The DSL Pirates had some injuries this week that left them short-handed and we found out that one player is done for the year. The first injury of note is the one to shortstop prospect Adrian Valerio, who twisted his knee during practice. Luckily for the Pirates, the injury turned out to be minor and he returned to action on Saturday. He missed three games in the middle of the week and ended up going 0-for-11, so it wasn’t a good week for him. His hitting has been hot and cold this year, but he has consistently made solid contact, with just 19 strikeouts in 161 at-bats.
Two other players have missed time with injuries, though both should return soon. Infielder Jesus Ronco hasn’t played since July 1st. He was only being used in a utility role, so it wasn’t a huge loss for the team. Outfielder Sandy Santos was playing everyday though and he has now missed the last two weeks. That has allowed Eliezer Ramirez to see more playing time. The 17-year-old from Venezuela wasn’t playing much, but he is a talented player, who should see regular time with the team next year when he is more experienced. He got four starts and went 2-for-12 with three walks.
The player that is out for the season is outfielder Huascar Fuentes. He hasn’t played since early June and isn’t expected to return before the season ends. He played just five games in this rookie season.
There was some great pitching this week from the Pirates starters. Richard Mitchell threw ten innings without allowing an earned run this week. He now has his ERA down to 3.17 through ten starts, with a .223 BAA and just 11 walks in 48.1 innings. That innings pitched total is impressive considering the Pirates have strict pitch limits and starters cannot go more than five innings in a start.
Top pitching prospect Luis Escobar has shown why he is considered the best at his position. He threw five shutout innings this week, giving up just one hit. He allowed ten earned runs in his second start this year, then has followed that up with ten earned runs allowed over his last eight starts combined. This month he has given up two earned runs in 19 innings and has held batters to a .133 average.
Starter Nestor Oronel had his best start as a pro this week, throwing five shutout innings. He is a 17-year-old lefty from Venezuela, who has struggled with giving up hits in his rookie season, with batters hitting .369 against him. Oronel hasn’t walked many batters, but the early results haven’t been good. Luckily, age is on his side and the fact that he is pitching so many innings shows that the Pirates think highly of him.
For the first time this year, the Pirates broke from their five man rotation, giving a start to Jherson Esqueda. He was injured in June and has slowly been working his way up to enough pitches to start. He threw five shutout innings this week and over 15.1 innings this season, Esqueda hasn’t given up a walk, while picking up 15 strikeouts.
On offense, second baseman Raul Siri did well after winning the All-Star game MVP last Sunday. He had six hits and drew five walks this week. In 48 games, he has a .331/.430/.556 line, with 18 doubles, five triples, four homers and eight stolen bases. We posted an article on him last week with scouting reports from four different people that have seen him play this year.
High-Priced Signing Paying Off
When the Pirates signed Edison Lantigua last year, he got the third highest bonus, inking a deal for $275K. The 17-year-old lefty has looked like he is worth every penny early in his career. He is hitting .273/.381/.414 in 36 games, with ten doubles, four triples, 23 walks and three stolen bases. Lantigua is actually hitting better against left-handed pitchers, which is a great sign at his age. At 6’0″, 175 pounds, he doesn’t have the impressive size of Jeremias Portorreal, the 6’3″ right fielder that signed for $375K last year, but Lantigua has been the more consistent player. Portorreal is hitting .186 through 40 games, with a .581 OPS.
The scouting report when Lantigua signed said that he was a line drive hitter that made solid contact. They also believed he could play center field and he had a strong arm. I was able to get a new scouting report on him, now 13 months after he signed and it sounds like he is living up to his reputation for the most part. The current report is as follows:
Lantigua is a line drive hitter that puts the ball in play often and uses the whole field. He is aggressive at the plate, but doesn’t swing and miss much. He is an above average runner, with very good range in the outfield. His arm is average, but very accurate. Lantigua is a smart player that makes good decision, an all-around solid player.
The only difference between the old and new scouting reports is the strength of his arm, though he gets some extra credit for accuracy on his throws. Going by the stats and past experiences with the way Pirates handle players, Lantigua seems like he is a prime candidate to move up to the United States next year.
Scouting Report on the Player With the Best Name in Baseball
The Pirates have a relief pitcher this year that is gaining some attention based on his name alone. The 18-year-old, 6’0″ right-hander from the Dominican Republic goes by the name Mister Luciano, which is his given name. He has pitched ten innings over nine relief appearances this year in his rookie season. The numbers are sub-par with a 7.20 ERA and eight walks, but the scouting report on him makes him sound as good as his name. Luciano can hit 93-94 MPH with his fastball. His best pitch though is his hard-breaking curve that has good velocity and he can throw it often for strikes. He also mixes in a change-up, giving him a three-pitch mix typical of most Pirates pitchers in the minors.
With better fastball control, he could be a very interesting prospect. His main focus for now will be fastball command and if he improves it, then as a reliever he could live off a mid-90’s fastball and a plus curve. Then he would be more than just a cool name in the system, he would be a legitimate power arm out of the bullpen.
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.
Thanks for the update John. I was wondering where Valerio had been in the prospect watch.
Mister Luciano, if anyone makes it, I hope this guy does, the press will have a field day with his name.