Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Report: Stephen Tarpley


Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates number 24 prospect is Stephen Tarpley, who was also a draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles. Strangely enough, like prospect number 25 Steven Brault, Tarpley is a lefty also named Stephen (or some extension of the name Steve) and was also acquired in the trade for Travis Snider.

Tarpley is the top left-handed pitching prospect in the system and deservedly so. He can throw four pitches for a strike and features a hard, sinking fastball that can reach the mid 90s. His curveball and changeup are effective as well and he has recently developed a slider that has seen improvement.

Even though only one spot separates the two pitchers, it seems Tarpley has a higher ceiling than Brault and could turn the trade into a steal for the Pirates.

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Tarpley burst onto the scene in 2013 with the Orioles Gulf Coast League team and struck out 25 batters in 21 innings while walking just three. Despite the small sample size, a FIP (fielder independent pitching – accounts for only home runs, walks and strikeouts but on the same scale as ERA) of 1.78 is very impressive.

In 2014, Tarpley went through a mild sophomore slump, apparently due to issues with his delivery, but the numbers weren’t all that bad. In about triple the innings, he still struck out just over 8 batters per nine innings and posted an ERA of 3.66. The problems with his motion mostly affected his command and caused him to walk over 3 batters per nine innings, the worst of his short career.

After being acquired in January of 2015, he played for the Pirates A-ball team, the West Virginia Power, and it was here that Tarpley started to flash signs of dominance. In 20 starts, he went 11-4 with a 2.48 ERA and again struck out just over 8 batters per nine innings. More importantly, his command came back and allowed him to walk less than 2 batters per nine.

The peak of his 2015 success was a 9-game stretch from July 2 to August 15 when Tarpley went 7-0 with a 1.72 ERA, striking out 55 batters to just 8 walks. And if you’re sick of the numbers, he also threw a (weather shortened) no-hitter during that stretch. You can read about the no-hitter and more in this interview with Tarpley from July.

I doubt we’ll see Tarpley in a Pirates’ uniform in 2016 or even 2017, but by 2018 I think Tarpley will be competing for a spot in the rotation. Unless a trade is made, Tarpley will be the first left-hander summoned to the majors and Pirates’ fans should be excited for his arrival. A lefty who throws pretty hard with natural sinking movement can be a valuable piece for years to come.