Brandon Waddell did not get off to a strong start after being promoted to Triple-A back on May 30th. He was pitching great at the time in Altoona, but by the middle of June, he was in the bullpen for Indianapolis. Waddell got back into the rotation after four relief appearances and turned things completely around in July, posting the best ERA for a starting pitcher in the system over the month. That turnaround led to him being named as the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month for July. This is his second time being named as our Pitcher of the Month. The first was in April of 2016 while he was in Bradenton.
Waddell had a strong two months with the Altoona Curve, posting a 2.68 ERA in 53.2 innings, with a 1.08 WHIP, a .206 BAA, a 1.37 GO/AO ratio and 43 strikeouts. He was at the level for most of 2016 and 2017, although a lot of last year was lost due to recurring forearm strain. He made up for some lost time by pitching in the playoffs first for Altoona, then the Fall Instructional League, followed by the Arizona Fall League. Going into Spring Training, he appeared to be a favorite for the Indianapolis rotation. He eventually got there, but it took some strong performances in Altoona first.
The first start in Indianapolis didn’t go well for Waddell, who allowed five runs in 1.2 innings. That was followed six days later by 5.2 shutout innings, but it was back to poor results next time out with five runs over three innings. The Pirates moved him to the bullpen, where he threw shutout ball in his first two outings, then gave up two runs in each of his next two games. He returned to the rotation with a whimper, allowing seven runs and nine hits in just 3.2 innings. That was back on June 29th and it was clearly a low point.
When July rolled around, it was instant success for the 24-year-old southpaw. He started off with two runs over seven innings on July 4th. Nine days later (due to the All-Star break), he made his second July start and threw seven shutout innings. He then gave up two runs over 5.1 innings in a rematch against the Gwinnett team that hit him around in his first Triple-A game. He allowed one run over six innings against Rochester on July 24th and finished things off with two runs over 5.2 innings on July 29th against Buffalo.
Waddell is a finesse lefty, who will get his fastball up to 94 MPH on occasion. His best asset is his ability to mix his pitches to keep hitters guessing. He’s usually a strike-thrower, who does an excellent job of keeping the ball down, but his control can leave him at times. That’s the kind of repertoire that needs to be on every day to have success in the majors. Waddell is a fierce competitor in big situations, dating back to his college days where he was at his best in the College World Series. In three playoff games in the minors, he has tossed 19 shutout innings on eight hits.
The Pirates will have an interesting decision this winter with Waddell. He’s Rule 5 eligible, but so are a lot of prospects rated ahead of him. If he finishes the year strong, he will be tough to leave off the 40-man roster. His upside is limited to a back-end starter, but he might be better as a late innings reliever with his big game mentality. The fastball should play up in shorter outings, while his mix of pitches is something you don’t see from most relievers.
PITCHERS OF THE MONTH BY LEVEL
Indianapolis – Brandon Waddell, LHP (2.03 ERA, 25:12 K/BB, 31.0 IP)
Altoona – Eduardo Vera, RHP (3.38 ERA, 13:6 K/BB, 24.0 IP)
Bradenton – James Marvel, RHP (3.03 ERA, 34:7 K/BB, 38.2 IP)
West Virginia – Domingo Robles, LHP (2.87 ERA, 22:9 K/BB, 31.1 IP)
Morgantown – Cam Alldred (0.00 ERA, 16:5 K/BB, 13.0 IP)
Bristol – Argenis Romano, RHP (1.52 ERA, 23:10 K/BB, 23.2 IP)
GCL – Luis Nova, RHP (3.00 ERA, 14:3 K/BB, 18.0 IP)
DSL – Yeison Santos, LHP (0.00 ERA, 9:4 K/BB, 14.2 IP)