Winter Leagues: Pittsburgh Pirates In Panama

Starling Marte told the Dominican League site yesterday that he missed two games early this week due to minor back discomfort, contrary to what we heard from some sources covering the team. There was speculation by some that he was taking off as a precaution due to a back injury, but the official word was that he was just resting. Marte said that he decided to take off until the minor discomfort was totally gone. He missed two games and had another day off due to the scheduled off day on Tuesday. Marte returned with two hits on Wednesday, then went 1-for-4 on Thursday.

Montilla has hit well wherever he has played
Montilla has hit well wherever he has played

Marte did not start on Friday, though he was on the daily roster submitted to the league. With his team down 4-2 in the ninth, Marte never left the bench. He also didn’t come in when left fielder Jose Constanza had to leave after legging out a double in the first inning.

In Puerto Rico, there were Pirates players who were actually in action on Friday night. Benji Gonzalez had a tough day, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and a walk. He also made his third error of the playoffs. Gonzalez hit .317 in the regular season with no errors. In the playoffs, he is hitting .143 in the first six games.

Eliecer Navarro pitched in relief after making all three of his appearances in the starting role. Navarro was asked to face one hitter in the bottom of the ninth with his team up 3-2 and he retired the batter on a fly out to left field.

Play Ball In Panama

Winter ball in Panama just started this week, which may seem odd compared to all the other leagues that have already wrapped up their seasons. In Panama, they play an 18 game schedule between four teams, with each team playing each other six times. The teams with the top two records, then play for the title.

The league has a possible sleeper prospect from the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, Ulises Montilla. He was ranked 45th overall in our 2014 Prospect Guide. Montilla hit .290 in the GCL this year, posting an .802 OPS. In 2011 in the Venezuelan Summer League, he batted .364, the second highest average in the league. The following season, he batted .320 in the Dominican Summer League. Montilla opened his Winter season with a bang, going 2-for-3 with a double, homer and four RBIs. He was the second baseman, playing his primary position from 2013. Montilla has also played third base and all three outfield spots.

Other Pirates players in the league include Dario Agrazal Jr., who hasn’t pitched yet. He played in the league last year before he made his pro debut in the DSL. Agrazal went 6-0, 2.40 in 60 innings(12 starts and one relief outing) during his pro debut in 2013.

Edgardo Munoz has gone 1-for-8 with a walk so far. He missed all but four games this past year in the DSL, his third season in the Pirates organization.

One other name in the league from the recent past that Pirates fans might remember is Jorge Bishop. He had a strong debut in 2009 in Venezuela, then came to the GCL and looked decent as a 19-year-old in the league. He even played four games for Bradenton as a fill-in. After that, things went downhill quickly. He then had two bad years and never made it past State College. Bishop was released by the Pirates in 2012. In game one in Panama, he was the double play partner of Ulises Montilla.

  • What has been Montilla’s primary position in the Bucs organization so far? Do we have a clear view of his upside at this point?

    • He has really moved around during his four seasons. He started as a left fielder then moved to center field while occasionally playing 3b or 2b. In 2012, he was mostly at 3B and last year he was only at 2B, the position he is playing in Panama. His upside is tough to tell at this point. Makes solid contact, hits for average, was stealing some bases before 2013, but didn’t even attempt a stolen base this year. If he is at West Virginia for at least half of 2014, then he becomes very interesting. If he doesn’t make it there, then you have to wonder about him. For now, he’s rated safe at #45, which just shows he has upside, but is far away

  • I never heard of winter baseball in Panama before.

    Just another reason why I love this site.

    • I was hoping the league would have coverage. They barely did last year, but they seem to be pretty good so far early. Montilla is an interesting player because he can hit, plays multiple positions and he isn’t a free swinger, where you would expect him to run into trouble as he keeps going up. He might be able to skip over Jamestown/Bristol and go to West Virginia. I wouldn’t totally rule it out yet.

      • Agrazal is far away, but he had a nice debut season and he has some great bloodlines. His dad was a big time pitcher in Panama and he is now a well-respected coach. He is one to keep in the back of your mind, or if you follow the DSL action, a potential ace for one of the Pirates affiliates this year down there

  • I’m expecting Walker to put up a strong year, I hope the extension talk is true.

  • I know this is off topic but I got a bit of info last night from someone I believe to be reliable. Walker will get an very team friendly extension before opening day.

    • I’ll keep an eye out for any info regarding him. Thanks. I certainly think it could happen if he really wants to stay. Not every player is out for the most money they can squeeze out of owners, some realize they can live comfortable for a long time on a little less and don’t mind taking it to play where they want. If anyone would be willing to do that, it would be Walker in Pittsburgh and it would work out well for him and the team.

    • If that is true I hope they announce it in Bradenton , like they did with Andrew !

  • Marte , do not hurt yourself . That is all !!!!

    • The league is very cautious with affiliated players from what I have seen. It sounds like if he was a free agent, he would have played through it. He is having a rough time down there though between the back and hit-by-pitches