LEFT HANDED PITCHER
||Born: July 19, 1990
Height: 6′ 2″
Drafted: 34th Round, 1015th Overall, 2009
How Acquired: Draft
College: Walters State CC
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|The Braves drafted Fuesser as a high school senior but didn’t sign him. PG Crosschecker characterized him as a pitchability, i.e., finesse guy, which was consistent with the Pirates’ description of him. He throws a curve and a changeup, with the curve being a good pitch according to Baseball America. His velocity has been variable. He reportedly threw in the upper-80s when drafted, but was throwing in the low-90s by July 2010. I saw him once that year and his velocity tended to be in the mid- to upper-80s, but did reach 90-91 a few times. Since then, he’s mainly thrown about 86-88. He had a good K rate his first year in JUCO ball, so hopefully he has some ability to miss bats. The Pirates signed Fuesser in late July 2009 for a $125,000 bonus. The amount indicates they considered him a prospect and he was initially advancing as part of the group of prep pitchers they signed in 2009, although he had the year of JC ball.
After signing, Fuesser pitched regularly in the GCL in August. He had trouble throwing strikes, but allowed few hits.
Missed the start of the season with a broken finger, but eventually appeared at State College. Generally pitched well there, with decent K rate, but he continued to struggle with his control. He was very tough on left-handed hitters, as they hit only .208 against him, but right-handed hitters batted .272. Like some other young pitchers at State College, Fuesser allowed lots of flyballs, with a groundout to air out ratio of 0.83, which was exactly the same as a similar pitcher, Zack Dodson. Like Dodson, Fuesser mostly kept the ball in the park, allowing just three HRs.
At West Virginia, Fuesser had what seemed like two separate seasons. He was outstanding for the first three months, pitching mostly in long relief roles, with three starts mixed in. During those three months, he had an ERA of 1.98 and a WHIP of 1.00, and allowed just two HRs in 50 IP. In July he joined the rotation full-time and started struggling. He moved back to the bullpen in August, but the struggles continued. Starting in July, his ERA was 5.25 and his WHIP 1.44, and he allowed 12 HRs in 58.1 IP, including eight in just 25.1 IP in August and September. He may have gotten tired, as his velocity was topping out at 88 in at least one August start.
Surprisingly, Fuesser returned to West Virginia in 2012. The move became less of a surprise when he took a step backward from 2011. He started the season in the rotation and struggled. He walked over four batters per nine innings and opponents hit .208 against him as a starter. The team eventually moved him to the bullpen and he was more effective in that role. Opponents hit .240 against him as a reliever, his control was better, and his ERA was 3.14 as opposed to 5.44 as a starter. He returned to the rotation for his last four games and had pitched poorly. Although he appears to be better as a reliever, Fuesser was more effective against right-handed than left-handed hitters in 2012, so he may not be a good left-handed specialist.
Fuesser pitched the entire season out of the Bradenton bullpen and had a solid season, but not one that would establish him as a prospect. He did improve his control, but his K rate actually dropped. He had a strong platoon split this time, holding lefties to a .197 average but allowing righties to hit .312. The move to the bullpen meant a drastic reduction in his workload.
Presumably, Fuesser is going to stay in the bullpen. He should have a good chance of winning a spot at Altoona in 2014.