Bradley Eric Lincoln, born May 25, 1985 in Lake Jackson, Texas, is considered one of the few true prospects mined by Dave Littlefield.
He played baseball for Brazoswood High School. But he was a quarterback for the football team, too, and we all know how that goes in Texas; a lot like it does in Western Pennsylvania. Lincoln didn't concentrate solely on baseball until his junior season.
After his senior year, he showed enough stuff that the Texas Rangers selected him in the 28th round of the 2003 draft. He decided instead to attend the University of Houston.
Lincoln did OK there for the first two years, but really burst on the baseball scene with a strong performance in the wooden-bat Cape Cod League in the summer of 2005, and it launched him into a terrific junior season for the Cougars.
He was 12-2 with a 1.69 ERA, and had 152 strikeouts in 127-2/3 innings of work. At the end of the season, he was recognized as Conference USA Player of the Year.
Bad Brad also won the Dick Howser Trophy (national college baseball player of the year) and the Brooks Wallace Award (the most outstanding college shortstop; he hit .295 with 14 home runs and 53 RBI). Lincoln was also one of finalists for the Roger Clemens Award, losing to Andrew Miller of the University of North Carolina.
He also was named to the Louisville Slugger, Pro-Line Cap/National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and Baseball America All-America First Teams as a DH/utility player.
Scouts all loved him, and despite that, the Pirates chose him with the fourth overall selection of the first round in 2006. Lincoln inked a $2.75M deal, and the Bucs had plans to fast-track their budding ace.
Lincoln's right wing had other ideas. He almost immediately encountered injury problems; an oblique strain limited him to 24 innings in 2006. It didn't get better.
The pain continued through spring training, and it was off to see Dr. James Andrews for Tommy John surgery on his right arm in April. Lincoln was done for the year.
Lincoln returned in 2008, making 19 starts between low-A Hickory and high-A Lynchburg, and went 6-10 with a 4.69 ERA. He whiffed 75 and walked 17 in 103-2/3 frames. The results weren't there, but the command was and his heater was hitting 93 MPH, his pre-TJ velocity, and his curve was snapping. It was quite an encouraging comeback, considering he had just spent a year in the tub.
He started 2009 at Class AA Altoona, and after 13 games with the Curve, Lincoln had bad-luck 1-5 record, 2.28 ERA, and in 75 innings struck out 65 and walked 18. So it was off to Indy at the end of June.
His first four starts were miserable, but he picked up the pace and proved he belonged. Lincoln posted a 6-2 slate, 4.17 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and had a sharp 29:2 K/BB ratio in 41 innings pitched.
Between the two clubs, Lincoln made 25 starts, with a 7-7 record, 3.37 ERA in 136-1/3 innings pitched, and a 1.20 WHIP.
Lincoln then took Dan McCutchen's spot for the USA World Cup team, and the squad took home a gold medal. In his four starts, Lincoln had 3-0 record, 2.70 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and K'd 12 while walking six in 23-1/3 innings. He was placed on the 40-man roster this year.
Lincoln was rated the number four prospect by Baseball America in the Pirates' system coming into 2009. John Sickels has him rated #6 going into 2010.
He has a fastball that ranges between 90-93, and touches 95 MPH. He also has a plus curveball with a late break. And like so many other farmhands, he needs a change up; lefties hit 40 points higher against him than righties overall last year, and nearly 100 points higher in his time with the Tribe.
Lincoln's strikeout rate hovers around 6+ per nine innings, which is OK, but not overpowering. He's best when he's getting ground ball outs, and he had some problems with that in AAA.
He needs to keep guys a little more honest; his line drive and home run rates both went up significantly at Indy, too. That's partially a by-product of being around the plate so often, but also shows the need for him to develop a third pitch.
GW always liked Lincoln, but we project him more as a 2-3 pitcher, not an ace. And hey, that ain't bad. His comeback has been impressive, and we'd kinda like to see him settle into a rhythm at Indy and get a full season at one level under his belt. He'll be 25 in May, so age isn't a serious consideration.
That's not likely, though. Unless the wheels fall off, and there's no reason to think that will happen, he should be up at PNC Park by late June or so, avoiding the dreaded Super Two arbitration clock.
(Next - #2 Jose Tabata)