The Pittsburgh Pirates have traded right-handed pitcher Buddy Borden to the Tampa Bay Rays to complete the Sean Rodriguez trade. We had Borden ranked 13th overall in our upcoming prospect guide. He pitched for Low-A West Virginia this year, where he had a 3.16 ERA in 126 innings, with 122 strikeouts, a 1.18 WHIP and a .220 BAA. The 22-year-old was a seventh round draft pick of the Pirates in 2013 out of UNLV. His player page can be found here.
UPDATE 4:47 PM: Since he won’t be in the Prospect Guide, here is his player profile from the book:
Most college pitchers in the Pirates’ system end up in Bradenton during their first full season, either right away, or in a mid-season promotion. That wasn’t the case with Borden, despite strong numbers in Jamestown during the 2013 season. He has a fastball that hits 96, and a curveball that works as a strikeout pitch. He also has a changeup that can be average one day. The one thing he lacked heading into the 2014 season was good control of his fastball.
Borden struggled early in the season with his control, posting a 3.7 BB/9 ratio through the month of May. The overall numbers were good, and he had a good strikeout rate, but needed to see some improvements in that one area. This prevented him from a promotion, but allowed him to improve at the same level. He eventually posted a 2.3 BB/9 over the final two months of the season, including four walks in 27 innings in August. He also dominated down the stretch, with a 10.1 K/9 to go with the reduced walks.
If the control holds up, then Borden could be a starter in the majors, with the upside of more than just a back of the rotation guy. He has a projectable frame and a clean delivery, and while he hits mid-90s now, he could one day sit in that range with added strength. Right now he sits in the 89-93 MPH range. He has a curveball that has put up some impressive strikeout numbers, sitting in the low 80s. The curve will only be more effective with better fastball command to set up strikeout counts.
One thing Borden needs to improve is his changeup. The Pirates have shown a trend of really pushing the changeup development when pitchers reach Bradenton. That is where Borden is slated to go in 2015, and the pitch will almost certainly be a focus. He’s got a feel for the pitch, and with some improvements it could eventually be an average offering.
Borden has a chance to be a number three starter in the majors, especially if his fastball command continues to improve. He doesn’t really need the added velocity, as he keeps the ball down in the zone, but a jump to the mid-90s would be a nice bonus. The Pirates could take things slow with his development until he learns the changeup. At that point, he could move quickly through the system.
UPDATE 5:04 PM: I’m not a fan of this deal. We are probably higher on Borden than most, but even without that, the trade value on Rodriguez seemed small. He was designated for assignment, giving the Rays no choice but to deal him. He only has one year of control left, and is coming off a down year. That type of profile doesn’t usually land an actual prospect.
The thought was that the Rays would be getting a Rule 5 guy who wasn’t picked. Borden wasn’t in that situation. Those types of prospects are guys who could be utility players, bench outfielders, or bullpen guys. They are guys like Mel Rojas and Stetson Allie. That type of move would have made sense, because you’re selling low on a bench player in the final year of his deal to get a guy who could be a future bench player, and possibly more. Borden has much more upside than that, and I don’t think the situation surrounding Rodriguez warranted this type of value.