Luis Heredia will be on the mound tonight for Bradenton and it could be his last start as a top 30 prospect in the system. As noted below, he has not been able to get through five innings in any of his five starts this season due to a high pitch count in every single game. He’s actually been able to limit the damage against him to the point that his stat lines from the last four games don’t look bad if you disregard the fact those starts were all shortened due to his inability to put batters away early in the count. Heredia has been helped by some strong defense and poor base running, which has led to him allowing just five earned runs in those last four games.
His inability to put batters away shows that he still hasn’t developed an out pitch in his five seasons in the system. He doesn’t have to stuff to be dominating, but it’s good enough to make him look like you shouldn’t give up on him just yet. Heredia is still just 20 years old, which is hard to believe considering how long he has been around. He turns 21 in August, which means that he is young for the Florida State League, a league where the average age of players is 22.6 for hitters and 23.1 for pitchers. Heredia is younger than 30 of the players the Pirates just drafted this week.
When I talk about a put away pitch, it’s not necessarily a strikeout pitch. He has a lot of at-bats where the batter keeps fouling pitches off to stay, so a strikeout pitch would help there. He also has a lot of at-bats that just end up 3-2 due to his control. What he doesn’t have is a lot of at-bats that end in one or two pitch outs, unless those are loud outs hit right at fielders. The Pirates want their pitchers to record outs on three pitches or less, it is something that every pitcher in the system hears quite often. If Heredia was doing that, then the next stat wouldn’t be a problem. It would be a by-product of him pitching to contact.
In his five seasons of pro ball, Heredia has made 61 starts and two relief appearances. His career high for strikeouts in a game is six. That happened twice, and it was actually in back-to-back starts in 2013. One of those games didn’t go well, with him getting pulled early, but the other was five shutout innings, which was followed by another five shutout innings in his next game. This season, his high for strikeouts is three and he has just eight total in five starts. Last year he had one five strikeout game in 18 starts and everything else was four or less. It all basically adds up to the fact that he isn’t a strikeout pitcher. In 267.2 career innings, he has a 119:169 BB/SO ratio.
Besides not getting strikeouts, this season he isn’t even getting ground balls. His 0.81 GO/AO ratio is one of the lowest you’ll see in the system and it’s part of a pattern during his five seasons, flipping between bad and good. As a rookie his GO/AO ratio was 0.69, which is very low, but you don’t really worry about a 16-year-old in the GCL. Just the fact he was pitching there and holding his own was good enough. The next year it went up to 1.52, which was a very good sign, but it was down to 0.80 in 2013. That was followed by 1.39 last year, and then back down again this year.
So back to the beginning of the article where I mentioned this could be his last start as a top 30 prospect. That would be quite a drop-off from the preseason ranking that had him as the 20th best prospect, but he dropped down to #29 when we did an update after gathering new information and seeing how players progressed during the off-season. So dropping out of the top 30 shouldn’t be a surprise, especially with new players about to enter the system from the draft.
He has been a top prospect in the system since the day he signed and that has mainly been due to potential, but up until this season, he had done just enough that you couldn’t write him off at any point. You’re not going to write off a teenager that got a $3M bonus anyway. If the team thought that high of him, there has to be a good reason.
They obviously couldn’t have predicted the conditioning issues, which is part of the reason he hasn’t made more than 63 appearances. Those 63 games don’t count all the times he has pitched in Extended Spring Training(which has happened all five seasons) or in the Fall Instructional League either, so he has been on the mound facing batters a lot more than what you see on the stat sheets.
When we gather all the input for the new top 30, Heredia will likely be off the list. That might not be in before he starts again next week because it’s a process that involves some time, with multiple people submitting lists, then input from our local writers for the players that they see daily. He could very well have two starts to show us something, but it would have to be very special for him to not drop out. He could get started in the right direction with some improvements. One would have to be the ability to get through five innings on a 75 pitch count, which shouldn’t be asking too much from someone that is a prospect. It would also be nice to see a start that looks dominating, one where you step back and say, oh yeah, he’s just 20 years old and doing this in high-A, instead of saying he was signed back in August 2010 and this is where he is at still despite that upside?
You could almost consider him a raw pitcher at this point, someone that went to junior college for a year before entering the draft, but those players don’t have hands on training for five years with a Major League team and they definitely don’t get ranked in the top 30 of a system that has strong depth. The Pirates drafted multiple players this week that have great size, throw in the 90’s and have looked inconsistent on the mound, which kept them out of the top ten rounds of the draft, but still makes them intriguing. Most of them have projectability, and room to fill out, while Heredia doesn’t need to do anymore filling out.
