Eduardo Vera made just nine starts in Bradenton this year, including four during the month of May, before getting a promotion to Altoona. In his final four outings in Bradenton, he had a 2.89 ERA in 28 innings, with an 11:5 K/BB ratio. He was then promoted to Altoona, where he made his debut with one earned run in seven innings, along with three strikeouts and no walks. The combined effort was enough to make Vera the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month for May.
Vera had a breakout season last year in West Virginia, going from a non-prospect to a guy who could have a shot at making the majors. A big part of that was due to a velocity increase that saw him going from mid-to-upper 80s velocity, all the way to hitting upper 90s on a consistent basis. This year was supposed to give an idea of how good he could become, and whether he could remain a starter.
The results have been good, despite the stuff struggling compared to last year. His velocity has been lower than last year’s highs, but it has been sitting in the low-90s, and still is better than where he was pre-2017. He isn’t getting a lot of strikeouts, in part due to the velocity, and in part due to some decline with his curveball. His changeup has improved this year, leading to some great results against lefties (.549 OPS), and his stuff is still good enough to get results.
The question going forward will be whether Vera can get results at the higher levels as a starter without the velocity. He still has good movement on his fastball, but will probably need a strikeout pitch to remain as a starter in the long-term. He had a nice debut in Altoona, even with the lack of strikeouts. Since this is the level where guys typically add new pitches, it’s not out of the question to see him add something new to address the strikeout issues. It’s also not out of the question to see him continue to perform well after the jump, even without any changes to his current stuff, since a low-90s fastball with strong command and a good changeup are enough for him to get results right now.
PITCHERS OF THE MONTH BY LEVEL
Indianapolis – Tanner Anderson, RHP (0.68 ERA, 8:1 K/BB, 13.1 IP)
Altoona – Taylor Hearn, LHP (2.63 ERA, 26:10 K/BB, 24.0 IP)
Bradenton – Eduardo Vera, RHP (2.89 ERA, 11:5 K/BB, 28.0 IP)
West Virginia – Blake Weiman, LHP (1.46 ERA, 16:2 K/BB, 12.1 IP)