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We start the countdown with the number 20 prospect, Luis Heredia.
20. Luis Heredia, RHP
Heredia entered pro ball at the age of 16, looking like the next big thing. The player comps given to him were lofty, with expectations that he could be one of the best pitchers in the game — a potential Felix Hernandez type starter. After four seasons in pro ball, Heredia has fallen short of those expectations. His career is still very much alive, and he’s still a prospect. However, he’s more in line with your big-bonus projectable prep pitcher than a guy who received the biggest international signing bonus in Pirates’ history.
There have been many reports about Heredia’s velocity in the past, with him touching the upper 90s at a young age. That is true, but he has no control at that velocity. The Pirates have slowed him down over the last few years to work on his fastball command. He showed a lot of improvements in this area in 2014, and finished strong with a 1.8 BB/9 in August, after posting a 4.4 BB/9 through July.
A big reason for the improved fastball command is a new arm slot. The Pirates dropped Heredia from a slot that was more overhead to a three quarters slot. That has allowed him to repeat his delivery better. He has also benefitted from actually being on the field. He missed a lot of time in 2013 after showing up to camp out of shape. He lost nearly 40 pounds before the 2014 season, and looked in great shape, but lost some time during the season due to shoulder soreness. The new arm slot is also aimed to prevent this in the future.
Once Heredia got consistent playing time, his control started to improve. The tradeoff is that the new arm slot also led to the need for a new breaking pitch. Heredia ditched his slower 12-to-6 curveball for a power slurve. The old pitch was thrown from the higher slot, and made it harder for Heredia to maintain his fastball slot. The new pitch is aimed at keeping everything from the same slot, and making Heredia a power pitcher. However, he’s yet to turn the offering into an out pitch, as shown by his steep decline in strikeouts.
There’s still a lot of potential with Heredia, although he seems like much more of a project now than when he first came into pro ball. Despite having four years in pro ball, he’s still young, and will likely be jumping to Bradenton at age 20 next year. He should spend the entire year in High-A, continuing to improve his control while further developing his changeup and trying to turn his slurve into an out pitch. His upside is still uncertain, and largely depends on how well he picks up the new changes the Pirates gave him in 2014.
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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
The Bucs gave him a ton of money and he simply has not pitched well. He is still some what young but I don’t see him being a impact arm at the major league level. Its sad because I thought at the time of his signing I thought we had a potential star. The way this kid is pitching he might not ever reach the show.
Having to drop 40 pounds at his age concerns me.
I think this will be the year Heredia makes some improvements, I have always felt it was going to take him longer to mature. His weight issues being a sign of his immaturity off the field.
I still think Heredia is a valuable piece of Pirate property, I think he is going to be a good pitcher in the majors some day, just going to take time, in a trade I would want to get something for him, no way I don’t protect him in the rule 5 when it comes time. The Brewers proved that no unprotected player in the system is safe and with this ones potential someone would take a shot.
Clearly he still has potential or he wouldn’t be ranked at all – I see that potential however in the pen and a comp for him is Stolmy. Decent arm with limited control and will probably take him later in his years to realize any ability to contribute – likely with another team or several teams.
His real value to the team is as part of a package of prospects to acquire another player. Early this year if he puts up any kind of value I expect to see him gone.
IMO, Heredia looks like depth with a lot of possibilities, including a trade me candidate some where down the line.
i agree and he will be rule 5 eligible after this year, no? just do not see him being protected unless he really turns it on.
I can’t see him being chosen in the rule 5 either if he doesn’t have a big year. Especially since Selig isn’t around to protect the Brewers DL shenanigans.
If any team really wants to roster this kid they are, at this point, welcomed to do so. He could have a big year and squash some of the issues, but even with a good year he is years away from the bigs and cant really be a starter without big improvements to the support pitches.
Where was he velocity wise in 2014? Some reports were sub-90 and that wouldn’t really make him a prospect at all if not for his signing bonus.
91-93 mostly. He would get tired and drop lower, but that goes for almost every other pitcher in the minors.
Thanks John, that much is encouraging.
