Analyzing the Strengths and Weakness of Pirates' Top 4 Pitching Prospects
The Pittsburgh Pirates are one of only a handful of teams that have both a farm system filled with potential stars and a major league roster stacked with winners.
Due to great pitching and timely hitting, Pittsburgh has been extremely hot as of late, winning nine of its last 12 games.
The Pirates have had a variety of homegrown talent come up and pitch well over the last few years, and that is why Pittsburgh's bullpen is now widely regarded as one of the best in the league.
According to a report issued by Baseball America prior to the start of the 2014 regular season, four players in the organization's top 10 prospects are pitchers.
Now, let's take a look at each pitching prospects' strengths and weaknesses.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
4. Luis Heredia, RHP
Luis Heredia made his minor league debut in 2011, going 1-2 with an earned run average of 4.75 in 12 games.
He was only 16 at the time.
Now, the 19-year-old is pitching for Class A West Virginia Power, but he has struggled early on in 2014. In eight starts, the righty is 1-2 with a 4.54 ERA.
Pitching for West Virginia in 2013, Heredia was dominant, going 7-3 with a 3.05 ERA in 14 games pitched.
So, what is the problem this season? Let's take a look at his strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths: Solid frame, Ability to strike out batters
According to Baseball Reference, Heredia stands tall at 6'6" and 205 pounds.
In 2013, Heredia struck out an average of 7.6 batters per nine innings pitched. This year, however, his numbers are down in almost all categories.
Weaknesses: Lack of control, Tendency to give up the long ball, Potential arm trouble
Over his last two seasons, Heredia has consistently struggled to find the plate, and his high number of walks has hurt his performance.
In 2013, Heredia walked 37 batters in 65.0 innings pitched. That equates to an average of a whopping 5.1 walks per nine innings pitched.
This season, things haven't improved. In 35.2 innings pitched, Heredia has surrendered 18 free passes, which is an average of 4.5 walks per nine innings.
Heredia has also given up five home runs in eight starts this season, which may not seem like a terrible statistic, however, he has allowed two home runs in two separate starts. He also has allowed five earned runs in both of those starts.
According to Jake Seiner of MiLB.com, Heredia left a game in early April after throwing only one pitch due to discomfort in his right shoulder.
Since that day, no setbacks have occurred, and Heredia has continued to make his scheduled starts.
Perhaps there is an underlying issue with his shoulder that is causing his stuff to be ineffective. Either way, the Pirates have to be hoping that the organization's No. 10 prospect doesn't turn out to be a bust.
3. Nick Kingham, RHP
So far in 2014, it looks like Nick Kingham is the real deal.
Kingham was drafted by Pittsburgh in the fourth round of the 2010 June MLB draft, and he is making his way through the ranks in the minors.
Strengths: Impeccable control, Ability to keep the ball in the park
Kingham has displayed great command of all of his pitches over his five minor league seasons, averaging just 2.5 walks per nine innings pitched.
Most impressive about him, however, is his walks and hits per innings pitched, which is 1.17 over his career.
Kingham has allowed just three home runs in 16 starts this season, which is partially the reason his ERA sits at an impressively low 2.30.
After starting 12 games for Double-A Altoona and pitching to a 3.04 ERA, Kingham was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis.
In four starts there, the 22-year-old is 2-0 with a 0.34 ERA.
The way he is pitching right now, Kingham may make his major league debut before the 2014 regular season ends.
Weaknesses: Allows a lot of hits
Kingham's WHIP is tremendous, but he does allow a lot of hits.
Over his five-year career in the minors, Kingham has yielded an average of 8.0 hits per nine innings, which is almost one hit every inning.
Thanks to a low number of walks, however, Kingham's allowance of hits hasn't really affected him, as he usually doesn't allow multiple hits per inning.
2. Tyler Glasnow, RHP
Tyler Glasnow made his professional debut in 2012 after being drafted by Pittsburgh in the fifth round of the 2011 MLB draft.
Currently in his third minor league season, the 20-year-old looks like he has all the makings of a future ace.
Strengths: High number of strikeouts, Low ERA
Glasnow has been a dominant force on the mound for three minor league seasons, averaging 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
In 111.1 innings pitched in 2013, Glasnow fanned 164 batters, which was good for an average 13.3 strikeouts per nine.
Glasnow has also posted an ERA of 1.99 in three professional seasons, which is just remarkable.
With these assets, it is easy to see why Glasnow could seriously be the ace of the Pirates staff in the near future.
Weaknesses: A lot of walks and wild pitches
As is true with a lot of strikeout pitchers, Glasnow does allow a rather high number of walks.
In 2013, Glasnow walked 61 batters in 111.1 innings pitched, an average of 4.9 walks per nine innings. That number has actually increased in 2014, as he is averaging 5.6 walks per nine.
Over his career, Glasnow has averaged 4.9 walks per nine with 114 walks in 208.0 innings pitched.
He has also been a bit erratic at times on the mound, throwing 11 wild pitches in 2013—three already this season.
Still, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives in Glasnow's case, and he may be the next pitching prospect to contribute to the organization's success at the major league level.
1. Jameson Taillon, RHP
Over the last few seasons, we have seen the influx of elbow injuries leading to Tommy John surgery in Major League Baseball.
For Pittsburgh's top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon, disaster ensued as Tom Singer of MLB.com reported that he would undergo the procedure and miss the entire 2014 season.
As long as the recovery process goes as planned, the strengths outweigh the weaknesses for Taillon as well.
Strengths: High stamina, great control
Taillon has displayed a strong arm and a willingness to never quit on the mound, pitching two complete games in 2012. That is why his arm injury came as a surprise to many, including myself.
One of Taillon's greatest strengths is his ability to find the strike zone, which he has done his entire professional career.
Taillon has averaged just 2.6 walks per nine innings pitched, walking a total of 112 batters in 382.0 innings.
Weaknesses: Elbow problem
This was a pretty obvious one, but it had to be discussed, as Taillon doesn't have much of a downside other than that.
Tommy John surgery has allowed many pitchers to return to the mound and continue with successful careers. However, undergoing the procedure is still a gamble.
Taillon had so much potential prior to this injury, and perhaps he can return to form next season as he looks to complete his journey to the majors.