The DSL Pirates have struggled as a group this year, posting an 8-17 record. They snapped a nine game losing streak on Friday and won again on Saturday, so week four ended on a good note. The starting pitching was very consistent this week, with no starter allowing more than two earned runs in any of the six games. The offense scored just four runs in the first three games, then put up 23 runs in the last three. We start off with some bad news for the team first, then get into the individual weeks from key players.
The team suffered two injuries recently, losing center fielder Victor Fernandez short-term and pitcher Cesar Santos long-term. Fernandez has been a bright spot this year in his rookie season. The 19-year-old is the fastest player on the team, mans center field and has impressed with his bat. He has a .321/.429/.660 slash line through 16 games, with ten extra-base hits, a 9/8 BB/K ratio and seven stolen bases. He could return to the team within a week according to the last report.
The long-term injury is relief pitcher Cesar Santos. He injured his hand during a collision with the catcher on a bunt play on June 13th and was recently put on the 60-day disabled list, which will end his rookie season. The 19-year-old lefty pitched seven innings over five appearances and had some control issues. Santos allowed five runs on six hits and eight walks, with five strikeouts.
The highlight on offense this week has to be the play of left fielder Edison Lantigua. As one of the Pirates three high-priced signings from the last July 2nd signing period, Lantigua has shown impressive plate patience for a 17-year-old. In 19 games, he has 17 walks, helping him to an .842 OPS on the season. This week, he hit .500 with a double, triple and four walks.
Shortstop Adrian Valerio had a nice week at the plate, going 7-for-25 with four doubles. The 17-year-old switch-hitter is handling left-handed pitchers well, batting .375 this year. Batting from the left side though, he’s hitting .185 in 65 at-bats. All he needs to do is show he can handle the bat a little and he will move up after this season because the glove is already one of the best in the Pirates’ system.
Top prospect Jeremias Portorreal had an interesting week. On one hand, he finished the week going 2-for-19 with seven strikeouts. On the other, he drew seven walks in 26 plate appearances, which is always a good sign. As the youngest player on the team, he has struggled a bit this year, but he has a ton of potential and remains the top player to follow.
The Pirates signed Eliezer Ramirez for $120,000 last year and noted that he makes good contact, with potential for power. He is a bit on the raw side and has just 25 at-bats so far. He may start seeing more time, as he started three times this week, though that may have been due in part to Victor Fernandez being out of action. Ramirez didn’t capitalize on the extra time, going 1-for-11 at the plate. The struggle could help him in the long run though, as Ramirez commented on the extra playing time he got this week, saying “Although I did not play well, I am working hard to get better.”
Second baseman Raul Siri cooled off this week, going 5-for-24 with a .588 OPS. He is still the team leader with a .327 batting average and his .972 OPS is second only to Victor Fernandez. Siri probably isn’t a prospect at this point, though his hot start makes him worth watching. He wasn’t a high-profile signing, started at age 19, and is very small at 5’9″, 175 pounds. While none of those things eliminate him as a prospect on their own, they aren’t good as a group.
On the pitching side, the best happening from this week was the start from Luis Escobar. The 18-year-old from Colombia, made it through five innings for the first time in his fifth start. He also allowed just two runs and walked one batter after issuing multiple walks in each of his other four games. He previous outing was brief due to his pitch count, but Escobar gave up just one earned run over 3.1 innings, so he is headed in the right direction. He was a third baseman as recently as two years ago, so he is still a bit raw for a pitcher, but reports had him hitting 94 MPH when he signed. Once he starts to get a good feel for pitching, he could really take off.
Richard Mitchell has a 5.40 ERA through five starts, with 10 runs over 8.1 innings in two of those games and four runs over 15 innings in the other three outings. He has basically been alternating good and bad starts, a cycle which he hopes to break when he makes his next start this upcoming week. Mitchell told us last week that he’s been working hard on throwing first pitch fastballs for strikes and limiting his pitch count by pitching to contact. It worked in his third outing, needing 63 pitches to get through five innings and he got through five again this week with limited damage. Pirates starters in the Dominican are able to go five innings or 75 pitches, whichever comes first.
Last week, we featured pitcher Carlos Bustamante, providing a scouting report on the young pitcher from Mexico. He made two outings this week in relief and pitched brilliantly, retiring 14 of the 15 batters he faced. The only batter he didn’t retire, was a hit batter. Bustamante said afterwards that his success this week came from staying ahead in the count and being able to throw all three of his pitches for strikes.
Starter Nestor Oronel has a 3.10 ERA in five starts, though he has a .349 BAA and he’s given up ten unearned runs, so his overall performance isn’t great. The 17-year-old lefty was signed last July after his sinking fastball showed great improvements. He was also said to have a plus breaking ball and a good feel for pitching. He is still early in his rookie season and the youngest starter on the team. That combination of his age and innings pitched, shows that the Pirates believe he has good potential. Right now he sits 87-88 with his fastball, touching 89 MPH. According to one report, his curve ball has looked good this year. Oronel also throws a change-up.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.