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To recap the countdown so far:
We continue the countdown with the number 14 prospect, Stephen Tarpley.
14. Stephen Tarpley, LHP
The Pirates acquired two talented left-handed pitching prospects when they traded Travis Snider prior to the 2015 season. Steven Brault has developed into a safer prospect with a higher floor, but a limited upside. Meanwhile, Stephen Tarpley remains a guy who has a ton of upside, but a much lower floor, making him a bit more high risk/high reward.
Just like Brault, Tarpley had a lot of success this year, although it came at a lower level. He had much better stuff, working in the 90-94 MPH range with his fastball and touching 97 at times this year. He throws the pitch down in the zone, and hits both corners with command, which fueled his success this year.
He also showed good improvements on his secondary stuff, relying on a changeup a lot this year after getting comfortable with the pitch. He uses a circle grip, which he had in high school, got rid of in college, and brought back in pro ball. He works mostly with a fastball/changeup approach, while mixing in the slider as his primary out pitch. That’s not to say that the changeup can’t be an out pitch in the right situation. He also has a curveball, and uses that as a situational pitch the second and third time through the lineup, giving batters a different look.
Tarpley dealt with some control and command problems in the Baltimore farm system in 2014, but saw some big improvements when he dropped his arm slot at the end of the year. That led to some dominant numbers, and much better control numbers. He carried both trends over to the Pirates’ system in 2015.
There is a lot of upside with Tarpley, as you’d expect from a left-hander who can hit 97 with his fastball, is comfortable with his changeup, and has shown improved command. He will move to Bradenton in 2016, and could be in Altoona by the end of the season, as he is Rule 5 eligible after the year, and looks certain to be protected with another strong season. The jump to the upper levels will start to bring his prospect picture into better focus, especially regarding his floor.