The guy with the best strikeout rate in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system last year was a big surprise. It wasn’t top prospect Tyler Glasnow, who had an 11.4 K/9 ratio. It wasn’t breakout reliever John Holdzkom, who combined for a 12.5 K/9 between Double-A, Triple-A, and the majors. It wasn’t any of the other number of top pitching prospects the Pirates had coming into the year.
The guy with the best strikeout rate was John Sever.
You might not know who that is, and it might be due to the fact that Sever entered the system with very little fanfare. He was drafted in the 20th round last year as a left-handed pitcher out of Bethune-Cookman University. He signed four days after the draft ended, and was assigned to the Bristol rotation, which is an assignment that you don’t usually see a prospect receiving. By the end of the year, Sever worked his way into the rotation, posting a 1.33 ERA in 40.2 innings, with a 13.9 K/9 ratio.
Granted, this all comes with the disclaimer that he’s a lefty in the lower levels, pitching in a league that is mostly made up of college players (Sever was 20 years old, right around the average age of 20.3 in the Appalachian League). But he obviously gained the attention of the Pirates, getting moved to the rotation. He’s currently on track to make the jump to West Virginia, which is a level full of starting candidates, but no one who can lock down a spot in the rotation. That means he’s got a shot at a lot of innings, likely in a piggyback role.
I talked with Sever about his 2014 season, how his Spring was going, and got some video of his live batting practice against 2014 draft picks Michael Suchy and Cole Tucker. All of that can be seen in the short video below.