The Pirates Prospects 2015 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2015 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find. While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks. Be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site.
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.