Phil irwin will make his major league debut today for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here is the prospect note I wrote up for him about a month ago, describing his background and status as a sleeper prospect.
Pittsburgh Pirates right-handed pitching prospect Phil Irwin is getting some attention lately due to a strong spring training performance. He's thrown eight innings this spring, with a 9/2 K/BB and three runs allowed. Yes, spring training stats don't mean much as Charlie Wilmoth points out, but Irwin is being noticed for more than just the numbers. Fangraphs has a good piece on the quality breaking ball he's been showing, including video.
I liked Irwin as a sleeper entering 2013. Here is what I wrote about him in the 2013 Baseball Prospect Book.
Phil Irwin, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-3 WT: 220 DOB: February 25, 1987
2011: Grade C; 2012: Grade C
SLEEPER ALERT!! Mention Pirates pitching prospects, and everyone thinks "Jameson Taillon, Gerrit Cole, Luis Heredia" plus a bunch of other intriguing live arms. One name that doesn't get mentioned much is Phil Irwin, yet Irwin will beat some of the bigger names to the majors and could be surprisingly successful.
Drafted in the 21st round from the University of Mississippi in 2009, he has moved slowly but steadily through the system, finishing 2012 with a strong flourish in Triple-A. He doesn't have tremendous stuff, working with an 88-91 MPH sinker, mixing in a slider, curveball, and changeup. Nothing is plus, but he mixes it up well, hits his spots, and keeps the ball down, avoiding excessive walks and home runs. He's pitched well at every level, and it would not surprise me at all to see him thrive as a fourth/fifth starter or relief option. The only real negative is the lack of a big fastball, but the guy knows how to pitch. Grade C+.
In 414 career minor league innings, Irwin has a 369/72 K/BB, with 383 hits allowed, just 30 homers given up, and a 3.02 ERA. That includes a 111/24 K/BB in 125 innings last year between Double-A and Triple-A with a composite 2.83 ERA.
Irwin doesn't have the fastball to excite scouts, but he eats innings, throws strikes, and keeps hitters off-balance with his ability to change speeds. He is definitely a candidate to sneak up on us while everyone is watching the more-heralded prospects.