Waddell, the Pirates’ 2015 fifth-rounder out of Virginia, was working 91-to-94 mph with his fastball earlier in the season before going on DL with a strain in his left forearm on June 6, his second such stint this season. He is still working to build back some arm strength after being shelved, and my viewing on August 5 was his second start with Altoona after to rehab starts, and he threw 4 2/3 innings and gave up six hits, walked three, and struck out five in a 2-1 win over Trenton.
Waddell works from an abbreviated wind-up with a medium leg lift, and it’s a fluid delivery from a 3/4’s slot with a medium arm circle and a slight hook in the back. The arm speed is average, though the arm dragged at times in this view, causing his misses to be mostly up and to the arm side. The fastball velo was down, topping out at 93 mph but with most readings 90-to-91 mph. The four-seamer gets some fringy cut and heft, and the two-seamer showed some tail and sink in the lower velo band.
His overall control profile shows that he is still struggling to consistently find the strike zone, with well-below-average BB/9 rates as a pro (4.7 BB/9 at Altoona in 2016, 4.0 this year). While some of the control issues may iron out as he regains his arm strength, the fastball command/control profile will specifically need to improve for him to get to his secondaries and have more success turning over lineups at the upper levels. He’s been doing a great job of generating ground ball contact (1.99 GO:AO over 118 innings last year, and 2.13 through his 37 1/3 innings in 2017), and he did show average command of his breaking pitches, with average slider being his most effective offering especially versus righties. It’s a future 55-grade pitch, generating soft contact and swing and miss at 83-to-86 mph. His curveball was also average, showing tight spin and 1-to-7 shape at 77-to-80 mph, and dropping it in for first-pitch strikes several times. He used the changeup (78-to-79 mph) sparingly, instead relying on the two-seamer to move away from righties. While the arm speed can sell it, the tumble was limited, and the pitch still needs some refinement to be effective.
With nothing overwhelming in the overall profile, Waddell’s ceiling may be limited to a Role 50 back-end rotation piece if he can stay healthy, and the control profile will have get to at least fringe average to reach that ceiling. If not, there could still be a fallback role coming out of the bullpen in middle relief, where the fastball velocity seen earlier in the year, and the projectable slider could play up in shorter stints.
Ed. Note: Waddell was placed on the 7-day DL for the third time this year (elbow strain) following his last start on August 10.