Spring Training Preview: Starters

WEEK 2: STARTING PITCHERS IN THE PIRATES ORGANIZATION

Starting pitching may be the Indianapolis Indians’ parent club’s biggest strength at camp this Spring Training. With four “homegrown” starters in the system and one hometown face from Indianapolis, the Pirates boast a talented Triple-A billing in right-handers Brandon Cumpton, Nick Kingham, Casey Sadler and Adrian Sampson and lefty Clayton Richard. 

Potential Indians Starters:

Brandon Cumpton (RHP)

Brandon Cumpton was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the ninth round (267th overall) of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

The Georgia Tech alum Cumpton surprised with his immediate success at both the Triple-A level and in the Majors. Originally slated for a second consecutive season with Double-A Altoona in 2013, Cumpton made just two starts with the Curve before receiving a promotion for his Triple-A debut. The 26 year old went on to rank seventh in the International League with a 3.32 ERA while also posting an incredible 2.05 ERA in five big league games (four starts) during his first taste of action with the Pirates in 2013. His breakout year also included etching himself in Pittsburgh’s record books by becoming the first National League pitcher to begin his career with four straight strikeouts since the Dodgers’ Pete Richert accomplished the rare feat back in 1962.

Cumpton returned to the Indians in 2014 as arguably the staff’s ace through the beginning of the season. Although he made just 12 Triple-A starts last year, the right-hander was just as good as advertised during his limited action, authoring quality starts (no more than 3 ER over at least 6.0 IP) in nine of his 11 assignments with the Indians. The Augusta, Georgia native delivered similar numbers for the Pirates, and aside from a tough outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 31, turned in a 3.80 ERA in his remaining 15 MLB appearances.

Status: Attending camp as a member of Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster.


Nick Kingham (RHP)

Nick Kingham was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the fourth round (117th overall) of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

A relative under-the-radar prospect during his debut, Kingham made his presence felt in the early stages of his career to skyrocket to his current ranking as the Pirates’ No. 6 farmhand entering 2015. The righty led Pittsburgh’s organization with a 2.15 ERA during his first full season in the pros in 2011, made a career-high 27 starts with Lo-A West Virginia in 2012 and earned a Midseason All-Star selection with Hi-A Bradenton in 2013. At just 22 years of age, Kingham’s outstanding early run in the minors was highlighted by ranking just between fellow top farmhands Gerrit Cole (1.15) and Jameson Taillon (1.22) with his career WHIP of 1.17 prior to 2014.

The native of Sierra Vista, Nevada only continued to excel upon reaching the Triple-A Tribe during the most recent season. After pacing his eventual promotion the Indians with a top-10 ERA in the Double-A Eastern League, Kingham nullified the notion of a learning curve by striking out eight batters over seven shutout innings in his Triple-A debut on June 13 against the Durham Bulls. When the dust finally settled from his dominant 2014, Kingham had ranked first in the International League in opponents’ batting average (.213), tied for second in WHIP (1.1) and fifth in strikeouts (65) since his Tribe debut.

Status: Attending camp as a member of Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster.


Clayton Richard (LHP)

Clayton Richard was originally selected by the Chicago White Sox in the eighth round (245th overall) over the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.

A new face to the Pirates organization but far-from stranger to the Indianapolis area, Richard is set to return to his hometown team where the McCutheon high school alum became first player to be named both Indiana Mr. Football (2002) and Mr. Baseball (2003). Since departing for the pros, the MLB veteran has worked around two injuries to enjoy a prosperous career with 46 Major League wins, more than 700 innings of action at the big league level and 480 strikeouts between the Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres. In addition, he is currently just two seasons removed from his 2012 form in which he led the entire National League with 33 starts for the NL West’s Padres.

Last year, the hometown hero Richard was limited to four Minor League starts while recovering from his most recent shoulder surgery. He worked up to 80+ pitches in each of his final two starts of the season in 2014, and ended the campaign with a quality start and a victory in his lone Triple-A appearance with Reno on Aug. 28. The southpaw now heads to Spring Training with Pittsburgh via his Minor League contract and invite to big league camp from Dec. 5, 2014.

Status: Non-roster invitee to big-league camp.


Casey Sadler (RHP)

Casey Sadler was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 25th round (747th overall) of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

Sadler has steadily progressed each season during his career to climb to both the Indians and big leagues. Originally selected out of Western Oklahoma State Community College, the late-round pick began his pro career as a reliever with Short-Season State College (2010) and Lo-A West Virginia before transitioning to an everyday starter with Hi-A Bradenton, beginning with the 2012 season. Clearly comfortable in his new-found role, Sadler took his fifth-ranked WHIP (1.23) and 10th-best ERA (3.73) from the Florida State League in 2012 to become Double-A Altoona’s Starting Pitcher of the Year in 2013.

Now coming off his age-24 campaign in 2014, Sadler has added an additional accolade to his already strong pro resume —  Indians’ Starting Pitcher of the Year. The right-handed hurler didn’t blink while picking up his second consecutive Pitcher of the Year award and wrapped up a full season in the International League with a Midseason All-Star selection and the league’s third-best ERA of 3.03. Sadler would also put a final stamp on the season with his Major League debut in Pittsburgh on May 2 vs. the Toronto Blue Jays.

Status: Attending camp as a member of Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster.


Adrian Sampson (RHP)

Adrian Sampson was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 5th round (166th overall) of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.

The youngest of the aforementioned bunch, Sampson has made the most of his still-limited opportunities to reach the Triple-A level after just 59 appearances (57 starts) in the Minor Leagues. That is, 59 “effective” appearances, as the righty earned recognition from Baseball America as a Top-30 prospect in the Pirates’ chain following both the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Behind his knack for control and location of his pitches, Sampson led Short-Season State college in strikeouts (44) during his pro debut and ranked first among all Florida State League starters with just 1.40 walks per his nine innings pitched in 2013.

The Redmond, Washington native then officially introduced himself to his fellow Pittsburgh farmhands in 2014 while spending the majority of his second full season with Altoona. Sampson set career highs in wins, starts, innings and strikeouts last year, and also ranked tied for third among Pirates minor leaguers with those 11 wins, fourth with his 2.96 ERA and fourth with 109 punchouts. The 23 year old will now arrive at Spring Training having earned a selection as both a Mid and Postseason All-Star with the Curve en route to his Triple-A debut with the Tribe.

Status: Attending camp as a member of Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster.


In the System

Other notable starters in the Pirates’ organization include RHP Jameson Taillon, the No. 2 overall farmhand in the club’s system according to Baseball America, and RHP Tyler Glasnow, the top prospect in Pittsburgh’s chain.

Tribe fans may be familiar with Taillon as the righty made his highly-anticipated Triple-A debut with the Indians in 2013 before undergoing Tommy John surgery that following offseason. Glasnow, the fellow on-the-rise righty, is a two-time Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year whose strikeout “stuff” may boost the 21 year old to the Tribe’s roster as soon as late 2015/early 2016.

glasnow
After making his 2014 debut on April 25, Tyler Glasnow led all of the minors with 157 strikeouts. (Photo: MLB.com)

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