The guy with the best strikeout rate in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system last year was a big surprise. It wasn’t top prospect Tyler Glasnow, who had an 11.4 K/9 ratio. It wasn’t breakout reliever John Holdzkom, who combined for a 12.5 K/9 between Double-A, Triple-A, and the majors. It wasn’t any of the other number of top pitching prospects the Pirates had coming into the year.
The guy with the best strikeout rate was John Sever.
You might not know who that is, and it might be due to the fact that Sever entered the system with very little fanfare. He was drafted in the 20th round last year as a left-handed pitcher out of Bethune-Cookman University. He signed four days after the draft ended, and was assigned to the Bristol rotation, which is an assignment that you don’t usually see a prospect receiving. By the end of the year, Sever worked his way into the rotation, posting a 1.33 ERA in 40.2 innings, with a 13.9 K/9 ratio.
Granted, this all comes with the disclaimer that he’s a lefty in the lower levels, pitching in a league that is mostly made up of college players (Sever was 20 years old, right around the average age of 20.3 in the Appalachian League). But he obviously gained the attention of the Pirates, getting moved to the rotation. He’s currently on track to make the jump to West Virginia, which is a level full of starting candidates, but no one who can lock down a spot in the rotation. That means he’s got a shot at a lot of innings, likely in a piggyback role.
I talked with Sever about his 2014 season, how his Spring was going, and got some video of his live batting practice against 2014 draft picks Michael Suchy and Cole Tucker. All of that can be seen in the short video below.
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.
Having watched this young man since the 7th grade, he is the real deal. Solid mechanics, good movement and just enough of the goofiness that is required to be a successful pitcher. The Pirates will do well to feed this young man a steady diet of improved competition until he gets to the big club.
Michael: Thanks for the input. Not many draftees from HBCU’s like Bethune-Cookman, and the Pirates drafted both he and RHSP, Montana DuRapau in 2014. That is a sign of some excellent scouting. Sever was the 4th best prospect in the Florida Collegiate League in 2013, but did not do very well at B-C in 2014, so the Pirates obviously liked what they saw. It would be nice to see them both at West Virginia this year.
Did Sever start college at Embry-Riddle? Any D-1 offers out of HS?
Seems like a very unassuming and humble young man….I will be pulling for him to keep proving people wrong.
Tim or John – I noticed Sever is listed as 6’5″ 190. At his age, do you still consider him a candidate to “add muscle” and pick up some velocity? I mean, he does vibe in a lot of ways as that “projectability” type pitcher the Bucs love, and who very occasionally turn into Glasnows and Kinghams…
6’5″ 190 is close to Chris Sale territory.
Well he is still 21 years old for most of this upcoming season, so there is time for him to add muscle, which will help him add stamina/innings. Most college players can still fill out a little and he looks like he has room for some extra muscle. He may actually add velocity from the change he mentioned in the video. What he has now isn’t bad for a lefty, as long as he can maintain low 90’s, touching 93 MPH. If he does it with control, movement, downhill plane and add polish to his secondary stuff, he could be a real sleeper prospect/great late round pick.
I feel like 92-93 is the sweet spot for a lefty fastball if he has good deception or movement. I seem to recall from his player page that he was not conistently throwing more than 90mph last year?
All the reports we got were saying sitting low-90’s, but one said “hitting 93 MPH”, so I’d say that means he is usually sitting 90-91 and can get it up there a little quicker if he needs to. Most pitchers don’t top out where they sit(that would be very rare), usually there is 1-2 MPH difference, so he could be 90-92 usually.
Have to imagine these otherwise obscure players in low minors are loving the features Tim is putting together on them.
I’m pretty sure the loyal followers of this site are enjoying it. I know I am. Good to hear them speak about themselves, and also nice to hear from coaches, too.
Sounds like another promising kid, and perhaps a guy who can burn into our noteworthy prospects if he keeps pitching like that against better competition. Obviously, there are some reservations surrounding gaudy numbers in Bristol, but missing that many bats is always encouraging.
Tim, do you have any idea what his velocity is?
He was hitting 93 MPH with Bristol. One other thing with Sever not mentioned, he was young for a college junior. They made a big deal about Tucker being young for the draft class(9th youngest), but Sever is less than three years older than him(by 23 days), so that is something else in his favor.
As long as he severs the connection of bat to ball all will be well.
pitching depth, esp LHPs are always welcome. Maybe he’ll be as good as the last guy named Sever, er ah, Seaver. (I can dream…lol)
That’s an “A” for effort!