Prospect Highlights: Starter Doing Well in GCL Relief Role

Last year, pitcher Julio Vivas had a strong season in the Dominican Summer League and that got him a promotion to the United States this year. There is a lot to like about Vivas, his size at 6’2″, 227 pounds gives him the look of a workhorse starter. He has allowed just one homer during his four seasons in pro ball. That obviously comes with a strong ground ball rate, though this season he has been more of a fly ball pitcher, while also collecting more strikeouts. In the DSL the last two years, Vivas displayed excellent control and picked up his share of strikeouts.

Knowing what we know about Vivas, it’s a bit surprising that he is being used in a relief role in the GCL this year. At 20 years old, he is still at a decent age for the league/level, so it’s too early to write him off as a future bullpen arm, which usually is a bad sign at the lower levels. It could be that he saw more innings during Extended Spring Training, or will see more time during the Fall Instructional League. At his age, there are a lot of innings that go undocumented, because all we see are stats for regular season games and that tells half the story.

Vivas was also on a Winter League roster in Venezuela all off-season, but never pitched a game. The thing is, the VWL would be a very advanced league for someone with his experience, but they have their own minor leagues where the lesser players get in playing time in case the big club needs them. So just because we don’t see Winter League stats for Vivas, it doesn’t mean he didn’t pitch.

Back to what we do know about him. He is young, has good size, excellent control, keeps the ball on the ground and in the park. He can pick up strikeouts and he has been frugal with hits allowed, holding batters to a .194 and .238 BAA in his last two seasons of the DSL. This year, he has made eight appearances out of the bullpen, throwing a total of 10.2 innings. He has a 1/13 BB/SO ratio and he’s allowed just three runs. The GCL Pirates seem to have a few interesting arms in their bullpen and Vivas is one of the better ones.

Below are three recent videos of him, courtesy of the GCL Pirates fan page.

Video #2 Last pitch of a strikeout looking

Video #3


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.

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