In 2009, the University of Mississippi had a rotation that was led by future 1st round draft pick, and top prospect, Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz would go on to be drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the first round of the 2010 draft, and was recently ranked as the 14th best prospect in the game by Baseball America. The second and third best starters in the 2009 Mississippi rotation were Nathan Baker and Phillip Irwin. Baker was selected by the Pirates in the 5th round that year, and Irwin was taken in the 21st round.
Irwin was easily the third best of the group in 2009. The right hander threw 87-88 MPH, and didn’t really have standout stuff. He had success in State College in 2009, with a 2.12 ERA in 29.2 innings, along with a 9.7 K/9 and a 1.8 BB/9 ratio. In 2010 he moved up to West Virginia, where he continued his success, with a 3.35 ERA in 113 innings, along with an 8.8 K/9 and a 1.6 BB/9.
Irwin made a big change while with West Virginia, taking his fastball from the upper 80s, to the 92-93 MPH range. That might have led to his success this year in high-A, where he had a 2.03 ERA in 53.1 innings, along with a 40:12 K/BB ratio. Irwin was moved up to the AA level, where he has a 3.45 ERA in 28.2 innings an a 21:3 K/BB ratio after last night’s start.
The performance at the AA level is the most important for Irwin. He came from the college ranks, and is currently 24 years old. He should be at the AA level at this point, set to make the jump to AAA next year. His stuff still isn’t overwhelming, although he pounds the strike zone, and does manage a lot of strikeouts with his mix of pitches. He almost profiles as a Jeff Karstens type pitcher, in that he doesn’t have the best stuff, but he still manages to put up strong results. If he can continue his success in the upper levels, he might have a shot at being a back of the rotation starter in the majors one day.