Seedlings to Stars is going to give you a look at the prospects your favorite team is sending to the prestigious Arizona Fall League. We encourage you to follow along and enjoy the commentary and analysis that we come up with regarding these prospects and their potential impact on your favorite team down the road. If you’re not familiar with the eligibility rules or how the rosters are constructed click here for a quick refresher.
As the Pittsburgh Pirates continue their quest for their first winning season in 19 years and perhaps even a playoff birth let’s take a quick moment to check in on the five players the Pirates have invited to the Arizona Fall League to represent them as part of the Scottsdale Scorpions. The list includes a few interesting pieces but for the most part is a group of players who get little in the way of recognition.
Brandon Cumpton – Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the ninth round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of Georgia Institute of Technology.
2012: 152 1/3 innings, 12 wins, 3.84 ERA, 88:46 K/BB
2012 has been a tale of two halves for the 23-year old Cumpton. He started out the year strong logging 100 2/3 innings and posted a solid 3.40 ERA with excellent peripherals including a 63:29 K/BB ratio, a 2.28 GO/AO ratio, and a .234 BAA through July. He was able to limit batters to only 85 hits in that time and served up only five gopher balls. Then the All-Star break happened. Cumpton endured a rough month of August finishing with a 6.37 ERA in 29 2/3 innings with a 15:9 K/BB ratio and a .357 BAA. He has started off September on a better note having made a strong start against Erie where he worked six innings and allowed one run on two hits and struck out three and hopefully righted the ship.
An interesting fact about Cumpton’s 2012 season is that when he has no runners on base he has a miniscule 0.48 ERA but that number jumps to 7.10 with runners on and to 9.96 with runners in scoring position. This is surely a sign that he has a lot learn about pitching from the stretch and that if he can improve his mechanics and approach with runners on base he could improve his stock considerably. Cumpton throws a fastball in the 89-92 mph range and is not afraid to challenge hitters inside, but he needs to continue to work on keeping the ball from sneaking over the middle of the plate. After all, he doesn’t have the velocity to make many mistakes. He also flashes a curveball which looks like an average offering to go along with his change-up which is still a pitch in development, but looks to be at least average or maybe a tick below. His ultimate ceiling is a back of the rotation starter but he may end up in a bullpen role where his fastball will play up his curveball will give him enough to survive. Look to see him in Pittsburgh at some point in 2014 if he stays a starter.
Tyler Waldron – Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the fifth round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of Oregon State University.
2012: 141 2/3 innings, 8 wins, 4.89 ERA, 88:40 K/BB
Funny story about Tyler Waldron; I actually played Little League with his older brother Nick and his dad was my coach. So big ups to the Divide Little League of Northern California! Also a shout out to Coach Waldron, maybe you were right and I should have listened to you more instead of chasing butterflies out in right field!
The 23-year old righty works with a fastball in the low 90′s and can dial it up to 95 mph. He also mixes in a slider, curve, and change-up. His secondary pitches lag behind his fastball and have been ineffective to date. Waldron has a tendency to leave his fastball up in the zone and more advanced hitters have hurt him as a result. Through three minor league seasons he has allowed an average of 9.8 H/9 and 0.9 HR/9 which indicate that batters have been making way too much solid contact off of him and it’s more an issue of command and lack of secondary offerings than anything. The Pirates knew what they were getting with Waldron and I have to imagine that the lumps he has taken are all part of his development. Going forward he needs refine his command with both his fastball and secondary offerings and also improve his consistency. Ultimately he is a good candidate to transition to a relief role which is something he is familiar with from his days at OSU. If he makes the move his velocity will get a boost and he will be able to focus on one breaking pitch and move forward quickly. If the Pirates insist on keeping him in the rotation he will have to move along much slower and is a good candidate to repeat Double-A in 2013.
Matt Curry – Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 16th round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of Texas Christian University.
2012: .287/.354/.479 with 11 HR, 53, R, 78 RBI
The 24-year old Curry is in a bit of a tough spot considering he has performed well with a career .287/.377/.477 line over three minor league seasons, but lacks the kind of home run power that teams generally look for from a first baseman. The lack of power is a reason he has flown under the radar by most mainstream prospect evaluators, but he does offer average defense and doubles pop – the latter is a good sign for future development in the power department. It is also important to remember that Curry was moved quickly in the Pirates organization and skipped High-A altogether. He is definitely a guy to keep an eye on, especially if those doubles start leaving the yard, as the Pirates have very few internal roadblocks (Alex Dickerson?) in Curry’s way. He looks like he would project to be somewhere in the realm of a James Loney, Mike Carp, or David Cooper type 1B where power isn’t his main contribution. His plate approach and doubles power will allow him to still drive runners in he’s clearly not in the mold of a traditional middle-of-the-order bat. Look for him to spend all of 2013 in Triple-A with a chance to break into the majors by 2014.
Gift Ngoepe – Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a non-drafted free agent in 2008 out of South Africa.
2012: .232/.330/.338 with 9 HR, 66 R, 36 RBI, 22 SB
The 22-year old Ngoepe is the first black South African to play professional baseball and has held his own thus far. It would certainly be nice for him to boast a higher batting average, but he has performed well and shown and increase in the power department as he’s developed. He also plays excellent defense at shortstop and is arguably the best defender in the Pirates organization. While defense will be his calling card he is very athletic and his bat is progressing nicely. Ngoepe is still learning the finer points of plate discipline and base running but he flashes a lot of potential.
It is likely in his best interests if the Pirates have him progress through the system level by level to maximize his development time. As a result, it would not surprise me to see the Pirates have him open the 2013 season back with High-A Bradenton where he can continue to refine his plate approach before moving up and finishing the season Double-A. Of course, if he performs well in the Arizona Fall League he has the athleticism to open 2013 in the Eastern League, but regardless of where he starts the season Altoona is where he figures to end it. A realistic ETA in Pittsburgh is mid to late 2014 or 2015 if things continue to progress nicely.
Adalberto Santos – Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of Oregon State University.
2012: .333/.420/.435 with 2 HR, 42 R, 33 RBI, 19 SB
The 24-year old Santos has been a perfect example of a late round treasure. He has strung together a career .322/.405/.464 line across three seasons. He has steadily moved through the Pirates organization finishing 2012 at Double-A Altoona. Santos finished 2012 tied for first in the Eastern League in batting average and posted an excellent 11.7 BB% which, coupled with his excellent contact skills, also helped him boast the highest OBP in the EL. Power is probably never going to be a part of his game but he has shown the ability to get on base, steal a few bags and drives the ball well to the gaps. Our own Nathaniel Stoltz had an interesting article on Santos last season and much of it is still applicable. Look for Santos to open the 2013 season in Triple-A with a chance for a mid-season call up to Pittsburgh.
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