Leading up to the season we will be doing several editions on prospects we think you should keep an eye on this season. I will not necessarily call them breakout prospects, but rather prospects who we expect to take a step forward this season.
I define “breakout” as a prospect you have never heard of and burst on the scene. This will mainly be about players who I am intrigued by and think should be noticed this season. I have developed a sophisticated prospect rating scale for identifying potential breakout prospects. The rating scale takes into account nearly all stats, physical attributes, and personal scouting reports.
This edition will cover a starting pitcher. Now we all know the Pirates will have a dominant staff in AAA this year. That staff will include top prospects Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon. Filling in behind them will be a Trevor Williams, Steven Brault, Chad Kuhl, and eventually Nick Kingham (not to mention maybe Cory Luebke). As much press as this potential rotation will get, one might forget about some of the other pitchers who are in the lower minors. One pitcher to watch that will start in High-A this year and will likely make it to Double-A by the end of the season is Stephen Tarpley.
Tarpley is 6 feet 2.5 inches and 190lbs and was a 3rd round pick in 2013 by the Baltimore Orioles. On January 27th of 2015 the Pirates sent Travis Snider to the Baltimore Orioles for two young left-handed pitching prospects in Stephen Tarpley and Steven Brault (who was a PTBNL). Both performed very well in their first season, but Tarpley did not receive as much press due to pitching in West Virginia.
Last season he spent the whole season at Low-A West Virginia Power and started 20 games. In those 20 games Tarpley was very strong throwing to a 2.48 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. Batters did hit .241 off of Tarpley, but he also struck out 105 batters in 116 IP. Tarpley has a little more life on his fastball as he typically sits 92-95 and has hit 97.
As his strikeouts suggest he has the ability to k almost a batter per inning due to his 3/4 arm angle. Tarpley possesses a potential plus change-up which he has good command of. His change-up needed work coming into this past year mainly on the mechanical side of things, in which he did improve. He also throws a 10-4 curve-ball that continues to improve each year. Typically Tarpley throws the curve in the upper 70’s, but is looking to add more velocity to it to help with deception. Tarpley also started throwing a slider this season, and he showed the ability to throw it effectively at times.
After reading this you probably can tell I am high on Tarpley. According to my Prospect Rating Formula, Tarpley projects as a “strong MLB starter”. That is the second highest tier for my formula. One reason is because, Tarpley’s projects to be strike-out stuff, a power pitcher if you will. Tarpley’s fastball that projects as a top half of the rotation pitcher’s. It sits in the mid 90’s from 92-94 sometimes hitting 95. As he grows and gets older we could see this increase more to a consistent 93-95. If he can continue to develop his change-up and turn his slider into an average offering I could see him being a strong #3. His stuff reminds me a lot of Scott Kazmir’s except Tarpley may have a little more zip on his fastball when it is all said and done. He also has the physical build that you look for in a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm.