We didn’t think a whole lot about the roster additions that the Pittsburgh Pirates made today. The tough (depending on how you define the word) roster moves will be made at the end of the month.
When we saw the Pittsburgh Pirates tweet we gave it a quick glance and then stopped in our tracks when we read the final name. The Bucs added catchers Tony Sanchez and Ramon Cabrera. No big surprise on that front as Sanchez is their self deprecating, often injured, but damn hilarious number one pick from 2009 while Cabrera finally started to hit again toward the end of 2012.
The team then added pitchers Phil Irwin and Victor Black which weren’t big surprises, although the verdict is still out on Filthy, or Not So Filthy Phil. The surprise was adding Hunter Strickland to their 40-man roster, which of course protects such players from the dreaded Rule 5 Draft.
Hunter Strickland? Huh?
Yeh, that was our first thought…damn…Strickland, Strickland…hmmmm….wasn’t he that tall right hander the Bucs got from the Red Sox when they sold low on Adam LaRoche? Yeh, we saw him a few times, but surely we missed something. Apparently, the guy is so stealth the Bucs don’t even have a photo of him on their website.
But we did see this quote on the Bucs website from Neal Huntington, although I think it’s from quite a few years ago:
“He is a quality strike thrower with a fastball that has averaged as high as 93 miles per hour, with the potential for a Major League caliber breaking ball and changeup to complement his fastball.”
The Prospect lists didn’t think much of him back when he was wth the Red Sox, but somebody smarter than us must see something in him. It made us immediately think to when Kyle McPherson was added to the 40-man and very few people knew who he was, despite valiant efforts at Team RumBunter.
But when you look at what Strickland has done, comparing him to McPherson looks ridiculous. The rap on The Fear was he was old for the talent he was playing against, so not much consideration was ever given to his solid numbers.
Yeh, Strickland is 6’5″ and all of the reports say and he can locate the fastball. We saw him do it for Altoona, but he just hasn’t developed that put away pitch. So that’s about where the similarities end when looking specifically at numbers between the two. The results just don’t jump off the Hunter Strickland page at Baseball Reference.
But a closer look might reveal something, he suffered injuries to his elbow and shoulder that look they have impacted his success. McPherson was shutdown in spring training this year, but came back strong at the end of the season to make his Major League debut. It’s taken Strickland longer to recover from more serious injuries.
When he was with Boston prior to the LaRoche trade, his punchout numbers took a dive. Strickland did finish the 2008 season by posting a 0.43 ERA (20.2ip/1er) in his last four starts.
But when he came over to West Virginia after the trade, he fired a no-no with Diego, I throw faster than Omar can run Moreno. In his time with the Power he had ho-hum strikeout numbers, but nice 92-ish velocity combined with solid control.
Back at West by God Virginia in 2010, he was hittable and performed like a different pitcher. It should have been a warning sign if anyone was paying close attention. But instead of being shut down, he was promoted and got his neck snapped quite a few times when he made two starts for the Bradenton Marauders at high A.
He was put on the disabled list after that, and missed the entire season last year. The rotator cuff eventually got repaired in August.
The 18th rounder in the 2007 draft came back in 2012 and put up a 2.98 ERA, 1.21 WHIP over 45.1 innings despite allowing 1.6 walks per nine for the Marauders. The big righty headed to Altoona and threw in relief for the Curve putting up seven strikeouts per nine, but also saw his walk rate double to 3.2 per nine, but unfortunately was a smorgasboard for left handed hitters. If you watch the above video, including getting crushed in the backside, he showed some nice movement against a lefty at the 1:50 ish mark.
So the upside is the Pirates see something and believe in Strickland who has shown some improvement in his secondary pitches. Now the argument seems to be did he really need protected, would anyone pick up a pitcher that has been so damn hittable—in the low minors? Apparently so, especially when one considers Kyle Kaminska pitched lights out in the Arizona Fall League and was left unprotected.