SCOOTER HIGHTOWER, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: October 15, 1993
Height: 6′ 6″
Drafted: 15th Round, 457th Overall, 2015
How Acquired: Draft
College: Columbia State CC
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Hightower fits the Pirates’ mold of tall, big framed right-handers, and he had a breakout season in 2015, posting a 1.79 ERA and a 113:11 K/BB ratio in 80.1 innings. Baseball America rated him as the 19th best player in a five star draft class in Tennessee, although he missed their top 500. He also got recognition from Kiley McDaniel in April as a JuCo pop up guy, along with fellow Pirates draft pick Jacob Taylor. He was a bit on the older side for JuCo, turning 22 over the 2015 off-season. Hightower throws in the upper-80s, occasionally edging higher, with very good command. His best pitch is probably his change, and he switched from a curve to a slider in 2017. He signed shortly after the draft.
The Pirates sent Hightower to Bristol, where he made four starts and ten relief appearances. He pitched well, with great walk and K rates. He held left-handed hitters to a puny .495 OPS. Right-handed hitters posted a .677 OPS against him.
Hightower got off to a very good start, but the Pirates didn’t send him to West Virginia when the 2016 season opened and didn’t promote him when the Power had bullpen openings. He instead went to Morgantown to pitch in relief. He allowed more baserunners than his ERA suggests, as opponents hit .295 against him, but he had a .353 BABIP so he may have had some bad luck. He walked very few, his K rate was good (league average was 7.8), and he allowed no HRs. He was slightly more effective against left-handed than right-handed hitters. Hightower did get a late-season promotion in time to make two long relief appearances for the Power and he allowed just two baserunners in seven innings, with eight strikeouts. He even got wins in both games.
Hightower suffered an oblique injury in spring training that set him back enough that he ended up returning to Morgantown, this time as a starter. He got outstanding results, walking very few and posting a good K rate. He was very tough on right-handed hitters, with a .489 opponents’ OPS, while left-handed hitters posted an OPS of .689.
After not pushing Hightower very quickly in his first three years, the Pirates skipped him over low A and had him open 2018 in the Bradenton bullpen. He dominated there, with outstanding numbers across the board, and they moved him up to Altoona in early July. With the Curve short on starters, he joined the rotation and ultimately made seven starts, along with four relief appearances. He had a rough time in his second start, but he was very successful after that, finishing the season with a string of 23.2 IP without allowing an earned run. On the season, he was extremely tough against right-handed hitters, allowing them a line of just 168/195/283. Left-handed hitters posted a line against him of 254/313/346.
Despite the lack of velocity, Hightower had an outstanding 2018 season. He wasn’t added to the 40-man roster, though, and wasn’t selected in the Rule 5 draft, so teams probably still have doubts about his ceiling. He’ll open 2019 in the Altoona bullpen.
|2019: Minor League Contract
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 10, 2015: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 15th round, 427th overall pick; signed on June 18.|