The final winter league to start play this year(and every year) is the Panama League. The rosters have been released and three Pittsburgh Pirates players are on the active rosters, while another is listed as a reserve. There is one very interesting name among this group, 17-year-old right-handed pitcher Brian Sousa. He signed for $160,000 on July 2nd, as soon as the international signing period began. That total might not seem very high, but the Pirates haven’t spent a lot on international pitchers, an area where they go for quantity over price tag. That $160,000 bonus is the second highest for a pitcher this year and not far off the $190,000 Hector Garcia got last year, which represents the second highest bonus by the Pirates for an international amateur pitcher behind Luis Heredia. Yoslan Herrera and Cesar Lopez also got higher bonuses, but both were older players out of Cuba, so they really don’t fit in with the 16-17 year old amateurs signed during the July 2nd signing period.
Sousa will pitch for Indios de Urraca during the Panama winter league, which begins play on Monday. Last week, he was finishing up at the Pirates Dominican academy, playing in the Dominican Instructional League(equal to Fall instructs for the DSL players). Sousa actually saw some brief action in the Panama winter league last year when he was just 16 years old. He was one of the few names connected to the Pirates before the July 2nd signing period began and a couple sources out of Panama called him the best pitcher in this year’s signing class.
Also listed on the Indios roster is Ulises Montilla, who played in the league last year. He is on the reserve roster and it’s possible that he doesn’t play in the league this year. He suffered a severe lower leg injury back in June while playing for Bristol and might not be able to play yet. Two infielders from the Pirates are also on active rosters in Panama, Edgar Munoz and Ashley Ponce. The Panama league is the second-tier among Caribbean leagues. While the big tournament takes place between Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico and the Dominican, a second group of four leagues from Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua and Veracruz(Mexico) also play a postseason round robin tournament.
Now to action on the field and there wasn’t much yesterday. In Venezuela on Friday night, Elias Diaz went 0-for-3 with a walk, RBI and run scored. He is hitting .182/.270/.303 through his first ten games.
Deolis Guerra threw a scoreless eighth inning, giving up an infield single to Delwyn Young. The hit was followed by a failed sacrifice bunt attempt and a double play line out to first base.
In Mexico, Sebastian Valle went 0-for-3, his first start without a hit in over two weeks. With the score one-sided, he left for a defensive replacement in the eighth inning.
We mentioned the other day that Alen Hanson took batting practice in Bradenton and had no issues with his injured right hand. He has been cleared to play winter ball and could return to the Toros del Este lineup as early as Sunday.
There wasn’t much news on the field in the Dominican and all of it was from recent Pirates players no longer in the system. Joely Rodriguez made his first star since being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies and gave up three earned runs in four innings. He allowed six hits, two homers, no walks and struck out five batters. I was told two weeks ago that this was scheduled to be the last start of the winter for Rodriguez. Since he is out of the system now, this will be the last mention of him in the winter league articles, even if he does make another start.
Two minor league free agent from the Pirates saw action. Carlos Paulino went 0-for-5 and Josh Wall made his winter debut. He allowed one run(solo homer) on two hits and he had one strikeout. He spent most of the regular season pitching at Indianapolis.
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.
I hope Montilla has a strong bounce back in 2015, after missing almost all of 2014. I really liked him and thought he was a sleeper prospect. He seemed like a very good hitter.
I believe that the Pirates in the 60s used to go after very good athletes in quantity.
The Pirates seem to have a mold for drafting pitchers, 6.3-6.8, 160-190, 89-92velo. Grow into body, velo increases, in the mean time teach them how to pitch.
They like the tall pitchers that throw on a downward plane, helps change the batters eye level, which makes it harder to square up fastballs. They try to keep them from flattening out their pitch. Unless you’re throwing 100 mph, a straight fastball is going to get crushed. Sousa already threw on a downward plane when they signed him.