RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
||Born: May 2, 1985
Height: 5′ 11″
Drafted: 1st Round, 4th Overall, 2006
How Acquired: Draft
College: University of Houston
Agent: Peter Vescovo
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Lincoln jumped up the charts with a big showing in the Cape Cod League in 2005, then dominated throughout the 2006 collegiate season. He throws around 91-93, sometimes reaching the mid-90s. His out pitch is a curve and he has a developing change. Baseball America rated him as having the best command of any college pitcher in the draft. Lincoln also played 1B and was considered good enough that he might have made it to the majors as a hitter. He signed two weeks after the draft for a reported $2.75M bonus. In the majors, mostly pitching in relief, his fastball averaged 93-94 until 2014, when it dropped to 91 in two short appearances. He’s thrown his curve over 30% of the time. He’s struggled to throw a change, which no doubt influenced the move to the bullpen. Surprisingly, he’s been slightly tougher against left-handed batters in the majors. He’s a flyball pitcher.
After signing, threw a few innings at Bradenton, then moved up to Hickory. He struggled through four starts and his season ended early with an oblique strain. He might have been able to return from it, but the Pirates appeared just as happy to shut him down until instructional league. He then had to be shut down there as well with the same problem.
Lincoln was shut down in spring training with a muscle strain in his forearm, a problem that can be evidence of ligament damage. History wasn’t exactly encouraging. The Pirates had a string, broken only (so far) by Paul Maholm, of six first round pitchers (Kris Benson, Clint Johnston, Bobby Bradley, Sean Burnett, John Van Benschoten and Bryan Bullington) whose careers were ruined or severely interrupted by major arm injuries. The team insisted that Lincoln did not have a serious injury but, as often happened under the Dave Littlefield regime, that statement quickly became no longer operative. Lincoln had Tommy John surgery and missed the 2007 season.
Lincoln’s rehab proceeded on schedule. He joined Hickory in mid-May, followed by a promotion to Lynchburg in July. His ERAs weren’t good, but he stayed healthy, his fastball sat around 93, and his control was very good. His control may have been a little too good, as he had a moderate gopher ball problem–13 in 103.2 IP–but he was concentrating on throwing strikes. He didn’t allow many baserunners, but he tended to pitch very well for a while and then give everything up in just one inning.
Opened with Altoona and had an outstanding half-season there. He allowed few baserunners, maintained a decent K rate, and got better as the season went along. The Pirates moved him up to AAA at mid-season and he struggled at times there. He may have been catching too much of the plate, as he had an even lower walk rate than in AA. He a lot of trouble with left-handed batters, who hit .352 against him as opposed to .259 by right-handed batters. This showed that his change needed work and, in fact, that was the main issue the team had with his AAA performance. In what seems to be a pattern with Lincoln, his WHIP was better than his ERA. Lincoln showed himself to be a threat with the bat: through 2011, he hit 289/308/447 in the minors. He’s hit .259 so far in the majors. He was added to the 40-man roster in fall 2009.
Went back to Indianapolis to start the year. After a mediocre April, he started dominating in May, posting a 2.03 ERA in six starts through the beginning of June, while allowing just 21 hits and four walks in 34 IP, with 31 Ks. He had remarkably low pitch counts, as he threw strikes consistently. He also improved his change, as shown by left-handed batters hitting .257 off him. Once again, though, his WHIP was a lot better than his ERA. He was called up in early June, but got hit hard consistently in the majors. The Pirates stuck with him through nine starts, then sent him back to AAA. His struggles may have contributed to the firing of pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, who made some adjustments to Lincoln’s delivery. The team believed the change cost Lincoln velocity; his fastball sat in the low-90s, while it had often been in the mid-90s in AAA. According to data at fangraphs.com, most of the damage in fact came against fastballs. Back in AAA, he wasn’t as effective, allowing 16 earned runs in 19.2 IP, although he did fan 23. He missed some time with neck and shoulder stiffness, which scuttled the team’s plan to go with six starters, including Lincoln, in September. After his return, he made two abbreviated starts totaling 4.1 IP for Indianapolis in September (for some reason, many 2010 minor league seasons lasted a week into September), then the Pirates called him up. He made just two, one-inning relief appearances, as the team was wary of pushing him. He got hit hard in one game and fanned the side in the other. Catching too much of the plate probably continued to be a problem, as he allowed a HR better than once every six innings while in the majors.
