What Has Led to Adrian Sampson’s Breakout Season?

After posting a 2.55 ERA in 24 starts with Altoona this season, Adrian Sampson earned a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis to get in some work and experience before the season ends.

While the first start did not go as planned for Sampson, as he allowed 10 hits and 6 runs in 3.2 innings, his second start looked much better. On Wednesday, Sampson went seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits, while striking out three. With this success, he looks for big things at the new level over the rest of the season. As for carrying over the success, Sampson is looking to continue the recipe that has brought him here.

“[The success is from] being consistent with the fastball down with a good plane on it,” Sampson said. “I have been throwing my other pitches, my changeup and my slider for strikes. It is being overall consistent with those things.”

In 148 innings with Altoona, Sampson had a K/BB ratio of 99:30. In addition, on July 18, Sampson tossed a one-hit complete game shutout and had a no-hitter broke up in the ninth inning.

Sampson knows that a key to his success fits well with an emphasis that the organization places on young pitchers – a fearless ability to work inside.

“Pitching inside is big in the whole organization, and it’s big for myself as well,” Sampson said. “When I don’t do well, I don’t pitch inside enough. This last outing, I pitched inside a lot, but I couldn’t get to the fastball outside.”

While Sampson has never had any issues getting inside to right-handed hitters, working inside to left-handed hitters this season has been his main focus.

“I have no problem getting inside to righties,” Sampson said. “Lefties are what I have been working on this year, getting in on them.”

Along with getting the ball inside to lefties, Sampson said that throwing more changeups to right-handed hitters has been an emphasis this season. In the past, he has worked the changeup primarily to left-handed hitters for swinging strikes and ground balls. In working this into the arsenal, he has gotten the advice of some teammates in Altoona this season.

“I have talked to a lot of hitters in Altoona – Stetson Allie, Keon Broxton,” Sampson said. “That is the hardest pitch because it is coming right at them and drops off. From what I have heard from them, that is probably the most effective pitch to righties.”

The work on his craft has shown for Sampson this season, as he has seen a huge bounce back after a tough 2013 campaign. Sampson posted a 5.14 ERA with Bradenton last season. In 140 innings, he allowed 177 hits and 87 runs, while only striking out 85. As far as his approach, he said that keeping the ball down and locating all of his pitches are the key to his success in 2014.

“I start with fastballs away to make sure that I am on time, getting the ball down and away,” Sampson said. “I can get the ball inside to righties easy, it is just the natural arm path that I have. I try to locate down enough and work on the changeup on both sides of the plate. I try to get the curveball down and for strikes. I try to get comfortable with every pitch.”

Along with getting the experience at Triple-A to prepare better for next season, Sampson is also pleased to work with Indianapolis pitching coach Tom Filer.

“I am just wanting to locate the ball down,” Sampson said. “If I can throw quality pitches, I can get a lot of these guys out. Tom Filer has been helping me out a lot over these last few days. He saw me maybe once in Spring Training, so it is nice to have a new set of eyes on you. I am just fine tuning what I did in Altoona and bringing it to here to get more comfortable for next year.”

Sampson is taking the traditional route for Pirates pitching prospects, with the exception of Gerrit Cole. The organization tends to have pitchers throw around 150 innings at the Double-A level, promoting them late in the season to get a taste of the next level. With this in mind, Sampson will start the 2015 season in the Indianapolis rotation and if the success from 2014 carries over, he will be a candidate for a mid-season call up to Pittsburgh if needed. Sampson is 22 years old and is only in his third professional season, so he is well ahead of the curve. He’s got the chance to be a sleeper middle of the rotation starter, capable of tossing 200 innings per year.

Ryan has been following Indianapolis baseball for most of his life, and the Pirates since they became the affiliate in 2005. He began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2013, in a stint that ran through 2016 (with no service time manipulation played in). Ryan rejoined the team in 2022, covering Indianapolis once again. He has covered the Pirates in four different big league stadiums. Ryan was also fortunate enough to cover the 2015 Futures Game in Cincinnati.

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One thing that is clear from this post is that these young pitchers the Pirates have in the minors care more about perfecting their craft than they do about their stats, just about everything Sampson said revolved around him working on something.


The focus on development and not stats makes glasnow even more awesomer!


So basically his stats were crummy last year because he was trying to nail down a change up, more or less. Is there anyone doing something similar this year that we should expect a breakout from in 2015?


The Pirates stress 3 pitches, so I would bet most of their pitching talent will sacrifice stats to nail down certain pitches, not just change ups.


I can be as guilty as anyone at looking at the stats. I live in Philly so I remember seeing Jessie Biddles stats and comparing them to Taillons and wondering why everyone was considering Taillon a #1 and Biddle a #3 . We’d be fortunate to get a #1 out of Taillon but it’s possible. I think if the Phillies got a #3 out of Biddle they’d be thrilled.


No insider info, but Cody Dickson would fit the mold.

Lee Young

If you have good command and a good change, you will pitch lots of years in the majors.


I have no problem with the Pirates relying on their system to produce their impact players. My problem is their reluctance to give young guys like Sampson a real chance. How are you going to know what they can do if you give them more than a handful of at bats or innings to prove it?

Lee Young

Unless you are an out and out stud prospect pitcher, I have little problem with how the Bucs handle these guys. Let them get their feet wet, have some success, have some failure and then send them back to continue to learn.


I do feel like they took forever to give Locke an extended look for how well he was handling AAA. But these things tend to work themselves out. He’ll get a spot start and then if he performs they’ll keep him up I’d imagine. As of now I think they’ll give Cole, Morton, Worley and Locke an obvious shot at the rotation. They’ll probably sign someone to compete for the 5th spot and then Taillon, Kingham or Sampson will try and take advantedge of an injury in the rotation or a failure on say, Locke or Worley’s part.


Cole was pushed aggressively, and Sampson has been pushed aggressively also. Glasnow would have been pushed more quickly if it wasn’t for the FSL playoff race, and Taillon jumped one level every year after starting his first full year in Low A. So I don’t get why a lot of people think they are slow to move guys. They have been fairly aggressive with their hitters also.

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