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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Prospect Notebook: Lots of Heat

Duke Welker was hitting 98 MPH today.

There were a lot of top Pirates prospects throwing today. Unfortunately, a lot of the top guys in the system were on the road. Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie, both top ten prospects, started in the A-ball games at Toronto’s minor league complex. Missing out on those two guys throwing is missing out on some of the hardest throwers in the system.

Taillon has touched 99 MPH in the past with his fastball, and has been sitting 94-97 MPH this spring. Allie has hit triple digits in the past, and has been consistently 95-96 MPH this spring with much better command than in the past.

The thing about the Pirates system is that there isn’t a shortage of hard throwers. Taillon and Allie were on the road today, but the home teams featured some fireball pitchers.

Duke Welker had the highest reading on the gun today. The right-hander threw an inning of work, ranging from 94-98 MPH with his fastball, and mixing in a hard slider. The Pirates protected Welker from the Rule 5 draft this past off-season, worrying that someone might take a chance on his arm. He’s struggled with his control in the past, although he drastically cut his walk rate down in high-A last year, and looked good in ten innings at the AA level. Welker turned 26 last month, and has the stuff to be a late inning reliever.

Then there was Brandon Cumpton, who was taken out of Georgia Tech in the ninth round of the 2010 draft. Cumpton threw three innings, and was 92-97 MPH with his fastball. He’s hit 96 MPH in the past in shorter outings, and was mostly 89-93 MPH last year as a starter.

After getting hit hard for 21 earned runs in 10.2 innings in his first three outings in West Virginia last year, Cumpton turned things around with a 1.76 ERA in his next 56.1 innings with a 6.7 K/9 and a 1.9 BB/9. He then moved up to high-A where he had a 3.66 ERA in 66.1 innings, along with a 5.7 K/9 and a 1.6 BB/9. As a starter he profiles more as a back of the rotation guy, but he’s got the stuff to be a late inning reliever.

The Pirates had a few other guys hitting the low-to-mid 90s today. Victor Black was 90-93 MPH in his first game this Spring. He hit 98 MPH in instructs last year. Aaron Pribanic was 90-94 MPH, and has hit 96 MPH in shorter appearances in the past. He’s a sinker ball pitcher who could be a Jared Hughes type guy out of the bullpen.

That’s four pitchers who either hit 96 MPH or better today, or have done so in the past. And this number doesn’t even count two of the hardest throwers in the system, who were on the road. It also doesn’t count other guys who have hit 97-98 MPH or better, like Gerrit Cole, Jeff Inman, or Yhonathan Herrand.


Jeff Locke made his first start in minor league camp since being cut from big league camp earlier in the week. The left-hander had a great start, throwing three shutout innings, allowing no hits, no walks, and striking out three.

Locke had a quick first inning, getting two ground outs and a strikeout, and needing just nine pitches to get through the frame.

In the second he started with another strikeout. His only base runner reached when Matt Curry lost a pop-up in the sun. After another strikeout, the runner moved to third on a wild pitch. Locke was able to get out of the inning with a fly ball to right, which was the only ball that left the infield.

Locke’s third inning was another quick one. He got three straight ground outs, including a broken bat ground out to short, and needed just 11 pitches.

Overall Locke threw 44 pitches in three innings, with 24 of those coming in the second. He was sitting 91-92 MPH with his fastball, and his curve looked sharp, helping him get five ground outs.


-Evan Chambers had a great day at the plate, falling a double short of the cycle. Chambers led off with a triple on a line drive to the left-center gap. Later in the game he hit a line drive single. In his last at-bat he homered to left field. He was hitting the ball hard in each at-bat today.

-Chase d’Arnaud showed some hustle in the first inning of the AAA game. He laid down a perfect bunt single, which didn’t even warrant a throw. He moved to second on a walk, then scored from second after a wild throw past the first baseman on a grounder to short.

-Casey McGehee and Nick Evans rotated between the AA and AAA games today. McGehee went 1-for-4 with a single, a sacrifice fly RBI, and two strikeouts. Evans went 0-for-3 with a walk and three strikeouts.

-Mike Colla threw two innings in the AAA game, and needed just 17 pitches combined to get the job done. He was 90-91 with his fastball.

-Michael Crotta closed out the AAA game, sitting 92-94 MPH with his fastball, and working a quick inning with two ground outs and a strikeout.


Victor Black was hit hard today, which I believe was his first game of the Spring.

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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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Lee Young

Although you hate to draft guys to become relievers, once our young arms come thru as top line starters, it’ll be nice to have the Welkers, et al, slamming the late inning door.

Or am I dreaming? I hate when I dream. 🙂

Lee Young

Looked like Black didn’t have good command. He had good movement.

Tim……..who was the catcher? I couldn’t tell. He did a good job receiving.

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