Between 2013 and 2014, Pittsburgh Pirates swing man Brandon Cumpton showed some fairly solid stuff in the Majors. But ever since, he’s basically dissapeared from pro baseball. What happened to him?
During the Pittsburgh Pirates playoff runs of 2013 to 2015, the Bucs had a handful of pitchers they relied on. You probably remember Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton, A.J. Burnett, and a few others. But one you probably don’t remember that was occasionally given starts was right hander Brandon Cumpton.
After an initial good showing early in his career, Cumpton kind of just fell out of everyone’s minds. What happened to him?
Cumpton was the Pittsburgh Pirates 9th round pick during the 2010 draft. He was never a top prospect, but he was steadily rising through the minor leagues. By 2013, he was on the doorstep of making it to the Majors.
After getting off to a good start in Triple-A, and the Pirates suffering injuries from the likes of James McDonald and Wandy Rodriguez, Cumpton was called to the show, and made his MLB debut against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 15th.
He had a big order to deal with, opposing 2011 Cy Young winner. and future Hall of Famer, Clayton Kershaw, and a hot Dodger line up. Cumpton struggled giving up 3 earned runs in 5 innings, but he only walked one batter and he struck out five. Cumpton was sparsely used here and there throughout the rest of the 2013 season.
His best game came against the St. Louis Cardinals in a double header on July 30th. The youngster tossed 7 scoreless against the division rival, striking out five Red Birds, walking only one and giving up just three hits. He also started the last game of the regular season and pitched well, allowing just three earned base runners through 5 innings. Overall, Cumpton was very good in the short 30.2 inning sample size he was given at the Major League level.
In 2014, he was again used as the Pittsburgh Pirates sixth starter. Again, Cumpton pitched well most of the time. He did have one really bad game where he gave up 10 earned runs in 3.2 innings on May 31st, but he only gave up 21 more earned runs throughout his next 47.2 innings. All told, despite his 4.89 ERA, Cumpton posted a strong 3.22 FIP and 44.2% ground ball rate. If you take out that one rough start, his ERA drops to 3.79.
But after this, Cumpton wouldn’t be seen in the Majors again until 2018. After a promising start to the right hander’s career, what happened? Surely, he could have been a reliable back of the rotation arm in 2015 and beyond? He was just 26 in 2015.
Well, he did open Spring Training under consideration for a roster spot. But on March 10th, 2015, Cumpton would have to undergo the dreaded Tommy John Surgery. This caused him to sit out all of 2015 and 2016. By 2017, Cumpton was 28-years-old. After being a very good starter at the Triple-A level, Cumpton struggled out of the pen in 2017. Through 37.1 innings between Hig-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, Cumpton owned a 3.86 ERA, but a poor 1.55 WHIP, 4.1 BB/9 (the highest of his career), and a so-so 3.80 FIP.
Following the 2017 season, the former rotation candidate elected free agency, and signed on with the Texas Rangers, but was released at the end of Spring Training 2018. He then latched on with the Independent Southern Maryland Blue Crabs for 11 starts before the Toronto Blue Jays picked him up. He did return to the Majors, but only pitched in one game and faced 10 batters. Last year, Cumpton returned to Southern Maryland, but pitched rather poorly out of their rotation. In 83 innings, Cumpton posted a 4.88 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, but still put up a 3.71 FIP.
Next year, Cumpton will enter his age 31 season. Sadly, it looks like Tommy John Surgery may have claimed another victim, which is a real shame. Cumpton got off to a promising start to his MLB career. He was set up for a larger role for 2015, as the Pittsburgh Pirates could have used another swing-man like arm for the roster. Especially after Charlie Morton had started the season on the then disabled list and later on in the season, A.J. Burnett had a short DL stint of his own.