Every fifth day, Sean Bierman heads to the mound. He pitches, and pitches well. In 11 starts for the Short Season-A Hudson Valley Renegades, Bierman went 4-2 with a 2.75 ERA in 52.1 innings, striking out 36 while walking just 5 and posting a 59.4% groundball rate. When suspensions left the Low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods understaffed, Bierman came up and didn’t miss a beat, tossing 5 innings of 1-run ball in his first start. Sean Bierman knows that things could have been better. But he can’t worry about that now. He just does his best every start out, controlling what he can control.
Bierman is a 6’0″, 195 lefty who turns 24 in October. He was drafted in the 10th round by the Rays in 2012 but received just a $5,000 signing bonus, pennies on the dollar compared to the slot value. Why was his bonus so low? Simple: his age, his injury history, and his arrest history. It’s hard enough to be a high pick as a shorter pitcher, but the fact that Bierman missed a year because of Tommy John Surgery scared teams away as well. And then there was his DUI arrest from back in 2011. But Bierman put everything together as a 5th-year senior at the University of Tampa, posting a 2.27 ERA and a ridiculous 85-11 strikeout to walk ratio in 83.1 innings. He wasn’t receiving such a small bonus because the Rays didn’t think that he could pitch. But they were challenging him. If he was really a good enough pitcher to be a starter in the big leagues someday, he would have to prove it every step of the way.
Bierman was talented enough to be a 42nd round pick by the Reds back in 2007 despite a strong commitment to Vanderbilt as his fastball hit 91 MPH. Bierman doesn’t throw that hard anymore after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. But the rest of his arsenal has come together quite well. Bierman throws in just the high-80’s with his sinker but locates it extremely well for strikes down in the zone. He has very arm good action on his changeup to go along with great sink. His 1-to-7 curveball doesn’t feature sharp break, but Bierman throws it for strikes and uses it to get a lot of groundballs. Bierman is not going to be a pitcher who strikes out a lot of guys, but his control and command of all three of his pitches are above-average and he keeps hitters off-balance, forcing a ton of weak contact with a considerable majority coming on the ground. Bierman is nothing flashy, but he has the ability to be a 4th starter in the big leagues someday. Considering he will be 24 years old for all of next season, he will have to move quickly through the minor leagues. But he has the ability to do just that.
If things had broken a different way, Sean Bierman could have been in the minor leagues two years ago with a $200,000 signing bonus. But, it didn’t happen. Life is tougher for Bierman now. Nothing is guaranteed for him anymore. But if he can continue to execute as a pitcher, it won’t matter.