By John Perrotto
The Pirates, until this season, hadn’t given their fans much reason for hope since the dawn of the new millennium. That is what happens when a franchise reaches the depths of losing 90-plus games year after year.
However, the Pirates are giving the faithful reason to hope this year and it goes beyond the fact that they are a respectable 30-31. They have the makings of a potentially devastating starting rotation. Imagine the Pirates going into a World Series later in the decade with a foursome of right-handers Stetson Allie, Gerrit Cole, Luis Heredia and Jameson Taillon.
Of course, this all comes with the caveat that predicting future success for pitching prospects is next to impossible because of injury and inconsistency. Yet if those four, who are all 20 or younger, can somehow both survive and thrive in the upcoming years then the Pirates might be hard to beat at some point down the road.
Let’s take a look at the potential fearsome foursome through the lenses of various scouts who have seen each of them pitch:
How acquired: Second round of the 2010 draft.
Signing bonus: $2.25 million.
Pitches: Fastball that reaches 100 mph and a slider.
Scout’s take: “He’s got a big, big arm but he doesn’t have a lot of polish. He was more of a third baseman in high school and he’s still learning how to pitch. He needs a lot of work on his mechanics. He needs to develop a changeup if he wants to be a starter and that’s always difficult for a young pitcher. He might wind up in the bullpen, where he’d be great, but I think the Pirates are going to give him every chance to make it as a starter.”
How acquired: First overall pick of the 2011 draft.
Signing bonus: To be determined.
Pitches: Fastball that reaches 99 mph, a slider and a changeup.
Scout’s take: “He’s got a lot of upside but he’s not as polished as most college pitchers. His mechanics get out of whack easily and he doesn’t have a feel for his changeup. That being said, he’s can really run his fastball up there in a hurry and you can’t teach that. I’m not 100 percent sure he will a starter but, at worse, he would be an above-average late-inning reliever in the major leagues.”
How acquired: Signed as a free agent from Mexico in 2010.
Signing bonus: $2.6 million.
Pitches: Fastball that reaches 93 mph, a curveball, a slider and a changeup.
Scout’s take: “He’s just 16 years so he is still very projectable and is only to get better. There is a lot to like about him. One is that he is 6-foot-6 and 185 pounds and hasn’t stopped growing, so he could really turn into a physical specimen and add velocity to his fastball as he gains more strength. You also have to like he is already a four-pitch pitcher at such a young age and he consistently throws strikes with all of them except the slider. The sky truly is the limit for this kid.”
How acquired: Second overall pick of the 2010 draft.
Signing bonus: $6.5 millon.
Pitches: A fastball that reaches 99 mph, a curveball, a slider and a changeup.
Scout’s take: “You can’t help but love him. He’s 6-foot-7 and throws on a downhill plane that makes it seem like he is coming right on top of the hitter. He has three plus pitches already and the changeup is getting better. He has outstanding command and control; he doesn’t walk guys and he throws quality strikes. He’s a smart kid and a fast learner, who doesn’t ever seem to make the same mistake twice. He’s just tremendous, a No. 1 starter in the making.”
We asked a dozen scouts and front-office types to rank the four pitchers and here were the final results of the poll:
As one front-office person put it: “I think any organization would take any of the four in a heartbeat.”