In the past, State College has been known as “The Fastball Academy”. The Pirates have sent young pitchers here to focus on their fastball command, learning how to throw on a downward plane, and move the pitch to the inside and outside corners of the plate. There was always a focus on secondary pitches, but this year there was an even bigger focus on the changeup for every pitcher. A lot of the younger starters saw improvements with their changeup during extended Spring Training, and continued working on the pitch in the New York-Penn League.
The Spikes were loaded with a lot of young pitching talent, which is to be expected since the Pirates have drafted a lot of young pitchers in the last few years. Their younger guys look like starting candidates, while a lot of the 2012 draft picks who joined the level profile as relief pitching prospects.
Below are the stats from each pitcher in State College, broken down by age groups. The first age group is where you’ll find the majority of prospects. The second group can include prospects, but these guys are getting closer to being too old for the level. The final group is mostly organizational depth. A breakdown of each group can be found below.
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20 and Under
This group is highlighted by Luis Heredia, who was one of the youngest players at the level this year. Heredia improved his fastball command and his changeup heading in to the short-season, which earned him the promotion to State College. Toward the end of the year he moved to a hard curve, giving him the potential for three plus pitches. The fact that he pitched so well in this league is a huge positive, as the NYPL is typically dominated by college hitters who are three, four, and five years older than Heredia. He didn’t have a lot of strikeouts, but improved on that toward the end of the year, with the hard curve playing a big role.
Clay Holmes is another young pitcher who stood out in State College this year. He was signed for $1.2 M in the ninth round of the 2011 draft. He features a 90-93 MPH fastball, a changeup which showed improvement during extended Spring Training, and a hard curve. All three pitches have cutting action. He dealt with some control issues this year, and like a lot of 19-year-olds, he needs to learn how to pitch more than how to throw. He’s a young pitcher with a lot of upside, and his performance against the older talent in the NYPL moved him up the ranks in the system.
Jake Burnette and Jason Creasy were also 2011 over-slot pitchers, although neither had the results of Holmes. Burnette suffered an elbow injury after five starts, and didn’t get much of a chance to pitch at the level. He profiles similar to Holmes, with a fastball in the low 90s, and some good off-speed stuff. Creasy worked on throwing downhill with his fastball, and improving the break in his slider. His slider looks to be his best pitch, but he needs to set it up with his fastball. The main issue with his fastball this year was that he couldn’t move it to the corners, leaving a lot of balls down the middle.
Joely Rodriguez returned to the level after missing a lot of time last year with an elbow injury. He’s got a lot of movement on his pitches, and has flashed good strikeout stuff in the past. He’s yet to actually use that stuff to produce strikeouts, often dealing with some control issues, or leaving the ball up and getting hit around. A positive this year was that his control was much better. However, he didn’t improve the strikeouts, making him more of a pitch to contact guy. There’s some upside with Rodriguez, but right now he’s very raw.
Adrian Sampson was taken in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, and got a lot of playing time this year. He was one of the few pitchers in State College who struck out a batter an inning. He throws 91-94 MPH, but his fastball can be flat at times. He has a sharp curve, which led to the strikeouts. He spent time working on developing his changeup.
Tyler Glasnow, Dovydas Neverauskas, and Bryton Trepagnier all joined the team at the end of the season. All three put up good numbers in the GCL, and have good stuff which led to those numbers. They could be candidates to join the State College rotation next year. The one exception could be Glasnow, who might have a shot of moving to West Virginia after an excellent season in the GCL and a great debut in State College.
Ryan Hafner was a big over-slot signing in the 2010 draft, and had good results last year in State College. He saw some major struggles in West Virginia this year, and continued those struggles in State College. He could get another shot at West Virginia next year, but his regression this year definitely hurts his prospect status going forward.
The standout here was Dalton Friend, who was taken in the 12th round of the 2012 draft. Friend got one start at the end of the year, and put up impressive numbers out of the bullpen. He improved his changeup this year, and started throwing his fastball on a downward plane. He profiles more as a bullpen guy, but could be a starting candidate with the potential for three above-average pitches.
Pat Ludwig was taken in the tenth round of the 2012 draft, and was more of a signability pick to save money. However, he has the potential to be a good relief prospect. He was throwing 94 MPH this year in college, and put up great numbers in State College before being promoted to West Virginia.
John Kuchno was an over-slot middle round pick, getting some of the money that Mark Appel turned down. He’s more of a relief pitching prospect, hitting 92-95 MPH and a curve with good life that led to some good strikeout numbers.
Emmanuel De Leon and Kevin Kleis both featured good velocity on their fastballs, although both struggled with control issues. The velocity for Kleis was 91-94 MPH at the end of the year, which is up from the upper 80s in previous years.
Josh Smith and Kyle Haynes could be sleeper relief prospects, although most relief prospects don’t start getting serious prospect consideration until they reach the upper levels.
Ages 23 and Up
Joan Montero and Justin Ennis both moved up to West Virginia this year.