Lincoln ostensibly was in the running for a rotation spot in spring training, but Charlie Morton’s strong spring eliminated what chance he had. The issue became moot anyway when he went out after being hit on the arm with a line drive. He opened the season on the DL, then went to AAA and got off to a bad start, getting hammered for a 7.17 ERA in his first four starts. Once again, though, he didn’t allow many baserunners, as he walked two and allowed 22 hits in 21.1 IP. It just seemed that everything he gave up came all at once. Beginning in May he pitched much better, posting a 3.08 ERA in ten starts until the Pirates called him up for one start in a doubleheader at the beginning of July. He allowed only two runs in six innings in that game, then went back to AAA and posted a 4.34 ERA in five July starts. He allowed only six HRs in AAA and, for some reason, had a huge reverse platoon split there. The Pirates brought Lincoln back up in early August to pitch out of the bullpen and he struggled in that role, allowing five earned runs in 5.2 relief innings. With their rotation depleted by injuries, though, the Pirates moved Lincoln back to starting in late August and he pitched well in most of his starts. A disastrous outing against the Dodgers, though (six earned runs in an inning and two-thirds) badly impacted his numbers. In the majors, he had a rough time early in games, with an 8.62 ERA in the first and second innings. His velocity sat at 91-93 and topped out at 94-95.
Lincoln opened the season in AAA, but after two starts the Pirates brought him up to replace an injured Jeff Karstens. He pitched out of their bullpen through the end of July except for a spot start in May, which went well, and a four-game stretch in the rotation in June, which mostly didn’t. He pitched very well, though, in relief. He had a 6.08 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and 7.6 K/9 as a starter for the Pirates, and a 0.50 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 10.1 K/9 as a reliever. At the trade deadline, the Pirates sent Lincoln to Toronto for Travis Snider. He didn’t get nearly the same results with the Blue Jays, although he did pitch better than his ERA indicates. He had trouble with gopher balls — a common problem in Toronto — allowing six in just 28.2 IP.
The Jays optioned Lincoln to AAA to open the season, then called him up three separate times. He ended up splitting his season about evenly between AAA and the majors, but he finished the season in the minors and didn’t get called up in September. He pitched well in AAA, but uncharacteristically struggled to throw strikes in the majors. According to Fangraphs, after throwing 57.2% of his pitches in the strike zone in 2012, Lincoln threw only 49.1% in 2013. After the season, Toronto sent him to the Phillies in a minor deal.
Lincoln struggled through two relief appearances at the beginning of the season and the Phillies then outrighted him to AAA. He started in 22 of his 27 AAA appearances and didn’t pitch well. His control was still weaker than it had previously been. He became a free agent after the season.
At the time the Pirates traded him, Lincoln looked like a good late-inning reliever, but his career has gone rapidly downhill since then. The sudden control issues that started in 2013, as well as the possible drop in velocity in 2014, raise the question whether he’s healthy. The Phillies’ decision to have him pitch as a starter in AAA probably didn’t help things, as Lincoln just doesn’t seem to be suited for starting. It seems likely that he’ll pitch out of the Indianapolis bullpen in 2015 and try to re-establish himself as the pitcher he seemed to be in 2012. If the Pirates see him more as a AAA pitcher than as a reclamation project, though, they may use him as a starter.
|2015: Minor league contract
|Signing Bonus: $2,750,000
MiLB Debut: 2006
MLB Debut: 6/9/2010
MiLB FA Eligible: 2015
MLB FA Eligible: 2019
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/2009
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2010, 2011, 2013)
MLB Service Time: 2.048
|June 6, 2006: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1st round, 4th overall pick; signed on June 21.
November 20, 2009: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
July 30, 2012: Traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Toronto Blue Jays for Travis Snider.
December 3, 2013: Traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the Philadelphia Phillies for Erik Kratz and Rob Rasmussen.
April 12, 2014: Outrighted to AAA by the Philadelphia Phillies.
November 4, 2014: Became a free agent.
November 17, 2014: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.