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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Winter Leagues: Willy Garcia Homers, Shows Improvements at the Plate

In the Dominican on Wednesday night, three Pirates players saw action for Aguilas Cibaenas. Willy Garcia went 1-for-4, with his fourth home run of the season. He is second in homers to Sebastian Valle(five) among Pirates in winter ball. He is having a winter season very similar to his regular season for Altoona, hitting .269/.314/.462 in winter VS .271/.311/.478 for Altoona.

His BB/SO numbers aren’t good in winter, though they have improved over Altoona. During the regular season, he struck out once every 3.03 at-bats, compared to once every 3.82 at-bats in winter. He has walked nine times in 140 plate appearances(once every 15.6 PA), compared to 24 walks during the year in 474 plate appearances(once every 19.8 PA). The Dominican league as a group issues more walks than the Eastern League, so that could explain the improvement in the latter, but the league also records more strikeouts than the EL, so that makes his current strikeout rate look a little better.

There is also the matter of the competition in the Dominican being slightly better than the Eastern League. He occasionally will see lesser pitchers, but a survey of the pitchers from last year showed that the average pitcher in the league would be closer to AAA than AA.

Edwin Espinal played his second game, going 0-for-2 after pinch-hitting for Manny Ramirez in the seventh inning. Espinal’s only other appearances was as a defensive replacement at first base nearly a month ago. Back in September, Espinal was one of four Pirates players that were drafted into the Dominican league. So far, he is the only one to see any playing time.

Nate Baker threw a scoreless sixth inning, retiring the side in order on three grounders. He has five appearances, giving up one run over 2.2 innings.

Josh Wall also retired the side in order in the eighth inning for Aguilas. Since joining winter ball, he has made three appearances in the last six days. Wall pitched for Indianapolis this year and he is currently a minor league free agent.

Another pitcher from Indianapolis who is a minor league free agent, saw action on Wednesday. Rafael Perez made his sixth start. He has also made nine relief appearances. Perez threw five innings, giving up three runs(one earned) on six hits and two walks, with five strikeouts.

Mel Rojas Jr. went 1-for-4 with a single and a strikeout. He is hitting .242 through 38 games, with nine doubles, a triple, no homers  and two stolen bases in three attempts. Wednesday was his first start in ten days.

Gustavo Nunez went 1-for-5 with a run scored and two strikeouts. He is hitting .279 through 36 games.

In Venezuela, Junior Sosa was the only Pirates player to see action. He went 1-for-3 with a HBP. Sosa is making up for lost time during the regular season, when he played just 12 games for Altoona. In 25 winter games, he has a .267/.353/.387 slash line.

In Australia, 18-year-old Sam Kennelly played his second game of the season. He was a defensive replacement at third base in the seventh inning. He singled in his only at-bat and scored a run.

In Panama, Edgar Munoz went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk. He also struck out twice and made his second error. He is 3-for-10 with two walks in three games.

Ashley Ponce went 0-for-2 with two walks.

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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.


Pirates Prospects has been independently owned and operated since 2009, entirely due to the support of our readers. The site is now completely free, funded entirely by user support. By supporting the site, you are supporting independent writers, one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates communities online, and our mission for the most complete Pirates coverage available.

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Interesting Rojas and Garcia playing in the same league, Rojas the one most wanted by the fans for the Pirates to protect in the rule 5 and not much love for Garcia, however it looks like Garcia is starting show why the Pirates made the decision to not protect Rojas and protect Garcia. I said this before and I will say it again, strikeouts and walks are not that important to a player like Garcia at this stage, showing his power and keeping his average respectable are. At this point in time I don’t know why he is striking out, is it pitching right down the middle, breaking balls, off-speed?
Power hitters tend to take long swings, that also equates to strikeouts.


Most likely, two of the three that you mention. Here is what he had trouble with in the EL : Breaking balls of all varieties. Slow, hard and sliders away. Not to mention that if you set him up with that stuff, the fasball up and in usually caused a SO also. But I am sure Joey Gallo had similar problems in A + and AA.


Agree wholeheartedly, but I still think Gallo is going to have more problems than most predict. That strikeput rate of 37 % in 2013 dropped on his 2014 A+ season, but as soon as he got to the Texas League, he was right back up in the high 30 % rate. He looks a lot like Brad Eldred to me. This for NMR. Garcia a 6 power rating ? You are making stuff up. Comedy isn’t your forte’.


I’m really enjoying the prospect rankings Fangraphs is putting out, from their and what I’ve read elsewhere I think most are accurately evaluating the risk of Gallo, this piece mentions Mark Reynolds as a comp. It also contained this eerie parallel.

Gallo plays third base now and has plenty of arm for the position, but his lack of foot speed and big frame make him a fringy defender and scouts say he’s clearly thinking too much. Multiple sources described how they’ve seen Gallo make all the necessary plays and do well under pressure, but double clutch and send a ball sailing wide on routine plays when he has time.



