ADRIAN SAMPSON, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: October 7, 1991
Drafted: 5th Round, 166th Overall, 2012
How Acquired: Draft
College: Bellevue CC (WA)
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Sampson had a commitment to Oregon as a high school senior, but had Tommy John surgery and chose to go to junior college. He did well in his first year there, but didn’t sign with the Marlins after being drafted in the 16th round. He had an even stronger sophomore season at Bellevue. His fastball sits in the low 90s sometimes and 87-91 others, and he’s gotten up to 94. His out pitch is a curve and his change is progressing, and he has above-average command. Baseball America ranked him 84th overall among draft prospects. He again was committed to Oregon, but he signed soon after the draft.
Sampson pitched mostly in the State College rotation once he was ready to go. The Pirates kept him on low pitch counts initially, but he eventually worked his way up to five innings in a few starts. His fastball sat in the 90-94 range and he struck out over a batter an inning. He had a few outings in which he struggled with his command, but overall had a good debut.
In an aggressive move, the Pirates put Sampson in the Bradenton rotation to start the 2013 season. It turned out to be a little too aggressive. Sampson got off to a very bad start and had a 6.46 ERA by the end of May. He had some good stretches after that, resulting in ERAs of 3.69 and 3.58 in June and August, but was never effective over a long stretch. He walked very few, but didn’t miss many bats and allowed opponents to hit .310. He also had moderate problems with gopher balls, allowing 18.
Sampson had a breakout season, mostly with Altoona. Much of the difference with the previous year appears to have resulted from the Pirates having Sampson throw a lot of changeups in 2013. It wasn’t a pitch he’d used much before that and, as a result, it got hammered a lot. The work seemed to pay off, as in 2014 Sampson went with a more standard pitch selection and was able to use the change effectively. Left-handed hitters went from a .908 OPS against him in 2013 to .703 in 2014. (He still had a platoon split, as he held right-handed hitters to .597.) Sampson didn’t strike out a lot of hitters, but he walked very few and was highly efficient with his pitch counts. He had a nine-inning, complete game, one-hit shutout that required only 98 pitches, as well as another outing in which he threw eight shutout innings on just 81 pitches. In his last 17 starts in AA, he went seven innings or more ten times. The only time he lasted fewer than six innings in that stretch was a game that was suspended by rain after three innings. The Pirates moved Sampson up to Indianapolis for his last four starts and that was more of a challenge. He had two good starts and two in which he got hammered.
The Pirates’ approach with Sampson in 2013 is especially interesting in light of the harsh criticism, bordering on hysteria, of the Pirates’ minor league instruction in certain circles. One of the charges levied against them has been that they exercise too much control over pitch selection. Their experience with Sampson strongly refutes that claim. He doesn’t miss a lot of bats, so he’ll have to make adjustments in AAA and again in the majors. He’s made a remarkable amount of progress in two and a half seasons for a pitcher who was drafted out of junior college. He’s also gotten up to a good innings total (167) while remaining healthy, and the Pirates plan to send him to the Arizona Fall League. He’ll open 2015 in the Indianapolis rotation at age 23.
|2015: Minor league contract.
|Signing Bonus: $250,000
MiLB FA Eligible: 2018
MLB FA Eligible:
Rule 5 Eligible: 2015
Added to 40-Man:
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|June 7, 2011: Drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 16th round, 493rd overall pick.
June 5, 2012: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 5th round, 166th overall pick; signed on June 18.