The Pittsburgh Pirates have had modest success when signing former Atlanta Braves pitchers. So when it was announced that the Bucs signed 26-year old right handed pitcher Erik Cordier to a minor league deal with an invite to Bradenton for spring training, we were intrigued, such a move typically gets some low cost results for Bob Nutting’s budget-minded Buccos.
The 63rd overall pick of the Kansas City Royals in the 2004 draft has had a very difficult career with KC and the Atlanta Braves. In seven minor league seasons, the 6’4″ 230-pounder has pitched in just 122 games (105 starts) to the tune of a 4.25 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP.
When he has pitched, he pitches hard, sitting in the mid-90′s, but throwing strikes has been difficult at times for Cordier
Knee surgery in 2005 and Tommy John surgery after the 2006 season stalled his climb early in his career with the Royals. The Braves sent Tony Pena, Jr. to KC for the recovering Cordier at the start of the 2007 season.
The big right hander from Wisconsin got healthy in 2009 and pitched at the high A level, but suffered from poor control with a gaudy 5.5 walks per nine innings, while striking out just 6.5 batters per nine.
For years with the Royals and Braves, Cordier was consistently ranked among the top prospects in their systems. In 2010, it looked like he proved why. He had good numbers in 135.2 Double-A innings as he posted a 3.71 ERA with seven-and-a half strikeouts per nine. The fastball was lively and the Braves added Cordier to their 40-man roster when the season ended.
In the beginning of the 2011 season, injury struck again when Cordier had a spur on his elbow. The pitcher would manage to complete just 86 innings at the Triple-A level and posted ugly numbers: 5.3 walks per nine and just 6.4 strikeouts per 9.
Here is Cordier in the Arizona Fall League (he threw 2.2 innings in 2011) spraying some warm up pitches, but showing a nice extension and a rather late delivery of the baseball.
Guess what happened in 2012 to Cordier? You bet. Another injury.
When he did pitch, guess what? You bet. A lot of walks. Few strikeouts.
Cordier pitched just 32 innings due to a hand injury in 2012 and made five starts in his 17 games at the Rookie, Double-A, and Triple-A levels for the Braves. The numbers were ugly–32 walks and 27 strikeouts in those 32 innings–damn, that had to be tough to watch.
Not surprisingly, Cordier was removed from the Atlanta 40-man roster. The Pirates signed him soon after and we will get to see what he’s got in Bradenton in a couple months.
Without question, the guy has good stuff and perhaps the Bucs have visions of Joel Hanrahan or another former Braves farmhand, Chris Resop, whom they were able to transform into solid, hard throwing relievers. If the Bucs can’t fix Cordier’s control, this could remind Bucco fans of another former Braves pitcher– The Tyler Yates Project.
Wait, now that I say that, Yates minor league numbers were impressive compared to Cordier. Damn, this is going to be a serious project, and one that if the Bucs can complete with even moderate success could be beneficial. As hard as Cordier throws in his role as a starter in the Braves system, it would be fun to see just how high he can reach as a reliever.