The Pittsburgh Pirates have spent a lot of money on over-slot players over the last few years, but one of the most interesting low-key additions has been Zac Fuesser. Fuesser was drafted in the 34th round out of Walters State Community College, and signed for $125 K, which is a lot for a guy picked that late in the draft. The left hander works in the 86-91 MPH range with his fastball, and also throws a curveball and a changeup.
In 2009, he pitched in the GCL, with a 1.26 ERA in 14.1 innings, along with a 12:10 K/BB ratio. The walks were an issue in 2010, as he moved to State College, posting a 3.64 ERA in 54.1 innings, along with a 47:27 K/BB ratio. However, he cut down on the walks towards the end of the year, with just 11 in his final 27.1 innings, after 16 in his first 27 innings. He also spent a lot of time in the rotation, and got a lot of innings in a staff that included Zack Von Rosenberg, Zack Dodson, and Colton Cain.
Fuesser moved up to West Virginia with the rest of the 2009 draft picks, but started off the year in a long relief role, throwing anywhere from one to five innings per relief appearance. His performance so far this year has been excellent, with a 1.98 ERA in 50 innings, and a 46:16 K/BB ratio. That includes five shutout innings as the starter last night, with one hit allowed, no walks, and four strikeouts. He’s been better in relief this year, with a 1.75 ERA in 36 innings, along with a 35:12 K/BB ratio, although he’s only made three starts, with a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings, along with an 11:4 K/BB ratio.
Long term, Fuesser profiles as a back of the rotation starter, or a relief option. One concern right now is that he already is 4.1 innings shy of his 2010 totals. The Pirates don’t like giving a pitcher a huge increase in his workload from year to year, although I wouldn’t be surprised if Fuesser throws 100+ innings. As a recent example, Rudy Owens threw 58 innings in State College, then followed that up with 124 innings the next season. Fuesser may profile as a relief option long term, but for now he’s one of the top performers in the pitching staff, which should be enough to buy him a few more starts.