We’ve talked a lot this week about projection, mostly related to pitchers and the approach the Pittsburgh Pirates are taking with the draft. I compared Zack Von Rosenberg and Colton Cain earlier in the week, noting that a lot of Von Rosenberg’s value depends on his projectability. Wilbur questioned whether the draft approach would work. The only way we will truly know whether the draft approach has worked is by eventually getting a group of talented major league players as a result of taking prep pitchers in the majority of rounds. I talked yesterday about Zack Dodson, who is one of the 2009 prep pitchers having success. Today, I’m going to talk about another 2009 prep pitcher who is not only having success, but who has even added a bit to his game.
When the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Brooks Pounders in the second round, it wasn’t met with cheers. Instead, it was met with a question: who is Brooks Pounders? Despite being taken with the 53rd overall pick in the draft, Pounders was not among any of the top draft prospect lists. He was a pitcher who had great secondary stuff, with a potential plus curveball and plus slider, and a changeup that graded as a plus pitch already. The problem was that his fastball was his weakest pitch.
For the Pirates, that seemed to be a perfect fit. The Pirates, as we all know, focus heavily on fastball command in the lower levels. If Pounders could improve his 88-91 MPH fastball, and develop plus command, it would make him a very valuable pitcher, due to his already good secondary stuff. Pounders spent the entire 2010 season in State College working on his fastball, and started the 2011 season in West Virginia. So far, he’s been putting up some impressive results. In 57.2 innings, he has a 3.90 ERA with a 9.7 K/9 and a 1.7 BB/9 ratio. The most impressive thing is that he’s been sitting at 92-93 MPH, and touching 94, which is a big jump from the 88-91 MPH range he was at out of high school.
Pounders hasn’t spent much time in the rotation, pitching mostly out of the bullpen in extended outings. Part of that is due to the amount of pitchers the Pirates have at the level. He’s been very successful lately, with a 2.18 ERA and a 24:5 K/BB ratio in his last 20.2 innings, spanning ten appearances. He’s not a complete pitcher yet. John Dreker noted that he struggled a bit the other night, needing 28 pitches to get through an inning. However, he’s a guy who has added velocity, and has improved his fastball command, while putting up strong numbers, all just two years after being drafted. Those are all good things for his value as a pitching prospect going forward.