RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: February 25, 1987
Drafted: 21st Round, 625th Overall, 2009
How Acquired: Draft
College: University of Mississippi
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Irwin and Pirates’ 5th round selection, Nate Baker, were key pitchers for Ole Miss’ in 2009 as some of the school’s more highly regarded pitchers ran into trouble. Irwin threw three average pitches, with a fastball in the upper-80s, but he didn’t dominate, as the high opponents’ BAs show. He primarily succeeded by not allowing walks and HRs; it’s not often a pitcher allows a .300 OBA and still has an ERA below 4.00. Baseball America ranked him as the 8th best prospect, just three places behind Baker, in a state that has a lot of baseball talent relative to its population. It’s possible that the Pirates thought he could upgrade his stuff, as he had Tommy John surgery in 2006. That may account for the limited innings in 2007-08. As he’s moved up through the system, his fastball at times has gotten into the low-90s, sometimes as high as 94, and he’s shown a devastating curve.
Was probably the best pitcher for State College. Excluding one late start in which he failed to get out of the first inning, his ERA was 0.93.
Irwin spent the season in the West Virginia rotation. He put up outstanding peripheral numbers as well as a good ERA, but he was a pitcher with good command, drafted out of a major college program, facing low A hitters. According to manager Gary Green, his fastball did at times increase from 87-88 to 92-93. He had a huge reverse platoon split for some reason. Irwin moved up to Bradenton for the playoffs at the end of the year.
Irwin opened the season at Bradenton, doing very well in ten starts and earning a promotion to Altoona. He got hit harder in AA than at lower levels, with a .264 opponents’ average and a slightly high HR rate. He seldom walked anybody, just one per nine innings, and had a decent K rate. He stuff wasn’t at the same level it had been late in the previous season. His fastball was upper-80s to low-90s. He threw a hard curve or slider, a slower curve and a change. He didn’t have much of a platoon split.
Irwin suffered a forearm injury during the Arizona Fall League and aggravated it in spring training. He missed only a handful of starts before returning to Altoona, where he improved on his 2012 showing. The Pirates promoted him in time for him to make four starts for Indianapolis. He pitched well with a surprising number of strikeouts.
Irwin was eligible for the Rule 5 draft and the Pirates added him to the 40-man roster. He opened the season at Indianapolis, had one very good start, then got called up to Pittsburgh for a spot start on April 14 in which he struggled early due to control problems. He was sent back down afterward, but couldn’t make a start in AAA initially due to elbow problems. He started next at the beginning of May, threw four shutout innings, then went on the disabled list. He eventually had ulnar nerve transposition surgery on the elbow and missed the rest of the season.
Irwin was throwing by the end of the season and was scheduled to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. The main drawback for him the last couple years has been injuries. If he can get healthy, he should be a legitimate option for the Pirates as a starter, although he’ll probably spend most of 2014 at Indianapolis.
UPDATE: Irwin struggled badly as a starter early in the AAA season. The Pirates moved him to relief, where he fared somewhat better, but they designated him for assignment when they claimed Josh Wall off waivers. There’s a good chance Irwin will clear waivers and be outrighted to AAA.