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Battling Bucs : Minors Review - Right Handed Starters Part III

By Kipper @pghsportsforum
Upper Level Right Handed Starters
Top 3 Prospects

1. Jameson Taillon: As I’m sure most of you know Taillon is the Pirates top pitching prospect in the organization. He was selected 2nd overall in the 2012 draft out The Woodlands High School in Texas. His arsenal of pitches include a mid 90s fastball that can reach the upper 90s, a curve ball that’s when it’s on is considered one of the better ones in baseball and a changeup that he is still working to develop. I get the sense that Taillon’s is inconsistent with his curveball as scouts opinions range from calling it simply a plus pitch to one of the better curves in baseball. My guess is it depends on when these scouts watch him. Taillon made his pro debut the following season in A ball and had a fairly successful year posting good strike out and walk numbers although he was hit a bit harder than one might think do to an issue he has with elevating his pitches. The following season he started off strong in A+ and then just sort of became ok at the level; the Pirates still promoted him to AA at the end of the season and he pitched outstanding there. Last year he started in AA and had similar results to what he did in A+ the previous season. He posted solid K and BB numbers, drew rave reviews but his numbers were simply good not great. He got a taste of AAA at the end of the year and performed nearly the same. It might be a little concerning that the eye popping numbers just aren’t there for Taillon but then again they weren’t there for Cole either. It is possible this is all a byproduct of how the Pirates develop pitchers. At the beginning of the offseason it appeared the likely plan with Taillon was to have him spend half a year at AAA before joining the big league club but elbow discomfort has put that all on hold as the team tries to figure out to what extent he will need to rest. Hopefully the injury does not prove to be serious and he’ll start pitching in AAA sometime in May with a possible July or August call up to Pittsburgh.
2. Nicholas Kingham: The Pirates drafted Kingham in the 4th round of the 2010 draft. Right now Kingham’s arsenal includes a mid 90s fastball, a good curve and an average change up. In a lot of ways minus the hype that surrounds them Kingham is very similar to Taillon. He doesn’t quite have his upside but both are prep pitchers out of the 2010 draft with similar arsenals and similar builds. Kingham got a cup of coffee in rookie ball in 2010 but saw his first real action in 2011 in short season ball where he posted a great year. Kingham consistently went at least 5 innings (which is rare considering how closely the Pirates monitor the workloads of the lower level pitcher) and posted a great ERA, strike out rate and walk rate. The following season he moved up to A ball and he had a bit of an uneven year. Kingham’s peripheral numbers in 2012 were solid and he definitely shown improvement as the year progressed but early on especially he had a tendency of posting a bad inning which caused his ERA to be higher than what the other stats seemingly would suggest. Last season Kingham started off in A+ and despite an ERA which didn’t exactly show it he dominated the level earning a promotion to AA. Oddly enough his ERA at AA was better than at A+ but he didn’t dominate the level occasionally showing control problems. Kingham was a candidate to move up to AAA to start the season but given the Pirates other options in AAA it seems more likely he’ll start back in AA and follow a similar path to what Taillon did last season.
3. Stolmy Pimentel: Pimentel is expected to make the Opening Day roster as a reliever but the Pirates haven’t fully given up on the idea of him starting at some point and it is quite possible we will see him make a couple spot starts this season. He was acquired in the Joel Hanrahan trade last season as his prospect shine had started to wear off in Boston. He was once considered one of the Red Sox better prospects but his struggles at AA in 2011 and 2012 and dropped his stock quite a bit. Some though that since he had only one options remaining the Pirates would send him to the AAA bullpen instead the Pirates opted to have him open up in the AA rotation. Pimentel started off on fire allowing only 1 run over his first 37 innings. The rest of his tenure at the level didn’t go that well but he pitched well enough to be promoted to AAA. There he pitched well showing improved control over even what he had in AA. The Pirates oddly decided to call him up on August 31st making him eligible for the postseason roster and in the month of September he made 5 relief appearances and was solid in all of them. Nothing ever came of the oddly timed promotion as he was kept off both post season rosters making the decision even more curious. This coming season Pimentel may take Gomez’s role from last year as swingman or the Pirates may instead opt to groom him for a late inning role.
The Rest
Brandon Cumpton: The Pirates drafted Cumpton in the 9th round of the 2010 draft. Cumpton is part of the second group of pitchers Huntington seems to like to draft meaning he is a solid control ground ball type of pitcher. During his first three minor league seasons Cumpton pitched solidly at every level between A- and AA but did nothing to really stand out from the crowd. Going into last season the Pirates sent Cumpton back to AA as the rotation in AAA was full but after only a handful of starts injuries forced the Pirates to promote him to AAA and there he was once again solid. The Pirates were impressed enough to bring him up to the majors and while up he pitched great. Going into this season Cumpton will likely serve as a depth starter although long term he may profile best as a relief pitcher.
Kyle McPherson: McPherson is a holdover from the Littlefield regime as he was drafted in the 14th round of the 2007 draft. His first two pro seasons didn’t go that well but in 2010 he had a solid showing in A ball which was enough for the Pirates to somewhat surprisingly add him to the 40 man roster. The next two seasons confirmed they were right as McPherson put up two very good seasons even making a few appearances in the majors in 2012. Now this is where the story goes off the tracks a little bit. McPherson entered last Spring Training as the slight favorite for the fifth starter job over Jeff Locke but shoulder issues prevented him from winning it. He went on to make two terrible starts in AAA before being shut down and eventually getting Tommy John surgery. Over the offseason the Pirates DFA’d him from the roster and resigned him to a minor league contract. Now McPherson finds himself sort of a forgotten man as he is rarely considered a depth starting option for the Pirates. He should return sometime around mid season and if all goes right he could find himself added back to the roster and contributing to the team later in the season.
Phil Irwin: The Pirates drafted Irwin in the 21st round of the 2009 draft. His arsenal includes a fastball that sits around 90, a slider-curve combination, a slow curve and a changeup. None of his pitches are plus pitches but he commands them all well showing excellent control. Irwin’s pro career got off to a great start as he posted very good numbers all the way up to AA. His first taste of AA by no means went poorly but for the first time he was hit a little hard. After being set back with a forearm injury before the 2012 season Irwin returned to AA and pitched well earning a promotion to AAA where he made four very good starts. Irwin was added to the 40 man roster in the offseason and made one start in AAA before being called up for a spot start in the majors. That spot start didn’t go well and he was sent back to AAA but pitched only 4 innings before being shut down for the year due to injuries. Irwin seems healthy now though and should be back in the AAA rotation and should also be a depth starting option for the Pirates this season.
Casey Sadler: The Pirates drafted Sadler in the 25th round of the 2010 draft. In a lot of ways he is similar to Cumpton as he doesn’t have great stuff but he uses what he does have plus great command to be an effective starter. Sadler originally was used almost exclusively as a reliever by the Pirates but mid way through 2012 when a start was needed in A+ the Pirates opted to give him a shot because his bullpen work had been quite good. He pitched well in the starting role although it proved not to be good for his strike out ability. The Pirates sent him to AA to begin the 2013 season and there he pitched well although he struck out even fewer batters. The Pirates had him make one start in AAA at the end of the season and that is likely where he’ll begin 2014. Sadler was eligible for the Rule V draft this offseason and the Pirates opted to protect him by adding him to the 40 man roster. Due to his difficulties striking people out while starting Sadler is probably destined for a bullpen role but if the Pirates end up having to use as many starters this year as last he very well could get a chance.
This is the last of my 10 part series. I'll have a few recap things up later today and tomorrow but thanks to all who took the time to read my rambling thoughts.

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