Let’s face it—the Pirates are a bad team. Just look at the numbers of their pitching staff, and you cannot help but cringe.

A team ERA of 5.27 is awfully telling, as they have maybe two or three usable pitchers for fantasy owners.

Help may be on the way. Top prospect Brad Lincoln has been tearing up Triple-A, earning him a recall to start tonight against the Nationals. Just look at his production:

Six Wins
68.1 Innings
3.16 ERA
1.00 WHIP
55 Strikeouts (7.3 K/9)
14 Walks (1.9 BB/9)
.255 BABIP

There was talk that he could make his debut yesterday, with the Pirates in need of a starting pitcher. However, that would have placed him in the crosshairs of the Stephen Strasburg hoopla, so the Pirates opted to keep him back in Triple-A for an extra day.

He has been a little bit lucky this season, but the control is a huge plus in his favor. With a career BB/9 of 1.8 over 263.2 innings heading into 2010, there’s no reason to think that he can’t continue throwing strikes.

The strikeout rate is not a selling point. Over his minor league career prior to 2010 he had a K/9 of 6.9, not a number that catches fantasy owners’ attention. You unfortunately have to wonder if he will ever regain the strikeout potential that helped him become the fourth overall selection of the 2006 draft.

At the University of Houston in 2006 he struck out 152 over 127.2 innings, but he has never shown that upside in the minor leagues. It is quite possible that the Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2007 season will have longstanding effects in this area of his game.

He has the stuff, however, if he can get his changeup on par with his other pitches.  Look at what Baseball America had to say prior to the season:

“Lincoln has two plus pitches, a 90-93 mph fastball that reaches 95 with good late life and a curveball that breaks big and late.

“Lincoln’s changeup is improving but still needs work.”

Besides his changeup, the righty needs to improve on getting left-handed hitters out before he can make a real impact in the major leagues. Currently this season lefties have hit .273 against him.

That is the big, tangible statistic that we can watch and monitor. We also can look at the strikeouts, but clearly that’s not going to be the best gauge on if his secondary offerings have improved, especially at the major league level.

He’s not going to be a top fantasy option, even if he can increase the strikeouts significantly. Pitching for the Pirates, how many wins will be possible? Still, in deeper formats, he could prove usable as soon as the end of 2010. He’s not going to match the dazzling line posted by Strasburg last night, but he could be solid just the same.

What are your thoughts on Lincoln? How good could he be? Will he be usable?

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