Morning Report: Edwin Espinal is Still a Sleeper, But For How Much Longer?

At the beginning of the season, we mentioned Edwin Espinal as a possible sleeper prospect this year. He has looked like he was about to break out a few times during the year, but it really never lasted long and then he would just blend in again, doing nothing that stood out.

On Thursday night, Espinal had one of the best nights of any Pirates player this year, possibly the best. He had three hits, including his sixth homer and he drove in seven runs. He followed that up on Friday with three hits and a walk in four plate appearances. He also hit his seventh homer of the year. Unfortunately for Espinal, there are just three games left for West Virginia, so his recent streak won’t last long.  Edwin Espinal

Coming into this year, the 20-year-old first baseman had moved up one level each season, starting in the DSL in 2011, before going to the GCL in 2012 and then Jamestown last year. He was always young for the level, so his stats were judged with that in mind. He signed in early 2011 for a $150,000 bonus and his trainer(former Major Leaguer Luis Polonia) said that the ball makes a different sound off his bat compared to anyone else he trained. They called Espinal “The Tank” because of his size back then, 6’3″, 210 pounds. That’s still his listed weight, but Espinal has definitely filled out, though it isn’t all muscle.

Espinal really needs to hit because he doesn’t run well and his defense is serviceable at best. He used to be a third baseman and he has a cannon for an arm, but he is limited to first base now, so that plus arm doesn’t have much value there. So the question is, will Espinal ever hit enough to be a legit top prospect and make it to the Majors?

His stats this year are improved over his last two years, but it’s a slow progress. He has a 26:71 BB/K ratio in 463 at-bats. The strikeout rate is decent for someone that is supposed to hit for power, but he is showing just average power for Low-A, with 25 doubles, one triple and seven homers. The walk rate needs to improve, though it has improved each year, from three in the GCL in 108 at-bats, to nine last year in 240 at-bats.

Right now it looks like Espinal will go to Bradenton next year and again be called a sleeper prospect to watch. He has the build and size to be a power hitter, though he is more of a line drive hitter at this point. When I saw him play a series this Summer, he stung the ball often, so the potential is there. It would be good to see him get in better shape over the off-season, which would give him a better chance to reach his potential, and also give him some other value besides his bat.

He has the potential to be a prospect and should finally make the Pirates Prospects Top 50 list this year. As a first baseman, his bat is the most important part of his game and we usually judge first baseman tougher than other spots because you really have to hit well in the minors to make an impact at the spot in the Majors. Espinal showed progress this year and did it in full-season ball, so that helps his prospect status, but for now, he is still far from a top prospect. The bat could be real good someday, with power and the ability to hit for average. We have seen glimpses of the upside the last two days. The sleeping giant might just be starting to wake up and that could be bad for FSL pitchers next next.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

Pittsburgh: The Pirates are 1.5 games behind St. Louis for the second Wild Card spot. They are two games behind San Francisco for the first spot. They are currently three games back from the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.

Bradenton: The Marauders are in first place in the Florida State League South, 1.5 games ahead of Palm Beach. They need to win the second half division to make the playoffs, unless Fort Myers wins the second half title. Fort Myers won the first half title, so if they also win the second half(they trail first place by two games), then the team with the second best overall record would make the playoffs. In the overall standings, Bradenton is a half game ahead of Palm Beach for the second best overall record. The Marauders have three games left in their season.

Today’s Schedule

Minor League Starter of the Day:  In West Virginia tonight, Buddy Borden will make his final start of the season, hoping to cap of his great season with another strong performance. Since the All-Star break, Borden has a 2.29 ERA over 63 innings. He had a 3.67 ERA prior to the break in 61.1 innings. He is fifth in the South Atlantic League in ERA and third in strikeouts. Adrian Sampson makes his fourth start for Indianapolis tonight. He has had one strong outing and two very poor outings, leading to an 8.10 ERA. Bradenton had their game suspended in the third inning due to weather on Friday night. They will finish that game today, followed by the regularly scheduled game. Bristol’s season ended on Friday. The GCL season ended Thursday. The DSL season ended last Saturday. You can read the season recap here complete with scouting reports for each player and the top ten players to watch list can be found here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (70-64) vs Reds (64-70) 4:05 PM
Probable starter: Vance Worley (3.14 ERA, 56:14 K/BB, 80.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (71-70) vs Columbus (77-64) 6:05 PM
Probable starter: Adrian Sampson (8.10 ERA, 5:5 K/BB, 13.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (59-80) @ Bowie (71-68) 6:35 PM
Probable starter: Angel Sanchez (5.06 ERA, 19:8 K/BB, 26.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (75-61, 40-27 2nd half) @ Charlotte (63-67) 4:00 PM DH
Probable starter: TBD

Low-A: West Virginia (54-79, 34-31 2nd half) vs Asheville (87-49) 7:05 PM
Probable starterBuddy Borden (2.97 ERA, 120:48 K/BB, 124.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Jamestown (34-38) @ Williamsport (32-41) 7:05 PM
Probable StarterFrank Duncan (3.43 ERA, 44:10 K/BB, 60.1 IP)

RK: Bristol (22-46)

GCL: Pirates (20-40)

DSL: Pirates (34-36)

Highlights

Edwin Espinal’s three-run homer from Thursday night.

