Hunter Strickland made a start today at Pirate City, continuing his recovery from an arm injury which caused him to miss the entire 2011 season. Strickland went five innings, and threw 55 pitches, with 43 for strikes. He was very efficient, which was the cause for the low pitch count.
In his five innings, Strickland gave up two runs on five hits, with no walks and two strikeouts. He was pounding the strike zone, throwing 43 of his 55 pitches for strikes.
All of the damage came in the third inning with two outs. Strickland gave up a single, followed by a triple to the left-center field wall. That was followed by a double to bring in the second run of the inning. Strickland got out of the frame with a ground out.
Outside of the third inning, Strickland looked great. He threw a 90-94 MPH fastball, mostly sitting around 92-93 throughout the start. He also flashed a nice slider, sitting in the 85-87 MPH range. He was comfortable throwing his change-up, at one point throwing two in a row to lead off an at-bat against a left-hander.
Strickland was an interesting prospect to watch when he first came to the Pirates in 2009 from the Adam LaRoche trade. He’s missed a lot of time since then with injuries, but is back to being healthy. He will start the 2012 season in the Bradenton rotation.
KINGHAM TOUCHING 95
The last time Nick Kingham started, I received a report that he touched 95 MPH. The right-hander made another start today at Pirate City, and once again touched 95.
Kingham only hit 95 once in 75 pitches today, and hit 94 MPH a few times. He ranged from 87-95 today, once again seeing his velocity fall to around 90 MPH in the final innings.
His overall results weren’t the best today, with three runs on four hits. However, his secondary stuff looked good, with two walks and six strikeouts. Of his 75 pitches, 52 went for strikes.
He will move up to the West Virginia rotation this year, where he will likely remain all season, focused on getting used to pitching in full season ball, and expanding his innings count beyond his total of 71 last season. As he continues to throw, his arm should continue to get stronger, adding velocity, and ideally getting to the point where he can hold that velocity beyond the first three innings.
Alex Dickerson had two hits today, giving him another multi-hit day in A-ball games, which seems like a daily occurrence. He is projected to start the year in high-A, with Matt Curry getting starts at first in Double-A.
I was talking with Wilbur Miller about Dickerson’s hitting the other day, and Wilbur brought up a good point that Dickerson is easily the best player on the field in the A-ball games. He’s not really looking challenged by the A-ball pitchers, instead looking like he is playing down a level.
Dickerson was rated a top 50 prospect in the draft last year, good enough to be taken with a first round compensation pick. He was rated that high due to his advanced bat, but ended up falling to the Pirates in the third round, which could end up being a major steal. He’s received a lot of credit on top first base prospect lists this off-season, and currently ranks as the top guy in the Pirates’ system.
For an advanced college hitter, A-ball isn’t really much of a test. The real test is Double-A. Unfortunately, with Matt Curry starting in Double-A, and holding a similar profile to Dickerson, there’s no room to move him up. The Pirates might have to consider making room at some point if Dickerson carries this hitting in to the Bradenton season. And if Matt Curry doesn’t rebound from his 2011 numbers in Altoona, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the two switch places, with Dickerson moving up to Altoona, and Curry getting some work in Bradenton.
**It looks like there will be a lot of interesting international guys to watch in West Virginia this year. The Pirates have been playing Jose Osuna, Alen Hanson, Willy Garcia, and Gregory Polanco on a regular basis in the low-A games. Jodaneli Carvajal could also get some infield time.
**Hanson had a nice hit today, and I’ve been really impressed by what I’ve seen. I was worried about the Jorge Bishop/Exicardo Cayones effect. Both hitters got off to good starts in the GCL, then faded on offense down the stretch. Their first half was enough to get them noticed, but their second half was ignored until they bombed in State College. Hanson had a similar run through the GCL last year, with his numbers declining in the second half of the GCL season. But he has a better build than Bishop and Cayones, and I’ve been really impressed with his play on both sides of the ball this Spring.
**Emmanuel DeLeon was throwing 94-96 MPH today. Last year I saw him hitting 94 MPH. He’s an interesting guy to watch, as he has good movement on his fastball, and good velocity to go with that movement.
VIDEO OF THE DAY
Hunter Strickland throwing in the first inning of today’s A-ball game against the New York Yankees.