The Bradenton Marauders were such a prospect-packed team that I decided to break my season review into two parts. This one covers the pitchers.
The Marauders' best starting pitchers were Kyle McPherson and Phillip Irwin, who dominated the Florida State League and made their way up to Altoona - more on them in the review of the Curve later this week.
The Marauders' team leader in innings pitched was Nathan Baker. In both the 2009 and 2010 drafts, the Pirates picked a college pitcher who didn't necessarily profile as a great prospect, but had the chance to reach Class AA fairly quickly. In 2009, that was Baker; in 2010, it was Tyler Waldron, who also pitched for the Marauders this year. Now they're both a kind of blend of prospect and organizational player. Neither of them dominated at Class A+, but they both pitched well, and both will probably survive in Class AA whenever they get there. But neither looks like a great prospect at this point, due to their low strikeout rates. Baker had an excellent August, with 32 strikeouts in 36.2 innings, so maybe there's something to build on there, but I wouldn't get too excited about either of them.
Brett Lorin continued to post good stats as a Marauder, striking out 99 batters in 117 innings while getting lots of ground balls. At this point, Lorin's skimpy track record and the Pirates' conservatism about promoting him make him a hard prospect to read. What's clear is that, despite his size (he's one of the tallest players in an organization that loves tall players), his stuff isn't all that good, so it's uncertain how he would do at the higher levels, let alone in the big leagues. He's eligible for the Rule 5 draft, but it would surprise me if someone took him. Of course, one might have said the same thing about Nathan Adcock. Anyway, Lorin will turn 25 right before the start of the 2012 season.
After a midseason promotion from West Virginia, Brandon Cumpton made it to Bradenton and continued pitching well, albeit with a low strikeout rate. The Pirates have moved him quickly and obviously like him, but the lack of strikeouts will probably eventually catch up with him, and he was less effective at getting grounders in Class A+ than he was in Class A.
After missing much of the 2010 season, Quinton Miller again struggled to stay healthy in 2011, missing the latter half of the season with a back problem. He also was awful when he did pitch, striking out only 35 batters in 70 innings. There's still time for him to get back on track, but at this point, it's looking increasingly likely that the $900,000 the Pirates spent on Miller in 2008 will have been wasted.
The Marauders had a number of interesting relievers. One was Duke Welker - the former second-round pick flamed out badly as a starter, but has had a second life as a reliever. He struck out 41 batters in 52 innings at Bradenton, then struck out nine in 10 innings at Altoona. He also gets a ton of ground balls. We'll see if the Pirates choose to place him on the 40-man this winter. I'd be reluctant to do that with a reliever who didn't have lights-out stats unless he had a chance to contribute immediately in the big leagues, but Welker's performance as a reliever suggests he as least might be able to help eventually.
Diego Moreno will also be eligible for the Rule 5. With his stuff, he seems like the sort of player who might get picked, but the fact that he spent so much time with Bradenton last year might suggest that the Pirates don't like him much. He also wasn't nearly as good in 2011 as he was in 2010.
Finally, Ryan Beckman emerged as one the Marauders' best relievers, despite struggling in short-season ball and having an uninspiring pedigree. Beckman pitched only six innings for West Virginia - total - before coming up to the Marauders, where he pitched very well, especially down the stretch. One of Beckman's old coaches actually emailed me about a year and a half ago and told me that Beckman was a great kid and was going to turn out to be a real prospect, just you wait. It's looking at least possible that he might be right.