BRET HELTON, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: July 25, 1993
Drafted: 9th Round, 277th Overall, 2015
How Acquired: Draft
College: University of Utah
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Helton split his last two college seasons between the starting rotation and the bullpen for Utah, mostly due to his own struggles. Early in the 2015 season, he was the Friday night starter for Utah, then he lost that job only to regain it late in the season. He finished up his junior year very strongly, which helped push him up the draft charts. Helton had a 5.72 ERA as a junior, influenced to some degree by the fact that his team played in a high offense environment, as indicated by their 5.17 team ERA. He saw better results during his sophomore season, posting a 4.99 ERA in 57.2 innings. As a freshman, he pitched just four games and saw more time as a DH/OF. Helton is not a strikeout pitcher and has occasional issues with control. He throws his fastball in the 93-94 MPH range and also throws a cutter and curve. The Pirates will likely have him add a change-up to that mix if he remains a starter. His father played four seasons in the NFL. Baseball America rated Helton 448th on their top 500 draft prospects list. He signed right after the draft for slightly below the slot amount.
Helton pitched out of the Morgantown rotation and had a rough debut season. His ERA could have been even worse, but 12 of the 42 runs he allowed were unearned. There was no one area that stood out as especially bad. Hitters put up a very solid 288/364/429 line against him in a league in which the average was 250/324/346.
Helton spent the season in the West Virginia rotation. He didn’t have a good season, especially not for a ninth-round college draftee in low A. There wasn’t any one thing that was terrible. Instead, pretty much everything was at least a little below average for the league: his opponents’ slash numbers (253/337/405 vs. 250/319/372), his K/9 (6.7 vs. 8.3), his BB/9 (3.4 vs. 3.0), and his HR/9 (0.9 vs. 0.6). He had only a mild platoon split, yielding a .783 OPS to left-handed hitters and .713 to right-handed hitters.
The Pirates sent Helton to Bradenton, where he initially pitched in relief. As the season wore on, though, he was needed more and more as a starter, and ended up making 14 starts and 16 relief appearances. He struggled early in the season, allowing an opponents’ OPS of .825 and .817 in April and May, respectively. He lowered that to .683 and .439 in June and July, then didn’t do quite as well in August. Some of the difference was BABIP-related. Helton was much more effective against right-handed (.581 OPS) than left-handed (.802) hitters.
Except for one spot start, Helton pitched in relief all year for Altoona. He wasn’t effective at all, with the biggest difference from 2017 being a walk rate that doubled. It may have been less a matter of wildness than of hitters not chasing pitches a little off the plate. Helton struggled throughout the season, except in May, and gave up a lot of extra base hits along with the walks. Opponents had a line of 276/382/476 against him. Left-handed hitters pounded him for a .933 OPS, but he wasn’t especially effective against right-handed hitters, who had a .759 OPS.
Helton doesn’t appear ready for AAA, so he could return to Altoona in 2019.
|2019: Minor League Contract
|Signing Bonus: $150,000
MiLB Debut: 2015
MiLB FA Eligible: 2021
MLB FA Eligible:
Rule 5 Eligible: 2018
Added to 40-Man:
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|June 9, 2015: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 9th round, 277th overall pick; signed on June 12.|