TYLER EPPLER, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: January 5, 1993
Drafted: 6th Round, 191st Overall, 2014
How Acquired: Draft
College: Sam Houston State
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Eppler is a tall pitcher with a four-pitch mix. According to Baseball America, his fastball has average velocity, reaching 92-93 but sitting at 89-91 and lacking life. Other sources had his fastball reaching 95. He’s generally thrown harder since being drafted, often in the mid-90s. Eppler initially threw a slider, curve and change, but none was a plus pitch, with the result that he’s had low K rates. By 2017, though, he was throwing a pitch that was somewhere between a slider and cutter. His fastball was sitting in the mid-90s and reaching higher. His control is average and, in contrast to many of the tall right-handers the Pirates like, he’s a flyball pitcher. BA rated Eppler the 256th best prospect in the draft. Eppler signed quickly after the draft for $200,000, which was $17,900 below the slot amount.
Eppler had a good debut at Jamestown, holding opponents to a 213/246/346 line, albeit with a low K rate. He was especially strong in August, when he went 3-0, 0.62, with a WHIP of 0.69. He had a modest platoon split, holding right-handed batters to an OPS of .547, while left-handed batters managed .648. He was mostly a flyball pitcher.
Eppler was sidelined by elbow soreness during spring training and didn’t make his first start for Bradenton until June 14. He got off to a shaky start after the layoff, with a 6.94 ERA in his first three starts, but it was 1.66 after that. After a dozen starts and two relief appearances, the Pirates promoted him to Altoona in time for one start, which didn’t go well. He also struggled in one playoff start. Eppler didn’t dominate while at Bradenton, as he had a low K rate, but he walked few hitters and allowed only one HR. Surprisingly, he’s not a groundball pitcher. He held hitters to a 230/276/301 line and his BABIP, while low at .271, wasn’t outlandishly so. At least some of the time, his fastball would sit at 94, reaching 96, in the early innings, but drop to the low-90s after a few innings. He had no platoon split.
Eppler spent the season in the Altoona rotation. He walked very few hitters, but was more hittable than you’d expect for a guy with his stuff. The hits included 38 doubles and 14 HRs, leading to a .280 batting average and .429 slugging average. The averages for the league were .259 and .389, respectively. Eppler had trouble with left-handed hitters, who put up a .799 OPS against him. Right-handed hitters managed only .693. Eppler didn’t finish the season strongly, posting a 4.39 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 11 starts from July 1 on.
Eppler opened the season in the Indianapolis rotation. He got off to an outstanding start, holding opponents to a .550 OPS in four April starts. He mostly pitched well in May, but in June and July got consistently battered. Opponents hammered him for an OPS over 1.000, and he had an ERA over 7.00, in both months. The Pirates tried to give him a break periodically by pitching in relief, but it didn’t help. He had two very good starts in August, but still allowed an OPS of .824 for the month, and he got hit hard in his one September start. Gopher balls were a major problem, as he allowed 23. In fact, extra base hits generally were an issue, as reflected in his opponents’ slugging average of .514. Left-handed hitters had an alarming 341/402/573 line against him. He had more success against right-handed hitters (258/288/474), but the long hits were still a problem.
Eppler spent the season in the Indianapolis rotation. He got off to a strong start. Through June 9, he had an ERA of 2.84; over the rest of the season it was 4.12. His K rate also dropped sharply after the first two months. Opponents didn’t hit Eppler nearly as hard as in 2017 and he cut the gopher balls sharply to 13, but his opponents’ line of 272/320/415 was a little worse than the league average of 252/320/389. He did much better against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .704 OPS.
The Pirates pushed Eppler aggressively up to AAA. Especially surprising was their decision to move him up to AA in 2015, after he’d skipped low A and missed half the season due to elbow soreness. So far in AAA, he hasn’t shown the kind of ceiling you’d want to see for a major league starter. He has good velocity and control, but lacks an out pitch. Eppler was not added to the 40-man roster and is eligible for the Rule 5 draft for the second time.
|2019: Minor league contract|
|Signing Bonus: $200,000
MiLB Debut: 2014
MiLB FA Eligible: 2020
MLB FA Eligible:
Rule 5 Eligible: 2017
Added to 40-Man:
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|June 6, 2014: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 6th round, 191st overall pick; signed on June 11.|