Friday, January 13, 2012

#11 Prospect - Kyle McPherson

My #11 Pirates prospect, Kyle McPherson shares certain similarities to my #12 prospect Stetson Allie. Both are right handed pitchers in the Pittsburgh farm system.  From there, they also have their differences.  The buzzword for Allie is ceiling, while the catch-phrase for McPherson is floor. 

McPherson was drafted in the 14th round (428th overall) by the Pirates in 2007 out of the University of Mobile.  At the time, McPherson was intriguing - possessing a solid fastball that sat in the low 90's, passable command, and decent secondaries - but intriguing was the limit.  In his first two full seasons, 2008 and 2009, McPherson did little to change that.  He posted solid ERA's, but McPherson's peripherals were weak.  In 2008, McPherson posted a mediocre 6.6 K/9 although his 0.8 BB/9 demonstrated excellent control as a 20 year old pitching at State College.  McPherson saw his already iffy K/9 dip a bit in 2009, pitching at both State College and West Virginia as a 21 year old, posting a 6.3 K/9, although his 1.2 BB/9 was again impressive.

In 2010, McPherson began to make a name for himself as he pitched virtually the full season at West Virginia.  McPherson started 21 games and pitched 117.2 innings.  In those innings, McPherson struck out 124 batters, while only walking 31 batters, posting a great peripherals.  He finished the season with a 9.5 K/9 ratio and a 2.4 BB/9 ratio which fueled a solid 3.66 FIP.  McPherson's performance in 2010 earned him a spot on the 40-man roster to protect him from be picked in the Rule 5 draft.

McPherson followed up his solid 2010 season with a true breakout 2011 season this past year.  McPherson split time between Bradenton and Altoona.  For the year, he totaled a 7.9 K/9 and a 1.5 BB/9 and McPherson did so at higher levels against more legitimate and age appropriate competition.  On another positive note, McPherson saw his groundball rate exceed his flyball rate for the first time in his career over a significant sample size.  All these factors combined meant McPherson put up a great FIP of around 3.00 for the year in 2011.

McPherson has also seen his arsenal improve since he was drafted.  His fastball has increased by a tick or two and now routinely hits in the mid 90's while sitting in the 92-94 range.  In addition, McPherson has really improved his change-up, as the pitch is now a plus pitch that may even get better.  His curveball also flashes plus and should be at least an average major league pitch.  McPherson's most important improvement has been the betterment of his command, especially on his fastball.  According to Baseball America, McPherson can locate his fastball to all four quadrants with ease.  His walk rates and his strikeout rates without an elite arsenal also provide evidence of just how good McPherson's command can be.

Overall, McPherson has some bright spots about him.  He has plenty of pitchability and great command.  He also has a great changeup, which always plays well. Despite that, McPherson is a righty, so his changeup won't play as well against right-handed hitters as a lefty changeup would.  In addition, he only has three pitches, which limit his ceiling.  Those high on McPherson will see him as a potential #3 or maybe even #2 starter; a mid-rotation workhorse.  However, McPherson's age (he's not particularly young), lack of an elite arsenal, and the warning that guy like Rudy Owens provided convince me that McPherson will most likely end up as a back of the rotation guy who can eat some innings (McPherson stands at 6'4, 215 lbs), if anything at all.  That has its value certainly, but not enough value that I can rate McPherson higher than #11 on my top 20 list.