Morning Report: What Happens When You Get Drafted by a Winter League Team?

There has been a lot of recent news from the winter leagues, so today’s Morning Report is a recap of what’s been going on, along with expanding on the article covering the Dominican Winter League draft from yesterday. Last weekend we took a look at all of the Pirates players on the Mexican Pacific League roster of the Mazatlan Deer, and what we could expect from those players in winter ball.

The situation with the Dominican players drafted yesterday is different than the players going to the Mexican League. The Dominican Winter League has a minor league where players will stay in shape during the winter season. Each day in the DWL, the teams submit a roster of players available for that game, so it opens up roster spots each day that are normally reserved for the other starting pitchers that aren’t going that day. That means there is room for more players, so inexperienced players might get into games late. An example from last year in the Venezuelan League was the Pirates’ Elvis Escobar, who didn’t start much, but was used as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement late.

Escobar is a good example of what you might expect from Edwin Espinal this season in the DWL. Escobar was coming off a decent season in the NYPL last year, a league well below the level of play in Venezuela. Espinal was taken 53rd overall in the draft yesterday, the highest pick from the Pirates. He spent this year playing first base for West Virginia, which is at least two levels lower than the average play early in the DWL season. As the season progresses, the level of play gets better with more Major League players starting to play. By the time the playoffs start in the DWL, teams could be loaded with good players and Espinal won’t see any playing time. Early in the year though, you could expect him to see some action as a pinch-hitter, possibly an occasional start and likely a fill-in once games get out of hand on the scoreboard.

During the 2012-13 winter season, Gregory Polanco, Alen Hanson and Willy Garcia were coming off their strong seasons at West Virginia. They all went high in the draft(first 12 picks), but they really weren’t ready for the league. Garcia got into just two games and batted once. Hanson got eight plate appearances over eight games, while Polanco got 35 at-bats and put up a .400 OPS. Espinal would probably be on the same level that Garcia was at the time, so even though he is the biggest Pirates name that got drafted yesterday, it’s possible he sees single digit at-bats/games played.

The other three players drafted yesterday were Isaac Sanchez, Chris Diaz and Maximo Rivera. I’d say the most likely to get time is Chris Diaz because of his age, two years experience at low-A and his strong defense at multiple positions. Like Espinal though, I wouldn’t predict much playing time for him. It’s possible that Sanchez sees multiple appearances based solely of the fact he is a relief pitcher and managers down in the Dominican seem to use the lefty/lefty match-up as often as possible(Sanchez is a RHP), so they are going through relievers pretty quick. It’s not unusual to see 6-7 pitchers used in a game and teams will have ten relievers on the active roster daily, so that opens up a spot for someone like Sanchez to come in and face one tough righty, or just pitch late in a blowout.

Basically, don’t expect much from any of these players this winter, but they are now reserved to a team and you could see extra time for them in the future depending on their progress as a player. Polanco went from a 400 OPS one year, to winning the league MVP the next season, so it’s possible to use winter league playing time and success as a measuring stick for player’s progress over time.

Pedro Alvarez was traded on Wednesday in the DWL (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Pedro Alvarez was traded on Wednesday in the DWL (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Speaking of the draft, the Puerto Rico Winter League is holding it’s draft on Sunday and shortstop Nelson Jorge was mentioned as a possible pick. Jorge was the seventh round pick of the Pirates this year and he struggled mightily in the Gulf Coast League. It’s unlikely that if he is drafted, he will play any games in the PWL(the league is actually called Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente). The league is too advanced for someone with his experience, so if he is taken in the draft, it will be by a team banking on his future potential.

As an example of the talent in Puerto Rico, Benji Gonzalez spent three seasons with Bradenton and last off-season he received sporadic playing time. Ivan De Jesus Jr has had trouble getting out of AAA and he won the league batting title in 2012, so the Puerto Rico league is about the same level of play as AA ball. There are a handful of Major League players, lots of AAA/AA players and some lesser players, but someone as young as Jorge, who hit just .150/.259/.215 in the GCL with 61 strikeouts in 140 at-bats, probably isn’t going to see much(any?) playing time.

