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Top 10 Pitchers: Edinson Volquez Has Several Indianapolis Starters Gunning For His Spot


Below are the pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The top ten scores are highlighted in the write-up below. The rankings include every pitcher who made a start for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, with no limitations on whether the starting pitcher has prospect eligibility.

*Game Score is a stat created by Bill James used to determine how good a pitcher’s outing really was. The formula for game score is simple: Start with 50 points, add one point for every out recorded, add two for each inning completed after the fourth, add one point for each strikeout. Subtract two points for each hit, four points for each earned run, two points for each unearned run and one point for each walk. There tends to be an advantage for pitchers who can go longer in the game, as they have more time to pile up strikeouts, while getting bonus points for extra innings beyond the fourth frame.

In terms of pitching game scores, anything that scores a 65 or better is considered a “gem”. The Pirates farm system had five “gems” this week. Nine of the top ten starters all had game scores of 60 or higher. This was much better than recent weeks in the organization. Here are the top performers.

1. Jeff Locke – Locke had an outstanding start this week, throwing seven shutout innings, with just one hit, three walks, and five strikeouts. In his two starts since going up to the majors, he has given up two runs in 14 innings on seven hits, with five walks and ten strikeouts. After a rough start to the season, Locke is slowly making his way back. I’ve advocated for Brandon Cumpton to get a rotation spot over Wandy Rodriguez, and that’s still my stance, despite the good outing from Rodriguez this week (although more good outings from Rodriguez could change that opinion). As for Locke, if Edinson Volquez continues his struggles, then Locke would be the guy I’d turn to. Volquez had four good starts at the beginning of the year, and has since been plagued by the long ball. If that trend continues, then the Pirates might want to consider a switch by mid-season. Or sooner, if the struggles continue to be as extreme as we’ve seen recently.

2. Buddy Borden – I don’t want to call him a breakout prospect just yet, although he is one of the guys I highlighted last week as having a mini-breakout. Borden’s numbers have been fantastic this year, with a 2.23 ERA in 36.1 innings, along with a 34:16 K/BB ratio. He could use a drop in the walks, but on the other side of that, he’s been very hard to hit. Borden threw six no-hit innings this week, giving up four walks and striking out seven. Borden could be a nice sleeper. Last year he was the Mountain West Conference co-pitcher of the year, sharing the honors with Braden Shipley. While Shipley went 15th overall in the 2013 draft, Borden went in the seventh round. The award doesn’t tell the big story, as Shipley has better overall stuff than Borden. Borden needs to further develop his changeup and curveball, with the curve being the pitch that is currently further along. He’s got an electric fastball that tops out at 96. So far, he’s making himself the pitcher to watch in the lower levels this year.

3. Casey Sadler – Sadler’s first start back to Indianapolis didn’t go so well. He gave up four runs on 12 hits in 4.2 innings on May 9th, which was his first start since April 22nd. This time around he did much better, looking like the Casey Sadler who dominated for a 1.67 ERA over four starts in April, before getting called up to the majors for two weeks. Sadler threw six innings with one hit and one unearned run, walking three and striking out seven. On the season, he has a 2.15 ERA in 37.2 innings, with a 28:9 K/BB ratio. That’s even better when you consider that the one bad outing was after a long layoff spent barely pitching in relief. I mentioned Cumpton and Locke as short-term options for the MLB rotation. Sadler could definitely be an option this year.

4. A.J. Morris – Morris joined the Altoona rotation when Zack Dodson went down with an oblique injury. Dodson returned this week, but Morris remained in the rotation. That’s probably because he keeps putting up impressive starts. Last week he was on top of this list for his six shutout innings. This week he came back with seven shutout innings, allowing six hits, one walk, and striking out four. Morris is a little old for Double-A, at age 27, but he’s filling in nicely in Altoona.

5. Orlando Castro – Buddy Borden was near the top of this list for throwing six no-hit innings. On the same night, Orlando Castro threw six perfect innings. The problem was that he came out for the seventh and struggled. Castro led off the inning with a walk, then gave up a single to the next batter, breaking up the no hitter. After a wild pitch and an RBI groundout, Castro was pulled. He was credited for one more run, but his overall performance was excellent.

6. Adrian Sampson – Sampson continues to impress in Altoona, with a 2.32 ERA in 42.2 innings on the season, along with a 33:13 K/BB ratio. This week he threw seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits, with one walk and six strikeouts. We’ve got a feature on Sampson going up on the site tomorrow from Altoona writer, John Kokales.

7. Vance Worley – Worley has been impressive since joining the Indianapolis rotation. He has a 2.84 ERA in 19 innings over his first three starts, with no walks and 14 strikeouts. This week he made the top ten with seven innings of two run ball, giving up six hits and striking out six. Ryan Palencer wrote about Worley last weekend, noting that he feels back on track as a starter after some work with Jim Benedict. Considering Worley’s history in the majors, and his strong 2011-12 seasons, it wouldn’t be out of the question to view him as a potential bounce back guy, and possible rotation depth this year. With Cumpton, Locke, and Sadler, the Pirates wouldn’t have an urgent need for him any time soon, but they could turn to him later in the year.

8. Dovydas Neverauskas – Neverauskas has always been on the prospect radar due to his ability to consistently hit 95 MPH at a young age. And also, because of the awesome name. This week he had two good outings. The first start missed the top ten, but was one of the top 15 starts of the week. The second start was five innings of shutout ball, with four hits, no walks, and two strikeouts. Scott Sypien had a writeup of the stuff he saw from Neverauskas, noting that he was working mostly with the fastball, but that the fastball was a plus offering.

9. Justin Topa – West Virginia has seen some interesting relief pitching prospects turn into interesting starting pitchers the last few years. Last year they saw several guys make that jump, including Jason Creasy, Orlando Castro, and Pat Ludwig. This year, Topa is the first to make the jump to the rotation. He hasn’t been dominating as a starter, but did have a nice outing this week. He’s a hard thrower, and if he has any future, it would be as a reliever. He’s in the rotation right now due to the injury to Luis Heredia, but the fact that he was a long reliever before this shows that the Pirates like him more than just a lower level organizational arm.

10. Tyler Glasnow – I’ve seen the last two starts from Glasnow, and the most recent outing was definitely stronger. He did walk three batters in six innings, but he only gave up one run on five hits, with four strikeouts. Glasnow has mostly been working with the fastball, throwing the pitch 73/82 times in the first start I saw, and 66/83 times the second start. He has also struggled holding runners, going 1-for-8 in caught stealing attempts in those two starts, and that’s entirely on his slow delivery to the plate. You can read my reports from each start here: Game 1, Game 2.

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Tim Williams
Tim Williams
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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