The DSL Pirates as a team were one of the better hitting squads thanks mainly to their three all-stars who helped them score 5.3 runs a game and finish atop the DSL in home runs. From last year’s club, gone were Willy Garcia, Luis Urena, Alen Hanson, Jodaneli Carvajal and Samuel Gonzalez who are all playing well in the states. Plus, three players were released, so this team had a lot of at-bats to make up, some with new players while some of the younger returning players were expected to step up.
For the batters I’ll start with the catching position as they used 7 different players behind the plate during the year. Jose Ortiz got the most time behind the plate. The 21 year old last year was the regular catcher for the VSL Pirates where he didn’t hit for average but showed some signs of power. He hit even worse this year and his defense wasn’t anything special, especially his arm as he threw out just 5 of 53 attempted base stealers. He did not play after July 29th and at his advanced age for the league it is unlikely he will go far.
Jhoanel Jimenez is a 21 year old switch hitting catcher in his 3rd season with the Pirates. He caught parts of 36 games but had just 64 AB’s despite hitting much better than in the past. He had the highest % of baserunners caught stealing with 35% but at this point he is more of just an organizational player as he was used sparingly despite being with the team all year.
Deybi Garcia joined the roster in mid-July and has been getting decent playing time behind the dish. A 19 year old, he has hit well in his rookie campaign and will likely split the catching duties next year with the next two kids who are even younger. Francis Lopez got into just 3 games in July without recording a hit in 5 AB’s but he is the 2nd youngest catcher on the roster and at 6′ 2″ and 200 lbs he has nice size. The youngest catcher is Patrick Reyes who has been getting about half the playing time since joining the roster on July 30th. Just 18 years old now, he is holding his own and I’d expect these three to get most of the catching time next year.
The other two catchers used this year were Danny Arribas and Yeffrey Jaquez. Arribas has played mostly thirdbase so I will get to him shortly. Jaquez was in his 2nd DSL season, the 20 year old catcher actually hit pretty decent last year but he was strictly a backup this year. He played just 12 games including just once after June 29th and he was released in mid-July after hitting just .115 in 26 AB’s.
On to the infielders and the two most used players at 3B this year were Maximo Rivera and Danny Arribas. Maximo was signed for the highest bonus in 2009 at $165 K. He was said to be very raw and it showed last year and even most of this year. What the team liked about him was his power potential and eventhough he hit just .215 the power started to show, going from just 2 extra base hits last year to 16 this year including seven home runs. Arribas at age 18 now, was born in Miami but grew up playing for the Dutch junior national team. He signed in early May, went right to the DSL and has been getting regular playing time but also has struggled all season hitting just .200 with 5 extra base hits (all doubles) in 125 AB’s.
Ramses Pena is an 18 year old the Pirates signed for $150 K in November of 2009. He did okay his first year but his second year the Pirates expected much bigger things from him and he has struggled all season. He finished with a .174 average and the only tool he has shown is decent speed so far, with his fielding being almost as bad as his batting. He will definitely return for next season as he has a lot to work on.
Diego Goris jumped all around the infield this year but played the most of his time at SS. He was one of three Pirates hitters to make the DSL all-star game as a starter and for good reason. He batted a team high .350 with 20 doubles and 5 homers plus 15 steals in just 18 attempts. His average was the 2nd highest total in the league and his 93 hits lead the DSL. Goris is a 4th year player so he will be in the GCL most likely next year but it would be better if he could at least make the State College roster. He has decent size at 6′ 2″ and will be just 21 so while he has a long way to go to be considered a real prospect, he has definitely shown the improvements that at least put him on the map.
Rodney Polonia got the most time at 2B but really didn’t play a lot and didn’t do well when he did. The son of former major leaguer Luis Polonia signed as part of last year’s July 2nd signing class. His dad runs a school down there that also had another player the Pirates signed, Edwin Espinal. Polonia struggled in the field and at the plate plus never got any consistent playing time but he still hasn’t turned 19 yet and should see some significant time next year. Espinal looks like the under the radar signing you always hope for. The 1B/3B has great size at 6′ 3″ and 210 plus he is just 17, the youngest player on the roster. He was hitting .341 thirteen games into his career but got hurt and missed most of July. Since returning the bat has slowed down but he is definitely one to watch next year.
Robertson Valdez has as much raw power as anyone on the DSL team but that power has stayed raw. In 145 AB’s over his two seasons he has just 4 extra base hits, all doubles. He will be 19 all of next season so he has time to develop but the lack of numbers so far certainly has to start worrying the Pirates who were very high on him despite being raw at the time they signed him in 2009.
Yunerky Adames signed in early July to split 1B with Valdez. He is about to turn 21 but had no prior experience in the pros. He has struggled pretty bad so things don’t look good for the 6′ 1″ lefty. He is definitely well behind where he should be at this age.
Outfielders Raul Fortunato and Jesus Vasquez each made the all-star team as starters. Fortunato is a 20 year old third year player who really demonstrates how big of a jump these players can make in just one year, something to remember with Valdez and Rivera who both had much better scouting reports when signed. Fortunato prior to this year was all about speed and defense in centerfield. Now he is almost 21 so you have to take that into account but he showed all five tools this season finally adding average and power to his game. He had a 35 game hitting streak and finished the year batting .324 with 7 homers and 34 stolen bases.
Vasquez, a 6′ 2″ LF at age 19 had the most impressive stats of the group despite a real slow finish to his season. He had 20 doubles and 11 home runs, both numbers at the top of the team and league leaders. He was also at the top of the league leaders in OPS, falling back to 2nd place on the last day but still finishing with a 1.007 mark. He also led the team with 41 walks. He will be one to watch in the GCL next year, a rare young power bat in the system.
Yefraine Gerald signed two years ago but never played until this season. As the regular right fielder most of the year Gerald batted .225 with 4 homers and 13 stolen bases in 62 games. The 6′ 4″ righty is already 21 so these stats aren’t a good sign despite it being his first year in the league.
Yunior Aquiles was another July 2nd class signing from last year and he also signed for a six figure contract. At age 17 he played very sparingly getting just 40 AB’s but the team really likes him. He has raw power, can run and throw well and should be able to play CF at a high level. He should be a regular on next year’s team, especially with at least 2/3 of the outfield moving to the states.
Miguel De Aza missed all of June with an unspecified injury and didn’t put up great stats but he may be the best prospect of the hitters in this group. When he was signed last year for $150 K, the 18 year old lefty was called a possible future 5 tool player with power being the only questionable one of the group. He batted .211 in 71 AB’s this year and will likely return to the DSL although he could follow the path of Luis Urena and Willy Garcia, who both signed for over 6 figures and got moved to the GCL this year despite posting stats that were less than stellar last year in the DSL.
Finally, Yomifer Polanco started playing with the team in early July although he was with the team much earlier. The 18 year old 6′ 1″ righty got regular playing time once he started playing and did okay for his age hitting .225 in his 27 games. He should be another one of the regulars next year.