Minor League Prospect Note: Phil Irwin, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
When Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospects are discussed, Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon (just promoted to Double-A today), and Luis Heredia rightfully get most of the attention. However, there are other successful pitchers in the system who qualify as sleepers, and one of them is right-hander Phil Irwin, who was just promoted to the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians.
Before his promotion, Irwin posted a 2.93 ERA in 18 starts for Double-A Altoona, with an 83/17 K/BB in 104 innings, 97 hits allowed, and a 1.64 GO/AO.
Irwin had a successful season for the University of Mississippi in 2009, going 8-3 with a 3.84 ERA and a 73/20 K/BB in 87 innings. His fastball wasn't special however, so he lasted until the 21st round in the draft. He was solid in Low-A in '10 (3.35 ERA, 111/20 K/BB in 113 innings), then went 5-0, 2.03 in 10 starts in High-A in '11 (40/12 K/BB in 53 innings). Moved up to Altoona, he went 8-4, 3.81 with a 69/10 K/BB in 87 innings, followed by his performance this spring.
Irwin's fastball isn't especially fast, in the upper-80s, sometimes low-90. He mixes in a slider, slow curve, and changeup. Although none of his pitches are spectacular, he keeps the ball down, changes speeds, and hates walks with a passion. In 192 Double-A innings over the last two years, he's posted a 3.33 ERA with a 152/27 K/BB and 188 hits allowed.
If he handles Triple-A, Irwin could see action in the back of rotation or in the bullpen in 2013. His ability to throw strikes could be very useful.