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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Top 10 Pitchers: A Group of Lefties at the Top of the Pitching Ranks Last Week

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. Here are the top performers.

1. Adam Wilk – Wilk pitched his first complete game shutout on Sunday, and also took the highest game score of the week. The lefty has a 4.19 ERA in 105.1 innings this year, with a 73:28 K/BB ratio. He’s been strong against lefties, with a .232 BAA. Wilk could provide the Pirates with some depth as a lefty reliever this year, although he would have to wait for September, or an injury to Tony Watson or Justin Wilson for that to happen.

2. Cody Dickson – Dickson came into the year with a lot of promise, but hasn’t shown the results you want to see. He’s starting to turn things around lately, putting up some much better results. He took the number two game score this week after throwing seven shutout innings, with seven strikeouts. In his last four starts he has a 1.99 ERA in 22.2 innings, with a 17:7 K/BB ratio. Dickson has some good stuff for a lefty, but lacks control at times. West Virginia has seen a lot of pitchers over the last few years who have struggled with control in the first half, only to see that control improved in the second half. Dickson is off to a good start to the second half in that regard.

3. Chad Kuhl – Kuhl pitched seven shutout innings for the second time in his last three starts. On the season he has a 3.55 ERA in 96.1 innings, but in his last ten games he has a 2.61 ERA in 62 innings. He’s a ground ball machine, with a 2:1 GO/AO ratio in those last ten starts and a 60% ground ball rate on the season. He could be a candidate to move up to Altoona by the end of the year, and is definitely a candidate to move up for the start of the 2015 season.

4. Orlando Castro – Castro has been posting some strong results this season, outside of two outings at the start of June where he combined for 12 runs in 8.1 innings. In his three starts since then, he has given up one earned run in 19 innings, with a 13:0 K/BB ratio. He’s another candidate to move up to Altoona by the end of the year, and looks like a stronger candidate than Kuhl.

5. Junior Lopez – Lopez didn’t make a start this week, but worked in a piggyback role in Bristol. In his first outing, he threw five shutout innings, with one hit, no walks, and five strikeouts. The second outing saw him giving up two runs on three hits in four innings, with a walk and five strikeouts. Lopez has a 3.77 ERA in 14.1 innings this year, with a 13:1 K/BB ratio.

6. Pat Ludwig – Ludwig has struggled in his move to Altoona, but had a good start this week. He gave up one run on five hits in six innings, with no walks and six strikeouts. He’s got the chance to make the majors as relief pitching depth. He needs to put up better numbers in the Altoona rotation, as Bradenton has several starters who could challenge for a promotion and a rotation spot.

7. Joan Montero – Montero was always an intriguing guy in the lower levels, with a mid-90s fastball. He lacked control, which looked like it could hold him back from the upper levels. Now he’s starting in Altoona, and while the control issues are still there, he’s putting up decent results. He has a 4.18 ERA in 23.2 innings over five starts, including a start this week where he gave up one run in six innings. The fastball gives him a chance at being a reliever in the majors one day, but he’s going to need to fix the control issues.

8t. Adrian Sampson – Sampson has been great all year, and continued his strong season with one run in six innings last week. He has 106 innings in Altoona after his start on Monday. The Pirates usually give starters about a full season of work at the Double-A level, so don’t expect a promotion for Sampson this year, despite the strong numbers.

8t. Adrian Grullon – Grullon made his first start since June 20th, and only threw two innings. The two innings were perfect, with four strikeouts. In his two appearances this year, Grullon has 5.2 shutout innings, with no hits, one walk, and six strikeouts. He’s a tall, projectable pitcher with a fastball that hits low 90s and a good breaking pitch. Now that he’s back to pitching, he’ll be one of the most interesting starters in Bristol.

10t. Jason Creasy – Creasy has put up impressive numbers this year, but the most impressive thing might be his control. He struck out eight and didn’t allow a walk in his start last week. That marks four starts in a row and 25.2 innings where he didn’t allow a walk. He has just five walks allowed in 56 innings over his last ten games, and a 1.3 BB/9 ratio in 91.1 innings this season.

10t. Frank Duncan – Duncan was a 13th round pick in the 2014 draft, and has been working as a starter in Jamestown. He made his first start with five complete innings this week, giving up one run on four hits. Duncan has struggled in his previous outings, so this might be a chance for him to turn his season around.

10t. Jon Sandfort – Sandfort has rotated this season between a good start and a disaster start. He gave up one run in five innings, with no walks and five strikeouts in his first start of the year. His second start saw seven runs in three innings. The third start, which happened last week, saw one run in four innings, with a walk and six strikeouts. He started the current week with six runs in 0.1 innings. Sandfort has some great stuff, but needs to get some consistency.

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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.


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