In his last game, Heredia tied his career-high for hits allowed with nine, and it was the shortest outing among the three times he has allowed nine hits in a game. The lack of strikeouts, a career high in hits allowed, all the fly balls he has allowed, his conditioning issues and high pitch counts/low innings every start are all starting to add up and right now it doesn’t look good.
We add the playoff push section back today, as both Bradenton and West Virginia are nearing the halfway point of their season. They play in leagues with split schedules, where the first half winner of each division and the second half winner meet in the playoffs. If one team wins both halves, then the team with the second best record goes to the playoffs.
As for the current standings, West Virginia is 4.5 games back of Hickory with ten games left in the first half. Hickory has a really strong team, so they could definitely contend for the second half title as well. The Power are in second place, 3.5 games ahead of two other teams. Bradenton is in last place and they have been eliminated from the first half race. The Marauders are actually closer to the second place team(Jupiter) than that team is to first place, so you could be looking at another team that wins both halves.
As the season progresses, we will keep watch of the playoff pushes for Altoona and Indianapolis, plus the Pirates of course. Both Altoona and Indianapolis are in first place in their division, but since they don’t play split seasons, there is still a long way to go on their schedule.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates were off on Thursday. They open up a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies tonight, with Jeff Locke on the mound, taking on former Pirate pitcher Kevin Correia. Locke did not face the Phillies when these two teams met in Philadelphia earlier this season.
In the minors, Adrian Sampson has allowed one earned run over his last 13.2 innings. He is tied for fifth in the International League in ERA and ranks 12th with a 1.21 WHIP. Sampson is second in strikeouts, just one behind the leader. Luis Heredia makes his sixth start and will try to go five innings for the first time this season. All five of his starts so far have been shortened due to high pitch counts. Colten Brewer had a career-high 11 strikeouts during his June 1st start. In his other five starts combined, he has picked up 12 strikeouts. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.
MLB: Pittsburgh (32-27) vs Phillies (22-39) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Jeff Locke (5.37 ERA, 25:49 BB/SO, 62.0 IP)
DSL: Pirates (4-6) vs Tigers (6-4) 10:30 AM (season preview)
Here’s a video of highlights from the Indianapolis win over Gwinnett on Thursday.
6/11: Pirates acquire John Bowker from the San Francisco Giants.
6/10: Yhonathan Barrios promoted to Indianapolis.
6/9: John Holzkom activated from Indianapolis disabled list
6/9: Brett McKinney promoted to Altoona. Ryan Hafner added to Bradenton roster.
6/7: Pirates release Tyler Sample.
6/5: Justin Sellers assigned to Bradenton on rehab.
6/5: Charlie Leesman placed on Indianapolis disabled list.
6/5: Francisco Diaz activated from WV Power disabled list.
6/5: Kawika Emsley-Pai promoted to Bradenton roster. Jin-De Jhang assigned to Extended Spring Training.
6/3: Pirates outright Radhames Liz to Indianapolis.
5/29: Andy Vasquez added to Altoona roster.
5/29: Keon Broxton promoted to Indianapolis. Adam Miller placed on disabled list.
5/29: Jeff Roy activated from West Virginia disabled list. Andy Otamendi assigned to Extended Spring Training.
This Date in Pirates History
One former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date, plus one small trade of note and a special pitching performance from 45 years ago today. We start with the player, and that was second baseman Otto Knabe, who played for the Pirates in 1905 and then again in 1916. He was just a rookie when the Pirates brought him up late in the 1905 season for a brief tryout. By the time he came back, he was on the downside of his career. Knabe was without a job at the start of the 1916 season and the Pirates brought him in for a tryout. He was out of shape, so it was basically his Spring Training, but injuries forced him into the lineup ahead of schedule and he did not perform well. His total time with the Pirates was less than two months, but he was actually a really good player in between his brief stops.
On this date in 1946, the Pirates and Braves exchanged struggling outfielders, with Chuck Workman headed towards Pittsburgh and Johnny Barrett going to Boston. Workman was batting .167 at the time of the deal, while Barrett’s average was just two points higher. The trade ended up being a draw, as Workman struggled in a platoon role and Barrett got injured. By the start of the next season, both players were in the minors and never returned to the big leagues.
On this date in 1970, Dock Ellis threw the fifth no-hitter in team history. This is the famous game in which he supposedly pitched that day while on LSD. It’s a claim that is disputed by some, but makes a good story now. A recap can be found in a link above, while the boxscore for the game can be viewed here.