Friday, June 14, 2013

And It's...Brandon Cumpton

Well, this was a bit of a surprise. With AJ out and on the 15-day DL, the Bucs needed a pitcher and fast. They had the three-headed relief trio of former starters of Bryan Morris, Justin Wilson and Vin Mazzaro, all of whom have gone multiple innings this campaign. But a bullpen that's already on the thin side would be diluted big time with a piggyback outing, so it was on to Plan B, a starter from Indy.

Andy Oliver was on the 40-man and had some nice hit and whiff numbers with MLB experience, but wasn't pitching deep into games and walking guys at an alarming rate. So it was Plan B+1, RHP Brandon Cumpton, 24, a 2010 ninth round draft pick out of Georgia Tech, that made the cut.

Cumpton will be the first 2010 draft pick to make it to Pittsburgh. That year featured the early selections of Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie and Nick Kingham, all HS guys, and JC player Mel Rojas. Georgia Tech's Cumpton was only the second college pick that year at nine, behind Oregon State's Tyler Waldren, who was chosen fifth.

He worked a little at State College in 2010 after singing, then went through both A levels in 2011. The righty started 2012 at Altoona, where he went 12-11/3.84 as a good control, pitch-to-contact guy. He began 2013 with the Curve, and despite being beat up in two starts (0-1, 7.45), was promoted to Indy in a case of need overriding performance.

And hey - he found his mojo in AAA. Cumpton put up a line of 4-4/3.31 with peripherals of 7.8 K/nine, 3.0 walks and a 1.24 WHIP. He's been especially strong the last nine starts, tossing one clunker but in the other eight outings, he surrendered two runs or less.

Cumpton is a three pitch guy, with a 91-92 MPH heater, a very good slider and a so-so change. He uses both sides of the plate with decent control and can get a swing-and-miss when needed, but prefers to work to contact. The 24 year old also keeps the ball in the yard (0.6 HR/nine lifetime). At his best, he throws strikes and lets his fielders do the heavy lifting.

He's certainly not one of the more highly touted guys in the organization, and his projection is as a back end rotation guy or maybe a power reliever; his fastball velocity goes up a few ticks when he's working out of the pen. And he's got a lot of arms ahead of him - Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia, Nick Kingham, Tyler Glasnow, Kyle McPherson and Phil Irwin all jump to mind, with a couple others lurking among the mid-tier of prospects.

But it's a golden opportunity for Cumpton. Jeanmar Gomez is just starting his rehab, which is more than can be said of AJ or Wandy, and J-Mac is getting whacked. He's not promised anything further than a Saturday trip to the hill - against Clayton Kershaw, yet - and Clint Hurdle told Tom Singer of that "We'll give him the ball and see where he can take it. We'll take it one start at a time."

Can't ask for much more. Just ask Jeff Locke or Jeanmar Gomez what can happen when the stars align - or Jonathan Sanchez when they don't. It should be interesting.

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