John: Tim notes that the new arm slot allowed his command to improve. Did this also allow him to tap into his arm strength a bit more?
Having a hard time seeing much upside in him if the velocity has to stay in the low 90s.
I didn’t see any extra velocity, but I also know they slowed him down to throw more strikes and with better command comes better velocity(meaning they allow them to throw harder). Heredia could probably hit 95-96 now, but it would be during short outings, or he could do it with little/no command. He can probably work better 91-93, as long as he has good separation with his change and curve/slider/slurve/whatever they want to call it.
91-93 can certainly get the job down, but hard to see an impact RH starter at those grades unless they come with plus command and/or secondary pitches. An awful lot would have to click in order to get there at this point, it seems.
In your opinion, did his size allow him to maintain plane on the fastball despite dropping arm slot?
He had issues with his command when I saw him, either pitches were up out of the zone and it looked like he was overthrowing, or they were bouncing in front of the catcher. There was very little consistency
I am hoping for 20 starts and 100+ innings from him this year. I was thinking about the 20 ranking and I don’t see him as a guy who will be 15-25 after 2015. I think he will either jump back into the top 10 or drop out of the top 30. Even though he will finish the year at only 21, this is a bit of a make or break year for him. He needs to prove he can come in in shape again, stay healthy, and build on the new stuff he improved on late last year, and maybe most importantly, show a little more dominance. He’s one of the more interesting stories to me although the Pirates have too many of them to mention. I would think the Pirates still have a top 3-5 system.
Wow, I fully expected Heredia to drop to the back end of the top 50, not the top 20. Yes he’s only 20 and may basically be the equivalent of a recent raw draftee. But with needing to develop 2 new pitches, how many recent raw draftees would make the top 20? His Ks dropped even faster than his BBs. His K:BB ratio went from 2 in 2012 to 1.49 in 2013 and 1.3 last year.
Anywho, maybe it’s a case of the 20 – 30 guys all being so close that Tim could have gone with any of them and Luis just had a little more pedigree, if not tangible results.
He still gets huge points for how projectable he is for sure. If he got a 100K bonus he wouldn’t be ranked where he is. But the age, size, and what can still become of him makes 20 a good spot for him I think. I am guessing he and Clay Holmes are around the same spot. Tyler Glasnow is 378 days older than Heredia so if Heredia has a really good year they will almost be in the same place developmentally. That’s a giant if but possible.
That might be the biggest “IF” out there Freddy. I think it would be a miracle if Heredia had anywhere near the year Glasnow had last year. But I guess the projectability is still there so hopefully things click for him this year and he does take a big step forward.
If you look at his drop in the rankings though, he fell 11 spots from the previous year and one of his biggest problems after 2013, was the shape he was in. He actually was in much better shape this year, so while taking care of his biggest problem, he still fell 11 spots in the rankings. This is probably the last year where results won’t matter as much as upside/potential. He needs to have a solid season at Bradenton to keep this spot and show something extra to move up.
I’ve relegated him to the “If he makes it, it will be a bonus” bin.
Hard to believe he’s still ONLY 20. It’s not good to see a guy spin his tires for 4 seasons, but he is, as you said, basically the equivalent to a recent, raw draftee. Hope he can figure it out.
I’m sure we were all hoping for Julio Urias-like instant satisfaction, but hopefully patience will pay off in the case of Heredia.
The upside of a TOR Ace doesn’t seem to be there any more but I hope he can contribute in some capacity on a future roster.
During a rain delay late in the 2012 season, I got to sit around and talk to about 4-5 scouts that saw Heredia at State College that year and they raved about him. Since then, I’ve talked to one of those scouts the day after a start by Heredia in 2013 and twice in 2014 and the reports have been worse each time. He’s young, big and has a good arm, so the potential is still there, but his upside has definitely taken a hit.
Thanks for the inside info sir
One thing that is a small concern to me is with him not having control at a high velo, relief may not ever be a good option for him if his secondary stuff doesn’t pan out. But it’s not really worth worrying about yet I guess.