Spring Training Position Previews: Starting Pitchers
WEEK 5: STARTING PITCHERS IN THE PIRATES ORGANIZATION
(By Megan Filipowski/Indianapolis Indians)
The starting rotations in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization feature a diverse group of arms ranging from multi-year veterans to rising prospects and strikeout specialists to ground-ball inducers. This impressive mix includes five hurlers who each pitched with the Tribe last season in Brandon Cumpton, Jameson Taillon, Phil Irwin, Andy Oliver and Casey Sadler.
Potential Indians Starters
Cumpton was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the ninth round (267th overall) of the 2010 MLB Draft. He is rated by Baseball America as the Pirates No. 11 prospect entering the upcoming season.
The righty climbed the levels of the organization quickly, and after earning a 22-19 record in 57 minor league games (54 starts), Cumpton made both his Triple-A and Major League debuts just three years into his professional career (2013).
Cumpton made five starts with the big league club last season, beginning his MLB career with four straight strikeouts on June 15 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. One month later, Cumpton picked up his first Major League win by three-hitting the St. Louis Cardinals through 7.0 shutout innings on July 30.
His ascension to the big leagues featured two additional stops during the 2013 campaign, with the right-hander going 0-1 with a 7.45 ERA (8 ER in 9.2 IP) for Double-A Altoona and 6-7 with a 3.32 ER (45 ER in 122.0 IP) for Indianapolis. Cumpton finished the year with just one earned run through his final three starts (18.1 IP), including tying career highs in innings pitched and longest outing without an earned run with his 8.0-frame (1 unearned run) start against Syracuse.
Jameson Taillon was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first-round selection (second overall) in the 2010 MLB Draft. The 22-year-old was drafted out of high school and has since been ranked as the Bucs No. 1 (2010 and No. 2 (2011-13) prospects by Baseball America.
In the first two seasons of his professional career, Taillon demonstrated solid swing-and-miss ability by fanning a combined 213 batters in 49 starts with Lo-A West Virginia, HI-A Bradenton and Altoona from 2010-12. Taillon then spent most of the 2013 season with Double-A Altoona, where he went 4-7 with a 3.67 ERA (45 ER in 110.1 IP) and 106 strikeouts in 20 games (19 starts).
On August 5 last year, Taillon made his highly-anticipated International League debut with the Indians. Although he registered a 5.25 ERA through his first two starts, the righty settled into a groove to finish the season with four straight quality starts to lower his ERA to 3.89 by the end of the season. Taillon also finished the campaign ranked second in the IL with 37 strikeouts and fifth with 37.0 innings pitched since making his Triple-A debut.
The Pittsburgh Pirates selected right-hander Phil Irwin in the 21st round (625th overall) of the 2009 Draft.
The University of Mississippi alumnus reached the Triple-A level at the tail end of the 2012 campaign, a season in which he combined to post a 2.83 ERA (41 ER in 130.1 IP) with a career-high 117 strikeouts in 23 games (21 starts) between Bradenton, Altoona and the Tribe.
Irwin’s fast track was temporarily put on hold following his standout 2012 campaign. The righty, who started and won Game 3 for the Indians during the first round of the 2012 playoffs, appeared in just two games with Indianapolis last year as he attempted to return to full health. However, he has since impressed with strong outings in the Arizona Fall League and at big league spring training.
Andy Oliver is the lone southpaw among these five former Tribe hurlers, and is also the only one to make his Pirates organization debut last season.
Originally drafted out of Oklahoma State by the Detroit Tigers in 2009 (second round, 58th overall), Oliver made just 14 starts at the Double-A level before appearing in his first big league game with the Tigers. The then-22-year-old authored a quality start during his Detroit debut, allowing only two runs while striking out four in 6.0 innings against the Atlanta Braves on June 25, 2010.
Oliver was acquired by the Pirates prior to the 2012 season in a trade that sent catcher Ramon Cabrera to the Motor City. The southpaw most recently spent the 2013 campaign with the Indians, where he tied the Victory Field era single-season strikeout record (138) and set a new mark for single-season walks (112).
The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Casey Sadler out of Western Oklahoma State College in the 25th round (747th overall) of the 2010 MLB Draft.
Along with making his Triple-A debut with Indianapolis last season, the right-hander excelled with Double-A Altoona and earned recognition as the Curve’s Pitcher of the Year. The ground-ball pitcher’s standout campaign featured career highs in wins (11), starts (23) and innings pitched (136.1), as well as a stellar 191 groundouts (110 air) over 479 at-bats.
Sadler was promoted to the Indians on August 30 and made his minor league debut that night against the Louisville Bats. He surrendered only three runs with five strikeouts in six innings pitched in his first Triple-A foray, helping lead the Indians to a 4-3 win.
In the System
Two players to make headlines last season in the Pirates organization are right-handers Nick Kingham and Tyler Glasnow.
Kingham, the 22-year-old out of Sierra Vista High School, has quietly posted solid numbers during his four-year professional career, including a career WHIP of 1.17 (344.1 IP) which ranks between fellow top pitching prospects Gerrit Cole (1.15, 200.0 IP) and Jameson Taillon (1.22, 382.0 IP). After being promoted to Altoona in June, Kingham held the opposition to two earned runs or fewer in 12 of 14 appearances (10 of 12 starts)en route to the fourth-best ERA (2.70) in the Eastern League.
At 20-years-old, Glasnow is becoming one of the Pirates’ top-pitching prospects, reaching a No. 3 ranking in the Pirates organization by Baseball America. The 2013 Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year went 9-3 with a 2.18 ERA (27 ER in 111.1 IP) with the Power last season, while also ranking fourth in all of the minors with his West Virginia franchise-record 164 strikeouts.