Finally, there was a trade of two big-time players in the DWL on Wednesday and it involved a Pirates player. Pedro Alvarez, who is reserved for winter ball, but has never played, was dealt in exchange for Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto. The trade might amount to nothing, as neither player is guaranteed to play this year. It did however generate a lot of news around the league based on their names alone.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

Pittsburgh: The Pirates are 2.5 games behind St. Louis for the NL Central lead. They are two games ahead of  Atlanta and 1.5 ahead of Milwaukee for the second Wild Card spot. The Pirates are four games behind San Francisco for the first Wild Card spot.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes:  The Pirates won 4-1 over the Phillies on Thursday night, taking three of four games on the road in Philadelphia. They now move home to take on the Cubs for three games as part of a nine game homestand. Gerrit Cole will take the mound for his 19th start of the season. He faced the Cubs in his last start, allowing four runs(three earned) on nine hits and no walks in six innings. Cole struck out eight batters. He faced the Cubs in April and struck out ten batters. He had an identical outing as his last with four runs(three earned) over six innings. The minor league season is over. You can read the DSL season recap here complete with scouting reports for each player and the top ten players to watch list can be found here. We will post other season recaps soon.

MLB: Pittsburgh (77-69)  vs Cubs (64-82) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (3.89 ERA, 105:37 K/BB, 111 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (73-71)

AA: Altoona (61-81)

High-A: Bradenton (78-61)

Low-A: West Virginia (54-81)

Short-Season A: Jamestown (35-40)

RK: Bristol (22-46)

GCL: Pirates (20-40)

DSL: Pirates (34-36)


With the minor league season over, it’s time to take a look back at some recent video from the GCL, which we will continue to do over the next few days. All videos are courtesy of the GCL Pirates fan page. Below is a video of relief pitcher Jonathan Minier, who started the season with Jamestown, but after two poor outings, he was transferred to the GCL. Minier is a 24-year-old righty, though he only signed as an amateur free agent two years ago. In the GCL, he had a 1.53 ERA in 17.2 innings, with a 15:23 BB/K ratio and a .203 BAA. The video below is a bullpen session from Minier in which he uses the designated hitter, aka “batting dummy”.

Recent Transactions

9/8: Pirates release Ernesto Frieri.

9/7: Michael Martinez and Chris McGuiness clear waivers and were outrighted to Indianapolis.

9/2: Pirates recall Gregory Polanco, Jeff Locke, John Holdzkom, Casey Sadler and Bobby LaFromboise.

9/2: Chase d’Arnaud added to 40-man roster and promoted to Pittsburgh. Michael Martinez designated for assignment.

9/1: Pirates recall Gerrit Cole and Tony Sanchez. Stolmy Pimentel activated from the disabled list

9/1: Pirates designate Chris McGuiness for assignment. John Holdzkom added to 40-man roster.

This Date in Pirates History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including Mike Roesler, who pitched for the 1990 NL East champs. He made five appearances for Pittsburgh that year and earned his roster spot in an unusual way. During the 1990 season, teams were allowed to carry 27 players during the first three weeks because Spring Training was shortened due to a lockout. Roesler was sent back down when the rosters were decreased back to 25 and he never appeared in the big leagues again. Also born on this date was George Freese, third baseman for the 1955 Pirates. For that one season, he played alongside his brother Gene, who ended up playing infield with the Pirates for six seasons.

You can find bios for those two players, along with two others, in this link here. Also included is a game recap from 1947, with a significant streak from Ralph Kiner.

On this date in 1891, pitcher Mark Baldwin threw two complete games in a doubleheader sweep of the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. The Pirates moved to 51-67, one game behind Brooklyn in the standings. Most sources say that the Pirates changed their team name to the Pirates from the Alleghenys to start the 1891 season, but at the time of this doubleheader, they were known locally as the “Pets” because new manager Bill McGunnigle used a whistle to run practices. Local newspapers called them McGunnigle’s Pets, often shortening it to Pets and the Pirates name was used as more of an insult by out of town newspapers.

The local papers didn’t adopt the name until after the 1891 season was over and the actual team name back then was “The Pittsburg Base Ball Club”. Pittsburgh did not have an “H” at the end during that time and baseball was two words.

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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dr dng

My interest of what happens when you are drafted for one of these leagues is what type of compensation the players receive for participation?

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