the early season woes out of his system in his first three Spring Training starts. In those games, he allowed seven runs (only three earned) in nine innings. In his final two games of the spring, he allowed just one earned run on five hits in 9.2 innings.

“I have kind of noticed that I come out the gates a little slow and need to get adjusted to stuff,” Cumpton said. “I came out and got hit around a little bit and it kind of put me back to the drawing board to figure some things out. I feel like I finished really strong in Spring Training and so far it has carried over into the season.”

Cumpton has allowed 20 base runners in 19 innings, with only three runs over the span. He has struck out 11, while only walking three. The success at the end of last season was another source that Cumpton credits for his early season success, but he still has a goal to accomplish soon.

“I want to be the guy who can get out there and go deep, go six or seven innings,” he said. “I haven’t gotten to 100 pitches yet, so I am kind of looking forward to that. Hopefully in the next outing, I should be able to get to 100 pitches. I am really just continuing what I have been working on for the last year or two, which is going deep into games.”

In order to go deep in games, Cumpton sets up hitters by establishing the fastball early and then working off of it with the off speed pitches that he possesses. With this, Cumpton looks to get ahead of hitters with the fastball and get them to put the ball in play on the ground within the first three pitches of the at bat. This season, his groundball to flyball ratio is 1.4:1. Though the ratio in 2012 was over 2:1, he figures to be around the 1.3 to 1.5 range.

Indianapolis pitching coach Tom Filer said that part of the game plan is for Cumpton to be a little more fastball dominant, due to “him having a good one.” He said that of 80 pitches in a game, it is expected for about 60 of them to be fastballs, which Cumpton hits in the low to mid 90s.

“He has a lot of confidence in it and it has a little bit of a second gear to it,” Filer said. “It has a different look. It has a little more kick and a little more run to it. He has a lot of life to his stuff.”

Along with the fastball, Cumpton possesses a slider and change-up, which he stated that he is working to further develop.

“As a big sinker ball guy, I am looking to refine those secondary pitches,” Cumpton said. “I need to be able to throw them in there when I am behind in the count or to throw them early in the count to help complement my fastball.”

With his accompaniment of pitches, one National League scout projects Cumpton as a four to five starter in the Major Leagues.

“He clearly knows how to pitch,” the scout said. “He has good mound presence. He is not dominant like a top of the rotation guy, but he has good stuff and shows the ability of a fourth.”

Though the scout admitted that Cumpton does not have dominant, overpowering stuff, he said that all of Cumpton’s pitches are “at least average.”

Filer also mentioned Cumpton’s competitiveness as another perk. He pointed to Cumpton’s last start as a prime example.

“I did not think that he was very good in his first couple innings, yet he was still affective because he is a tenacious competitor,” Filer said. “He competes against both himself and the other team. (In that start), I thought that his last three to four innings were his best this year. He’s learning as we go and I think that he is learning what he can and can’t do.”

It is a combination of each of those attributes that makes Cumpton the expected starter to replace Wandy Rodriguez in Thursday’s start against the Reds. Cumpton’s early season success mixed with some momentum that he built in Pittsburgh last season allows me to believe that he will be there to stay this year.

]]>
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/brandon-cumpton-avoids-first-slow-start-of-career.html/feed 4