When you’re a starting pitcher and you allow no earned runs over the course of a month, you probably have a good chance of being named as our Pitcher of the Month. Scooter Hightower is no strange to finishing off the season strong. He was our Pitcher of the Month last August while with Morgantown. Besides the zero earned runs allowed, what makes his August 2018 so special is the fact that he is three levels higher than where he was one year ago at this time. Add in the fact that Altoona was in a playoff race for the entire month, and that is why Scooter Hightower is the Pirates Prospect Pitcher of the Month for August.
Hightower went into August with a 6.59 ERA in his first four appearances with Altoona. It was somewhat understandable because he was pitching strictly in relief in Bradenton and then the Curve had him starting games shortly after he arrived. That ERA was coming from someone who dominated the Florida State League though. He posted a 1.47 ERA in 30.1 innings in High-A, with an 0.88 WHIP, a .211 BAA and 35 strikeouts. Basically, he earned the promotion.
The first start for Hightower in August was four innings in Harrisburg, where he allowed two hits, two walks and had one strikeout. Five days later, he had an odd outing. A batter called for time as Hightower was already in his windup and he went through with the pitch, which ended up high and inside. It didn’t look intentional, didn’t really come close to the batter and didn’t have much speed on the pitch either, but the umpire immediately tossed Hightower out of the game. He was credited with 1.2 scoreless innings in that start.
Five days later, Hightower tossed five shutout innings on two hits, two walks and six strikeouts. That game would be followed by two relief appearances, each one inning long, before he was back in the rotation. On August 25th, Hightower threw six shutout innings on two hits, no walks and five strikeouts. He finished out the month with five scoreless frames against Trenton, which is the team he was tossed out against earlier in the month. Trenton also won the Eastern Division, while Hightower helped the Curve to the Western Division title. He will now have a chance to help Altoona try to win their second straight Eastern League title and a rematch with Trenton could be in the cards.
Hightower last year was just someone to keep an eye on, but not really a prospect. I mentioned last time he was our Pitcher of the Month that he should be able to skip over West Virginia to begin 2018 and that ended up happening. I also thought he could have success there, but he might hit a wall at Altoona. The reason for that second part was that he’s a fly ball pitcher who doesn’t throw hard. I thought he could do well in the FSL because the ball doesn’t travel well there and he could still get by with his command of the strike zone and ability to mix his pitches.
The command is some of the best in the system and his breaking ball looks much better this season. He switched to a slider last year because he could throw it harder, so it had more of a fastball look than his loopy curveball. Hightower also throws an excellent changeup, so while the fastball usually sits 88-89 MPH, the command out the pitch and ability to move it all around the zone, helps the pitch play up. I still think that because he’s an extreme fly ball pitcher, he would benefit from added velocity. He’s 6’6″, with an easy delivery, so it could be in there. As long as he can get it, without sacrificing command, then he could really improve his prospect stock.
PITCHERS OF THE MONTH BY LEVEL
Indianapolis – JT Brubaker, RHP (1.93 ERA, 26:4 K/BB, 32.2 IP)
Altoona – Scooter Hightower, RHP (0.00 ERA, 18:7 K/BB, 23.2 IP)
Bradenton – Jordan Jess, LHP (1.38 ERA, 14:4 K/BB, 13.0 IP)
West Virginia – Oddy Nunez, LHP (2.36 ERA, 23:8 K/BB, 34.1 IP)
Morgantown – Nicholas Economos, RHP (1.80 ERA, 33:8 K/BB, 30.0 IP)
Bristol – Joe Jacques, LHP (0.82 ERA, 7:6 K/BB, 11.0 IP)
GCL – Michael Burrows, RHP (0.00 ERA, 9:4 K/BB, 14.0 IP)
DSL – Mario Garcia, RHP (2.21 ERA, 16:2 K/BB, 20.1 IP)