A night after getting mauled by cyborg..er Stephen Strasburg, the Pittsburgh Pirates promoted RHP Brad Lincoln to start Wednesday night against the Nationals. Two roster spots were opened up yesterday — 1B Jeff Clement was sent to Triple-A Indianapolis and LHP Jack Taschner was DFA’d — and the other spot is expected to go to OF Jose Tabata. If that move becomes official, look for a post on Tabata tomorrow.
Lincoln, 25, was the fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft. The University of Houston product starred on the mound and in the batter’s box for the Cougars, but a power pitching arsenal assured that he’d leave the bat behind as a pro. Here was Baseball America’s scouting report of Lincoln at the time:
He sits at 91-93 mph with good life on his fastball, touches 95-96 most games and has peaked at 98. He holds that velocity throughout games. His curveball is equally as impressive, and he can throw it for strikes or break it out of the zone as a chase pitch. He also shows feel for a changeup that’s close to an average pitch already. Lincoln is close to big league ready and his competitive makeup means he’ll get everything out of his considerable ability.
Unfortunately, the 6-foot righty would toss just 23.2 innings as a Pirates farmhand in 2006 before succumbing to Tommy John surgery the following April. After missing the entire 2007 season, Lincoln returned in 2008 and split his season between the Low-A South Atlantic League and the High-A Carolina League. At the lower level, he had 6.68 K/9, 0.87 B/9 and a 3.78 FIP in 62 IP. In the Carolina League, Lincoln logged 41.2 innings and had rates of 6.26 K/9, 2.38 BB/9 and a 4.23 FIP. Though he didn’t strike out a ton of batters, Lincoln was stingy with the walks and kept the ball down (a combined 50.9 GB% between the two levels, according to Minor League Splits).
In its 2009 Prospect Handbook, BA said that Lincoln’s post-Tommy John velocity returned to the 90-93 MPH range, and his hammer curve regained its bite. His changeup was said to need work, though, and he also “caught too much of the strike zone at times, making him susceptible to home runs.” (Lincoln surrendered about 1.1 HR/9 in ’08)
In ’09, Lincoln again divided his season between two levels. In the Double-A Eastern League, he whiffed 7.8 per nine, walked 2.16 and had a 2.96 FIP in 75 innings. A low homer rate (0.48 per nine) contributed to that sub-three FIP, however, and his ground ball rate dipped to 43.8%. Promoted to the Triple-A International League, Lincoln threw 61.1 innings with rates of 6.16 K/9, 1.47 BB/9, 1.03 HR/9 and a 3.85 FIP. He was an extreme fly ball pitcher for the Indians, getting grounders just 34 percent.
Sent back to Indy to begin the 2010 season, Lincoln improved his K rate (7.2 per nine), kept the walks low (1.8 BB/9) and had a more neutral GB/FB profile (42.6 GB%), posting a 3.67 FIP in 68.1 IP.
While no premier prospect, Lincoln has the look of a quality mid-rotation arm. He controls his low-90’s fastball well, has an above-average curve and while his change doesn’t draw much praise, he hasn’t shown much a platoon split in the minors (3.88 FIP versus lefties, 3.78 FIP against right-handers). According to Minor League Splits, Lincoln’s ’09 pitching translated to a major league line of 5.64 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, 1.06 HR/9 and a 4.57 FIP. His 2010 season equates to 6.09 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, 1.32 HR/9 and a 4.85 FIP. Before the season began, CHONE projected 6.22 K/9, 2.87 BB/9, 1.34 HR/9 and a 4.70 FIP, while ZiPS forecasted 5.58 K/9, 2.35 BB/9, 1.32 HR/9 and a 4.65 FIP.
Lincoln’s worth an add in NL-only formats, given his adequate punch out rates and low walk rate. He’s probably not a prime target in keeper leagues, but he’s someone to monitor there, too. Watch his ground ball rate, though — as BA indicated, home runs could become a problem.