From earlier this week, Reese McGuire goes the other way for a two-run single. On Friday night, he hit a two-run homer, his third of the season. McGuire has a .262/.308/.332 slash line in 96 games.

Recent Transactions

8/29: Stolmy Pimentel assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

8/29: Tommy Field sent outright to Indianapolis.

8/29: Andrew Lambo promoted to Pirates. Gerrit Cole sent to Bristol.

8/28: Jayson Nix claimed by Kansas City Royals.

8/28: JaCoby Jones activated from disabled list. Adam Landecker placed on disabled list.

8/28: Brett McKinney promoted to Bradenton. John Kuchno placed on disabled list.

8/28: Charlie Morton sent to Altoona on rehab.

8/26: Jake Brigham placed on temporary inactive list.

8/25: Jhonathan Ramos placed on disabled list.

8/25: Alen Hanson placed on disabled list. Drew Maggi activated from DL.

8/25: Clint Barmes activated from disabled list. Gregory Polanco sent to Indianapolis.

8/25: Jose Tabata added to 40-man roster and promoted to Pittsburgh. Jayson Nix designated for assignment.

8/25: Jonathan Schwind assigned to GCL on rehab.

8/24: Pirates claim Bobby LaFromboise. Designate Tommy Field for assignment.

This Date in Pirates History

The Pittsburgh Pirates made two trades of note at this date during their 1990-91 playoff runs. The first was a three-for-one deal that brough Carmelo Martinez back to the Pirates. In 1991, they traded two players to pick up third baseman Steve Buechele. Four former Pirates were born on this date, including Luis Rivas(2008 Pirates), knuckleball pitcher Johnny Lindell(1953) and Will Thompson, who pitched one game in his big league career. You can read their bios, as well as info on the trades and a game recap from 1951, all in this link here.

Today is also the birthday of Hall fo Fame outfielder Kiki Cuyler, who played for the Pirates from 1921 until 1927. He helped the Pirates to two World Series appearances and their second WS title in 1925. Cuyler hit .336 with the Pirates in 525 games and finished second in the 1925 MVP voting. He was elected to the HOF in 1968. You can read Cuyler’s bio here.

  • John: At 6’3″, 250, fringe bad/poor fielder at any position, hitting a HR every 60 AB’s at Lo A means he will be a sleeper for a long, long time unless he takes control of his future. If I was his advisor I would tell him to invest in a personal trainer and work at getting down to 225, with a lot more muscular definition and strength. The kid right behind him, a true 1B, and a strong left handed hitter with a solid sense of the strike zone, Carlos Munoz, has had a very solid year in his first full year in the US – he IS the Sleeper.

    • agree….potential plus laziness = NOTHING!

    • I agree that Munoz is interesting, but it’s important to note that he is the same age as Espinal and two levels lower. I mentioned him getting in better shape and I think that will help him, but Espinal has huge power potential, don’t let the low HR total fool you, he hits the ball hard. Remember, Josh Bell hit nine homers this year and Espinal has a lot of similarities with him in that they both have big power, but no loft to their swing and they use the whole field. Bell crushed a lot of line drives last year when I saw him, but hit just 13 homers at WV in 459 ABs

      • John: Good points. Since they moved Espinal to Lo A in 2013 at age 19, and he is completing his 2nd year at that level, is it possible they promote Munoz to Lo A next year? He hit .284 this year in the GCL with 30 walks in only 54 games – a slash of .284/.377/.421, and only 4 E’s in his first full year in professional baseball.

        • Munoz seems to have durability issues, so I’m not sure if they believe he could handle full-season ball yet. He has hit a wall in August each year. In 2012, he was injured half the year. I’d be surprised to see him at WV next year, but Jamestown seems likely

  • John
    “The Pirates are 1.5 games behind St. Louis for the first Wild Card spot. They are two games behind San Francisco for the second spot. ”

    How is it possible to be farther behind the 2nd place WC than the first place WC?😃😃😃

  • One name seems to come to my mind ,though this guy was a good defensive player : Carlos Rivera.

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