I like looking at those Fangraphs lists also Andrew, but here is a little tip for you, and also NMR. Always view these lists with a little skepticism. If that Rangers’ list was really comprehensive and incisive, Ryan Rua would be in the top 5. He has been steadily climbing, and producing, through their organization, and has an excellent chance to be the starting LF er in 2015. And he isn’t anywhere on that list !


” Eerie “, and also very familiar sounding Andrew….. That organization, their fans and lots of the baseball ” experts ” have put a lot of pressure on that kid. I have been very skeptical about his being this huge MLB star all along due to his huge strikeout numbers, and have been abused for it. I am telling you, if you never saw him play, this guy is more like Brad Eldred than any player I have seen since.


This entire series should be required reading for this Blog. Great stuff.



Yeah, I thought I was being generous there as well.

60-grade power equates to roughly 25 HR in the Bigs, which means Garcia would have to actually hit them a greater rate off MLB pitchers than he has off MiLB pitchers. Yeah, 60 is too high, let’s go with 5+.


Now THATS more like it ! Sorry if that earlier comment sounded snarky. But a 60 rating almost made me choke on a cookie.


If there is any chance Willy Garcia can learn to play 3rd base I’d like to see him repeat AA, learn the new position, and focus on hitting breaking balls before he advances to AAA. He is only 22, so another year in AA wouldn’t hurt his progression much.


Not to mention Gallo shows 80-grade power vs Garcia who is more of a 6.


Garcia has big power. I’ve seen him in Altoona. He’s huge. Bigger than Allie.


You are correct. And when he drives it, he drives it hard. Just not enough patience.


Who can the Pirates trade for Gallo?


Why ?


To fill a gaping hole at 3B in the minor league system with someone who has potential to make the MLB club. I know your concerns about the SO rate, but he’s 21. There is still time to improve that, no?


Read the BBA evaluation on his play at 3d base, and then decide how well he will fill a hole at 3d base. Besides that, the Rangers paid him somewhere around $ 4 mil to sign, and they aren’t about to give him away.


I suppose they caaaaaan trade several guys for him. He’s got an extreme risk profile, so a Taillon for Gallo deal might line up well on paper. Rarely will teams do prospect-for-prospect trades, though.


Garcia is a much better prospect than Rojas. Rojas doesn’t have one plus tool Garcia has two.

Lukas Sutton

Garcia also has a glaring problem that has been a huge red flag for prospects in the past. You cannot have that poor plate recognition and make it all the way up the ladder.


Rojas is a decent prospect with a low ceiling.


Ryan Sandburg supposedly had a low ceiling, and was a throw in with Bowa to the cubs. Some low ceiling


And what does that comparison have to do with Rojas ? Also, is it RYNE Sandburg you are talking about ?


OOPS, and by the way RYNE Sandberg is not an it! And you spelled his last name wrong just like I did.

Ryne supposedly had a low ceiling. So does Rojas. Ryne did quite well. So might Rojas. What about a certain third baseman with a low ceiling who plays for the Pirates who is playing third base instead of Pedro Alverez who had a huge ceiling.


Harrison, while not taking too many base on balls, did not have a strike out rate any where near that of Rojas. Harrison played much the same in AA as he did last season. If you have never seen Rojas play, you need to stop guessing as to how he could do on MLB.


Who said that I have never seen him play?


Rojas has shown consistent improvement in SLG as his MiLB career has progressed. He’s only 24. It will be interesting to see if his SLG will approach .500 or at least be in the high .400s this year at AAA. If it does maybe we can project an elevation in his ceiling.


I liked Rojas Jr. a lot, particularly in his 2nd go at AA, but I still think he just doesn’t do enough to get past being a 4th for someone. Robby Grossman was a little bit better, and he is having a tough time getting established in MLB.


John, Garcia is far away from his ceiling and I do agree that he has to play a lot and IMO he should start out in AA next year, but we have time for him to develop, we are looking at a developing product. With Rojas we are looking at a product that is near the top of his ceiling.
At this point you are only looking at his faults.


The low batting average combined with the high K rate and low walk rate is exactly why I’m not too high on Garcia. Chad Hermansen had the same combination. Every once and a while I’d hear the occasional comment from a friend or on some other online forum about how Marte or Polanco would be like Hermansen, which is pretty absurd. Marte and Polanco can flat out hit, and while Marte has a high K rate, he still gets on base and Polanco didn’t have an unusually high K rate. Garcia on the other hand, hasn’t shown that he can hit, sure when he does make contact he has great power, but unless he’s putting up a .310 avg, that high k rate and low walk rate is going to land him in the Hermansen pile.
Bell and Hansen are high on my list, both of them look like they can hit.


John, just tell this kid what he wants to hear and be done with it.

Sheesh, leadoff.


I always have thought John that Jose Bautista’s development was hurt, or slowed, because of Rule 5.

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