This season I will be posting articles every Friday that will be titled ‘Future Friday.’ These articles will be about a specific prospect who is having a successful season. This can range from top prospects to lower level guys who are working their way up the prospect ranks. I will outline a bio about them, what they have done in their careers, how they are doing this year, and give some insight on what I think their future will hold.
For the first ‘Future Friday’ I will be looking at Brandon Waddell. Waddell is six-foot-three 185 pound left-handed pitcher. He went to high school at Clear Lake, which is in Houston, Texas. In high school he was the team’s captain while pitching and playing first base. The lefty then went on to pitch for the University of Virginia. In his freshman season he was the Cavaliers’ Friday night starter and he held a record of 6-3, in 16 starts. In those 16 starts he was tied for third among freshmen with 84 strikeouts in just 88 innings.
In his sophomore season Waddell made a school record tying 18 starts for the Cavaliers. He went 10-3 during the 2014 season and was named third-team All-ACC, and to the All-NCAA Tournament Team while pitching to a 2.45 ERA.
For his final season at UVA, Waddell broke his own record by making 19 starts. He had less success this year posting a 3.93 ERA. However, the biggest accomplishment for him was being the winning pitcher in the deciding game of the College World Series against Vanderbilt. In the game he threw 7 innings while only giving up just 2 runs against the Commodores. Due to this start, he was elected, for a second time, to the All-Tournament Team.
Over his career Waddell set school records in starts made in a season with 19 in 2015, as well as career starts with 53. He also ranks 5th in school history career with 21 and 7th in strikeouts with 246 in 312 career innings. He also had a stretch in his sophomore season where he did not walk a batter in 33.1 consecutive innings. Lifetime in the College World Series Tournament he made 11 starts, and he accumulated a 6-1 record with a 2.34 ERA. Waddell was not drafted out of high school, but putting up a strong resume as a left-hander at a big time school like Virginia got him noticed. The Pirates selected Waddell with their 5th round pick in 2015, which was the 157th overall pick.
Waddell signed just after the NCAA Tournament ended for a bonus of 315,000 dollars, which was below slot. He signed later than most draft picks because of how deep the Cavaliers went in the tournament. Because of this, he only made 6 starts last year for the Pirates’ Short-Season affiliate the West Virginia Black Bears. His numbers were below average as he posted a 5.75 ERA in those starts. However, one could blame this on the time off between the NCAA Championship and when he was assigned to Short-A.
This year the Pirates have started him two levels higher at high A Bradenton. The Pirates skip the low-A level with advanced college players. This year he is off to a tremendous start. So far, Waddell has started two games and has yet to give up a run. In his 11 combined innings he has 7 strikeouts while only walking 1 and giving up 5 base hits. His K/9IP ratio is only at 5.73 which is relatively low, but it is a small sample size and we could see more strikeouts as he develops.
The big thing the Pirates teach their young pitchers in the minors is to work on throwing all their pitches for strikes and pitching to contact. Those two elements are what the Pirates preach to their pitchers at all levels of the organization.
A quick scouting report on Waddell. His fastball is average, it sits around 90-92mph, but he possesses a deceptive arm angle with a plus slider as well. If he can add another tick to his fastball and learn to keep his slider hard and sharp down in the zone he could continue to develop into a top 25 prospect in the organization. One pitch that needs a lot of work is his change-up. It shows signs of being a plus pitch at times, but he has never thrown it consistently enough to become comfortable with the pitch. This is a pitch the Pirates try to develop in all their pitchers in the Minor Leagues.
If he cannot develop it into an average offering he will not be a starter at the Big League level. With that being said, he could be an effective reliever. However, the Bucs are going to give Waddell many opportunities to start in the Minors and to continue to develop his pitches.
Waddell has a really nice track record from the collegiate level and has gotten off to a good start this season. He is one to watch as the Pirate organization is not very deep with left-handed starters. In front of Waddell would be Steven Brault and Stephen Tarpley. It would be nice to see Waddell enter the top 30 prospect list by the end of this season and give us another legitimate lefty prospect.