Duke Welker  —  Bats L / Throws R;  6′ 7″,  220 lb
The Pirates chose Welker as their 2nd round pick in the 2007 draft.  He struggled with injuries during the 2007 and 2007 seasons in State College and A level Hickory.  In 2009, Welker stayed healthy, but had trouble with both velocity and command, as he was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen in A level West Virginia.  He began 2010 back in the West Virginia bullpen, with his velocity back up the the mid- and high-90’s.  He still had trouble with control, walking 24 batters in 22.1 innings (9.7 walks/ 9 innings).  Welker made 20 relief appearances for the Power and earned 5 saves.  He gave up 9 earned runs on 16 hits, and also struck out 25 batters (10.1 K/ 9 innings).  Welker was promoted to Bradenton and had similar results there in 20 more relief appearances.  In the first half of those, in July, he gave up 7 earned runs in 9.1 innings (6.75 ERA), with 9 hits but 15 walks.  He turned it around in August/September, though.  In 15 innings, he allowed just 3 runs (1.80 ERA), and cut back on the hits (7) and the walks (8).  His strikeouts were down a bit, to 20 (7.4 K/ 9 innings), but he continued to get a lot of ground ball outs.  Welker does much better against right-handed hitters — 2.20 ERA and .107 BA Against; facing lefites — 6.75 ERA and .313 BA Against.  Welker was not protected from the Rule 5 Draft, but he was not selected. He is now 25 years old, and he needs to stop walking so many batters if he’s going to move much further up in the organization.  He should begin 2011 with Bradenton.

Kyle McPherson ––  Bats Both / Throws Right;  6′ 3″,  205 lb
McPherson was the Pirates’ 14th round pick in the 2007 draft.  He split the 2009 between State College and West Virginia, then began the 2010 season in the West Virginia starting rotation.  He piled up the innings in 21 starts, and was moved to the bullpen in the late part of the season to keep his inning count down.  In a total of 117.2 innings for the Power, he allowed 96 hits and 47 earned runs (3.59 ERA).  He did allow 14 home runs — high, but not as high a rate as he allowed in 2008 with State College.  His strikeout rate was very good: 124 strikeouts  (9.5 K/ 9 innings).  He didn’t walk many:  31 (2.4 walks/ 9 innings).  McPherson was promoted to Bradenton for two relief appearances in September, for a total of 4 scoreless innings.  He gave up one hit in each outing and struck out 7, with no walks.  The 23-year-old would have also been eligible for the Rule 5 Draft at the end of 2010, but he was placed on the Pirates’ 40-man roster.  McPherson has a fastball in the low 90’s and a solid changeup.  He should be back to Bradenton to begin the 2011 season.  If he can maintain his level of control and high strikeout rate, he could move up to Altoona later in the season.  

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