1. Skip Schumaker – LF
2. Yasiel Puig – RF
3. Adrian Gonzalez – 1B
4. Hanley Ramirez – SS
5. Andre Ethier – CF
6. Mark Ellis – 2B
7. Juan Uribe – 3B
8. A.J. Ellis – C
9. Clayton Kershaw – P
1. Alex Presley – LF
2. Jordy Mercer – SS
3. Andrew McCutchen – CF
4. Gaby Sanchez – 1B
5. Russell Martin – C
6. Neil Walker – 2B
7. Pedro Alvarez – 3B
8. Brandon Inge – RF
9. Brandon Cumpton – P
Cumpton is 24 years-old and has a solid pitcher’s frame, standing at 6-foot-2 and a tick under 200 pounds. As is typical with almost any prospect in the Pirates’ system, Cumpton has moved slowly throughout the minors since making his pro debut in the New York Penn League the same year he was drafted. He’s touched every level and experienced moderate success before advancing. In total, the right-hander has posted a 3.85 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 371 1/3 career minor league innings.
While these numbers aren’t spectacular, the peripheral info suggests he can excel in the exact role he was drafted to fill: Add depth with a hint of upside and potential to thrive as a middle relief option.
The Pirates should be content if a college righty with average stuff drafted in the ninth round can be effective — even if just for today. And given his acceptable control (career 2.22 K/BB) and ground-ball-inducing pitches (3:1 GO/AO in 2013), there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to hold his own as a spot starter.
For a team dying to maintain its early success, which was built on strong pitching, and keep pace in baseball’s toughest division, the Pirates need to have reliable depth from guys like Cumpton, Andy Oliver and, yes, Gerrit Cole.
Obviously Cole has incredibly higher expectations than Cumpton — and as a 1-1 draft pick his career value has substantial implications on the future of the Pirates — but I actually think their debuts/performance could be similar in the very short term.
Cumpton’s fastball sits at 90-93 and he throws a mid-80s slider and low-80s change up, according to Tim Williams (who offers a great scouting report on Cumpton here). So although Cole’s stuff is clearly superior, the two pitchers have produced comparable results.
The Dodgers are the seventh-toughest team in all of baseball to strike out and they are in the dead middle of the pack in taking walks.
Like we saw with Cole on Tuesday, I expect Cumpton to pound the strike zone and be as efficient as possible. But since Cumpton features less dominating stuff, he’ll be easier to hit.
Few strikeouts, few walks, lots of balls in play — especially on the ground — where the Pirates defense can help the rookie pitcher out (except in right field, where Brandon Inge is embarrassing himself tonight).
That Clayton Kershaw also starts today has to add extra stress to Cumpton’s debut. It’ll be tough for Pittsburgh to do much against the Dodgers’ talented lefty, so Cumpton has to be absurdly sharp to out-duel his mound opponent.
If the Pirates are going to avoid another collapse like they have the past couple years, Cumpton will have to be one of several guys who come up and prevent the pitching staff from completely disintegrating after injury/ineffectiveness. Today is the first true test (Cole’s debut was inevitable this year) of that depth.
I’m at the game to watch Cumpton and the Bucs try to win the second game of the weekend set, so I’ll be sure to keep notes of the evening.