The Pittsburgh Pirates Double-A pitching rotation is the best 1-5 in the system. Brandon Waddell has been a big part of it.
In 2015, the Pittsburgh Pirates invested a fifth round pick in a left-handed pitcher from the University fo Virginia. Lefty Brandon Waddell was in the middle of a NCAA World Series run with the Cavaliers. He eventually turned into the game winning pitcher of the clinching game. Meanwhile, many scouts and reporters called the pick a great value pick for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the fifth round. The Bucs signed him to a signing bonus of $315,000, and he was one of the last signings of the draft class.
Since then however, Waddell has slowly established himself as one of the better left-handed pitching prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates system. He has posted a career ERA of 3.28 thus far in his Pittsburgh Pirates organization career. However, this year has been just about the best one in his minor league career.
Waddell is one of two pitchers coming from the left side on the Altoona Curve roster. He is a part of a rotation made up by top prospects Mitch Keller and Taylor Hearn. In addition to those two, Dario Agrazal and JT Brubaker. Waddell, along with Agrazal and Brubaker, all have ERAs under one.
So far on the season Waddell has made six starts for the Curve. Across those starts, the lefty has thrown a total of 39.2 innings. In those innings he owns an earned run average of 1.59, which is good for second best on the staff. So far he has struck out 30 batters while walking 10, for a 3.0 K/BB ratio. Waddell has never average a lot of strikeouts per inning, but has posted a 51.3% ground ball rate to make up for it.
Last night he had his best performance of the season. The 23-year-old carried a shutout into the ninth inning before giving up a run. He did this against the Bowie Baysox of the Baltimore Orioles’ organization. Waddell finished the night throwing 8.2 innings and giving up one earned run. He struck out seven hitters while giving up six hits. Furthermore, he did not walk a single hitter. This is the area he has shown the most improvement. In years prior, he has not overly struggled with command, but would walk his fair share of hitters. His career K/BB ratio was close to two before this season, this year alone it is now at 3.0.
Waddell is likely to push for Triple-A sooner than later. He pitched in Double-A some in 2016 and in all of 2017. The fact that he is off to a dominant start shows that he has surpassed the level of competition there. In addition to that, he also pitched for one the best college programs in the country in big games, so he was already advanced entering the system.