2011 West Virginia Power Preview: Bullpen

Cumpton could see a lot of innings this year, even if he works out of the bullpen.

Today we wrap up the 2011 West Virginia Power preview with a look at the bullpen.  So far we’ve covered the infielders, outfielders, and the starting pitchers.  Normally this is the part where I would talk about how you don’t find prospects in the bullpen at the low-A level.  That’s not the case here.  The West Virginia pitching staff is filled with so many pitching prospects that they will have actual prospects in the bullpen.  That could lead to some piggybacking opportunities, and some players could just be pitching in long relief, going 2-3 innings after the starter gets pulled.

Piggyback Candidates

Brooks Pounders and Trent Stevenson were each taken in the 2009 draft out of the prep ranks, although they fall behind fellow 2009 prep pitchers like Zack Von Rosenberg, Colton Cain, and Zack Dodson.  Pounders and Stevenson do get their innings, with both players finishing about 15-20 innings behind the other 2009 prep pitchers while they were all at State College in 2010.

I’d expect a similar result this year, with Pounders and Stevenson possibly working in a piggyback role.  Either that, or they could be three inning relievers, pitching twice a week, which would also allow them to rack up the innings.

Jeffrey Inman is another candidate for a piggyback role out of the bullpen.  He missed the entire 2010 season, and missed a lot of time in 2009 when he was in college, which means the Pirates could try to ease him back in to the mix in 2011, rather than giving him a full starter’s workload.  Inman might have the biggest upside of the three players, which is why I have him as a favorite for a rotation spot.

If a rotation spot opens up later in the season, these three could be options to jump in and make some starts.

Relief Prospects

The Pirates have a few pitchers who are legit relief prospects, but who have been worked as starting options thus far.  The 2011 season could force a move to the bullpen, possibly in a similar role as the pitchers above.  Tyler Waldron and Zac Fuesser are two of those options, with each player pitching in the State College rotation throughout the 2010 season.  Brandon Cumpton is the other, and like Waldron and Fuesser, he pitched primarily as a starter after signing.

All three pitched mostly with the A-ball team when I was down in Spring Training, which doesn’t give much of an indication as to where they will be assigned.  It’s possible that Waldron and Cumpton, two college arms from the 2010 draft, could move right to high-A, similar to what Justin Wilson did in 2009.  That would be more likely if they moved to a bullpen role.  The Pirates waited two years before moving Brian Leach to the bullpen, so it’s possible they could try to get these guys as many innings as possible.

Other Prospects

The bullpen will be full of prospects, leaving very little room for extra pitchers.  Some of the more intriguing possibilities could be Kevin Decker, Jason Townsend, and Mitchell Fienemann.  All three pitched in State College last year, and they could all move up.  Decker came out of the JuCo ranks, and had strong numbers in State College, with a 3.75 ERA in 57.2 innings.  Townsend has great velocity, throwing in the mid-90s, but displaying horrible control.  Fienemann is a tall, projectable pitching prospect out of Australia, although he only throws in the 80s right now.

Opening Day Projection

The estimated opening day bullpen:

CL – Jason Townsend

RP – Brooks Pounders, Trent Stevenson, Brandon Cumpton, Zac Fuesser, Kevin Decker, Mitchell Fienemann

Could pitch in the A+ bullpen in 2011: Brandon Cumpton, Zac Fuesser, Tyler Waldron.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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