The biggest story in the Gulf Coast League this year for the Pirates was Luis Heredia. The 16 year old Mexican pitching phenom made his pro debut, getting the aggressive push to the United States. Heredia really stands out because of his high velocity at a young age, but also his potential for up to four plus pitches.
One thing that’s notable with the GCL team this year is that it’s not just Heredia with the potential top of the rotation stuff. The team also includes guys like Yhonathan Herrand, who can throw in the upper 90s, and several players who consistently work in the low-to-mid 90s. Even guys like Jimy Hernandez, who aren’t considered top prospects, throw in the 89-92 MPH range at the age of 19.
Here are the pitchers who played for the GCL Pirates this year, broken down by age group. The first group represents a young age for the level. This is where you will find most of the prospects. The second group is around the average age for the league, although this group would need really strong stuff or very good numbers to be considered a top prospect. The third group makes up the organizational players.
The obvious standout prospect here is Luis Heredia. After signing for $2.6 M last year, Heredia made his debut at the GCL level this year. The most impressive thing was that he was 16 years old through most of the season, which is very young for the level. His control and his overall numbers were a bit disappointing, although they reflect his lack of experience more than his potential. I recapped Heredia’s first pro season over the weekend, linking to a few videos we’ve posted from this season, as well as some live reports.
Heredia stands out as the top prospect, but the Pirates have a few other guys who show some promise, especially with their fastball velocity. Dovydas Neverauskas was a big surprise this year. The right hander came from Lithuania, a country not known for baseball prospects, but was touching 94 MPH with his fastball, and put up some pretty nice results. He also struggled with control, like Heredia, but the talent is there, and his frame and young age could allow him to improve on that fastball velocity. Yhonathan Herrand was signed out of the Dominican Republic last year for $280 K, and made the jump to the US this year. He touched 97 MPH with his fastball in Spring Training, although obviously his control numbers also suffer. He’s raw, but a big frame and a 97 MPH fastball will keep him on the radar.
The other big international prospect of note was Orlando Castro. The left hander absolutely dominated the GCL, before being promoted all the way up to West Virginia at the age of 19. He’s flashed an 88-92 MPH fastball at times, which is nice to see from a left hander, although those velocity numbers haven’t been consistent this year.
As for the other international prospects, Jimy Hernandez had good stuff when I saw him, throwing in the 89-92 MPH range this year, although his numbers weren’t the best this year. Brayan Almonte has a huge frame, but was hit pretty hard in his jump to the US. Cristopher Richardson is a left hander who has touched 91 MPH in the past, and had decent results in his limited playing time. One surprise out of the international class was Wilson Lee. The left hander from Australia got a lot of playing time, including five starts, which was the second most on the team from this group. He posted pretty good numbers in the process, making him a guy to watch.
There were a few guys from the draft ranks. Bryton Trepagnier and Logan Pevny both came from the late rounds of the 2010 draft. They are both similar pitchers in that they are very tall, very skinny, and throw in the upper 80s. Pevny put up the better numbers this year, but in both cases you’ve got a raw pitcher who will need to add some velocity going forward. Considering their projectable frames, there’s a good chance of seeing that velocity in the future.
The 2011 draft class saw a few guys make their debuts. 8th round pick Jason Creasy pitched 5.1 innings, while 7th round pick Jake Burnette pitched one inning. I’d expect both pitchers to make the jump to State College next year.
There weren’t many guys in this group, and all of the guys listed could be considered prospects. Bryce Weidman had the best season of the group, getting thrown in to the rotation after being demoted from State College earlier in the year. He’s still at the age where the demotion doesn’t hurt him, as long as he has success in State College the next time around.
Cesar Lopez was signed prior to the season for $600 K out of Cuba. He’s very raw, but can touch 94 MPH with his fastball. His numbers are inflated by a poor start to end the season, which accounted for over half of his earned runs.
David Jagoditsh was an interesting addition to the team. He was a 32nd round draft pick this year, and was hitting 93-95 MPH in short outings early in the year. He lacked control, and was hit hard, but that velocity combined with his very tall, and very big frame puts him on the radar. He didn’t pitch much this past season at the JuCo level, so he could be considered on the raw side.
The two remaining international prospects are a bit on the older side. Campos is more an organizational player, despite the strong numbers out of the bullpen. Mateo is a different story. He was originally signed as Yoldi Sierra in 2008, but was later revealed to be Diomedes Mateo, and two years older. The identity issue cost him a year last year, and pushed him to the US this year, where he posted some decent results.
The first two guys from this group were signed as undrafted free agents out of college. Robbie Kilcrease has already moved up to State College, while Joe Parsons is a candidate to make the jump now that the GCL season is over. Both players are more organizational guys out of the bullpen. Rinku Singh has moved up to West Virginia, where he is more age appropriate. Miguel Mendez is an interesting story, as he was an organizational catcher prior to this year, but made the switch to pitching, and so far the experiment has worked well, based on his numbers this year.