Rookies on the Playoff Teams: Pittsburgh Pirates

Gerrit Cole - Justin K. Aller

The Pittsburgh Pirates rode the talent of rookie starter Gerrit Cole to the playoffs, but also received contributions from other fresh arms.

Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68, Wild Card)

HITTERS:

Jordy Mercer
, INF:
Age 26, Mercer hit .285/.336/.435 with eight homers and 22 doubles in 333 at-bats, while providing steady defense at shortstop and second base. Drafted in the third round in 2008 out of Oklahoma State University, Mercer moved through the farm system slowly but solidified his hold on a job this year. He has a strong throwing arm and more power than many middle infielders.

Tony Sanchez, C:
Drafted in the first round in 2009 from Boston College, Sanchez didn’t live up to early expectations but reached the majors this year after a solid Triple-A campaign (.288/.368/.504 for Indianapolis), hitting .233/.288/.400 in 22 games for Pittsburgh. Age 25, he isn’t deadly against baserunners but is otherwise respected for his receiving skills, and showed more power with the bat this year.

Andrew Lambo, OF:
Drafted by the Dodgers in the fourth round from a California high school in 2007, Lambo was traded to Pittsburgh in 2010. Age 25, his career has been slowed by injuries and personal problems, but he took a large step forward in ’13 by hitting .282/.347/.574 with 32 homers in Double-A/Triple-A. He went 7-for-30 (.233) with a home run in 18 major league games. His plate discipline is questionable but he has enough sock on his bat to be dangerous.

PITCHERS

Gerrit Cole
, RHP:
Drafted first-overall in 2011 out of UCLA, Gerrit Cole had an excellent major league debut, going 10-7, 3.22 ERA with a 100/28 K/BB ratio in 117 innings over 19 starts after being promoted from Triple-A. Interestingly, the 23 year old was actually more dominant at times in the majors than he was in the minor leagues. He has first-class stuff including a 95-97 MPH fastball, a slider, curveball, and changeup, all quality pitches, and his command was very sharp in most outings. He profiles as a rotation anchor going forward and looks like the ace that Pirate fans were longing for.

Justin Wilson, LHP:
A fifth-round pick in 2008 out of Fresno State, 26 year old Wilson was a starter in the minors but moved to relief full-time in 2013, thriving in the Pirates bullpen. He posted a 2.08 ERA with a 59/28 K/BB in 74 innings, allowing a mere 50 hits, thanks to a mid-90s fastball along with a slider and curve. Effective against both left and right-handed hitters, Wilson has closer potential and at the least should be a powerful middle relief option going forward.

Bryan Morris, RHP:
Drafted by the Dodgers in the first round from a Tennessee high school in 2006, Morris was traded to Pittsburgh in 2008. Age 26, he established himself this season with a 3.46 ERA and a 37/28 K/BB in 65 major league relief innings, using a low-to-mid-90s sinker and a hard slider as his key pitches. He’s tough on right-handed hitters but is less effective against lefties and profiles as a middle reliever.

Brandon Cumpton, RHP:
A ninth round pick in 2010 out of Georgia Tech, Cumpton had a fine year in Triple-A (3.32 ERA, 90/44 K/BB in 122 innings) and continued pitching well after moving up to the majors, posting a 2.05 ERA with a 22/5 K/BB in 31 innings over five starts and one relief appearance. A surprise breakthrough prospect, he’s not overpowering with a low-90s sinker, slider, and change, but he throws strikes efficiently and keeps the ball down. Age 24, he has a shot as a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Ryan Reid, RHP:
Originally drafted by the Rays in the seventh round in 2006 out of James Madison, Reid is a 28 year old minor league vet who saw action with the Pirates back in June. He wasn’t bad, posting a 1.64 ERA with a 7/3 K/BB in 11 innings, and he had a good year in Triple-A (2.73 ERA, 56/22 K/BB in 59 innings). Working with a sinker and slider, he picks up grounders and could get more innings as a middle man at some point.

Kris Johnson, LHP:
Johnson was a supplemental first round pick by the Red Sox out of Wichita State in 2006. He made his big league debut with the Pirates at age 28 after a mixed minor league career, but he was having a good season in Triple-A (10-4, 2.39 ERA, 94/43 K/BB in 136 innings for Indianapolis) and earned the shot. He gave up two runs in six innings in his August debut, then shifted to the bullpen for three additional games with mixed results, overall giving up seven runs in 10.1 total innings with a 9/4 K/BB. He works with a low-90s sinker, a slider, and a changeup, profiling as a fifth starter.

Stolmy Pimentel, RHP:
Another refugee from the Boston system, Pimentel was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2006. He took a large step forward this year with a 3.35 ERA and a 123/56 K/BB in 169 innings in Double-A/Triple-A, then looked good in 9.1 innings of major league relief work, giving up two earned runs with a 9/2 K/BB. He can hit the mid-90s and showed better consistency with his slider and changeup this year. He could be dominant in the bullpen but still has a shot at becoming a starter given that he’s still just 23.

Phil Irwin, RHP
: A 21st round pick in 2009 from the University of Mississippi, 26 year old Irwin looked like a sleeper in spring training and made one major league start early in the year before going down with an arm injury that required ulnar nerve transposition surgery. When healthy, he throws strikes with an upper-80s/low 90s fastball, a good curveball, and a changeup.


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