Nathan Baker — L/L, 6′ 3″, 205 lb
The Pirates took Baker in the 5th round of the 2009 draft, and he reported to State College, where he got into 7 games over the rest of the season. He earned a 1.69 ERA with 11 hits and 3 earned runs in 16 innings, with 9 strikeouts. Baker was moved up to West Virginia to begin the 2010 season. He made 16 starts there, starting slowly with 9 runs and 17 hits in 19.1 innings in April (4.19 ERA). He picked up the pace in May, with 10 runs on 27 hits in 33 innings (2.73 ERA), and continued to improve with 10 runs over 35 innings for June and early July, so that by mid-July, he had earned a 6-5 record and a 2.99 ERA, with 29 earned runs and 68 hits in 87.1 innings. That included 8 no-hit and no-run innings with 8 strikeouts on July 6th. Baker walked 20 (2.1 walks/ 9 innings) and struck out 63 (6.5 K/ 9 innings) for the Power. Baker was promoted to Bradenton in mid-July, making 9 starts there for the rest of the season. He gave up a few more hits (42 in 44.2 innings) and a few more walks (17, 3.4 walks/ 9 innings) for the Marauders, but his ERA was almost the same (3.02), and he struck out batters at almost the same rate (31, 6.3 K/ 9 innings). The 23-year-old could begin 2011 at either Bradenton or Altoona, depending on how his spring shakes out.
Casey Erickson — R/R, 6′ 3″, 187 lb
Erickson was acquired by the Pirates from the Yankees in the Eric Hinske trade in 2009. He reported to West Virginia and appeared in 15 games for the Power, mostly in relief, earning a 5-1 record and a 1.17 ERA. Erickson was promoted to Bradenton for 2010, where he made 6 starts and 30 relief appearances. Two of the starts were pretty good, but three were shaky and one was miserable (7 runs on 7 hits in 1.2 innings). Erickson gave up 15 runs on 23 hits in 20.2 innings over those 6 starts — that was half of his earned runs for the season, for a 6.53 ERA. The other 15 runs he allowed came on 56 hits over 59.1 innings in 30 relief appearances, for a 2.28 ERA. He struck out 65 batters (7.3 K/ 9 innings) and walked 23 (2.6 walks/ 9 innings). The slider is Erickson’s best pitch. He also gets a lot of ground ball outs, and does better against left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters. Erickson will be 25 years old for most of the 2011 season, which he will likely spend in the bullpen in Altoona.