Morning Report: Could This Be the End of Luis Heredia, the Prospect?

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.

Playoff Push

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 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)

AAA: Indianapolis (39-23) vs Gwinnett (29-30) 7:15 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Adrian Sampson (2.69 ERA, 19:67 BB/SO, 73.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (35-23) vs New Hampshire (27-32) 7:00 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (3.38 ERA, 23:45 BB/SO, 64.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (27-32) vs Ft Myers (30-30) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Heredia (5.29 ERA, 9:8 BB/SO, 17.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (34-25) vs Augusta (28-31) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Colten Brewer (4.70 ERA, 5:23 BB/SO, 30.2 IP)

DSL: Pirates (4-6) vs Tigers (6-4) 10:30 AM  (season preview)

Highlights

Here’s a video of highlights from the Indianapolis win over Gwinnett on Thursday.

Recent Transactions

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.

  • Oops, what “are” his conditioning issues?

  • What’s his “conditioning issues” and–if it is stamina or strength–why hasn’t the team with control of his professional life stepped in and gotten him the “life style, diet, and other support” necessary for him to realize his baseball potential?
    Five years of PBC franchise indifference?

  • LH did not start the game and I could not find a reason on their web site. Someone named Kuhl was the starter and gave up 2 runs in 3-4 innings and then a rain delay.

  • Youth and arrogance? Maybe he will get it back IF he grows up.

  • Brian Finamore
    June 12, 2015 12:42 pm

    Do they ever work in conditioning contingencies to the bonus payouts, or some sort of non-performance based bonus earn-out structure? It may be tough to say what an appropriate weight is three years down the road, but maybe there needs to be some earn-out clauses to the bonus money for big money international teenagers. NOT performance-based, because then it’s not a signing bonus, but contingencies based on simple things like conditioning and valid paperwork would be a good start. It seems to me like giving giving $3M to a 16 year old kid with no strings attached is asking for what they have seen in Heredia. I don’t really fault him for that if it’s a case of his heart not being in it anymore, as it’s hard to say when you are 15 years old that you want to commit your life to professional baseball.

    • John Dreker
      June 12, 2015 4:31 pm

      The problem with players signing from Mexico is that the team he was with gets 75% of the bonus, so Heredia is no millionaire, might be far from it by now. Players from Mexico are “forced” to signed with teams in Mexico before they can sign with a MLB team. The team pays him a salary before he gets signed by an MLB team, so that is how you make up some of the money, but it is nowhere near what they got when he signed. If they don’t sign, they can’t play pro ball in Mexico once their MLB career is done(that’s not the reason they’re forced to sign) and they can’t play winter ball.

      The larger bonuses are also paid out over three years, so for the first three years there is a safety net and the team is able to, through legal actions, recoup some of the money if a player just decided to take his first payment and quit.

  • What did Gayo say about this kid? “The best young pitcher he has ever seen.” Well he should have his eyes checked. He/Pirates blew the Sano signing when all of baseball seemed to step aside and let them have him. So what did the Bucs do to Sano to get his price down, accused him of being older then he said he was and let the Twinkies step in and sign him because the Pirates refused to pass the $3 million dollar threshold to sign him, after the market had been set when another player already signed for more than that figure. So what do they do to make it up to the fans, they make out that Heredia was the best young pitcher ever seen and this is what we received as an apology for not signing Sano. Sano would look great in black and gold but we now have someone who after 4/5 years in the system has proven he can not get or stay in shape and is not even a top 30 prospect. The Sano nonsigning was a mess and this proves the make up signing was even worse.

    • I don’t know about a “make up signing” but Sano was a gigantic miss for sure.

    • They would not have signed Heredia as a cover up for the fans for a player that was in the DSL. You have to remember that Sano happened in 2009 and here we are in 2015, six years later and he is in AA. Some of the facts have been skewed over the years to make it look worse. The Pirates made him a strong offer, but wouldn’t go higher because no one else was in on him. Then once he did get a higher offer, the agent took it instead of using it to negotiate. People fault the Pirates for not bidding against themselves, but they even said they never got word that he had another offer, so there was no chance to top it.

      The other thing was that Sano didn’t have the right paper work and that is very common. He didn’t look like a 16 year old and his bone density test came back as being that of a typical 17-18 year old, which still means he could have been 16, but there was a chance he was 18 which obviously matters when you’re trying to predict future growth. Anyone who has seen how many HS pitchers blossom from soph-senior seasons knows that is a crucial development time.

      The Pirates problem is that they wouldn’t outbid themselves to get him and it didn’t work out and they said they learned from it. That has nothing to do with signing Heredia though, it probably just means that the money earmarked for Sano could now be spent elsewhere and he was the best target. In 2012, I had three scouts come up to me, knowing I covered the Pirates’ system and told me about how much they liked Heredia without me asking. So in 2012, Gayo’s scouting report looked spot on. Two poor years of conditioning and a shoulder injury later, Heredia now looks worse, but don’t blame that on Gayo, he can’t force young kids to reach their potential, he can just spot the ones that have it.

      • And Sano has done what to this point ? Nothing. And he still is a risk defensively.

        • John Dreker
          June 12, 2015 1:06 pm

          Sano could end up being very good, but it’s not like they disputed that. The Pirates had the highest bid in on him for the longest time and no one that knows for sure, has said what they would have offered him if they had a chance.

          Sano himself shows you what could happen with these kids in a short time. He was supposed to be a five-tool shortstop, but now he is a power-hitting corner infielder who will probably end up elsewhere besides 3B. That’s not saying he doesn’t have value, it’s pointing out the huge difference between him at 16(or 18?) and now in AA.

    • You are doing this wrong, Sano’s $3 million went for upgrades at Seven Springs.

      http://www.7springs.com/about/green-initiatives/snowmaking-and-slope-activities/

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    June 12, 2015 11:03 am

    if any of Barrios, Sever, Garcia, Suiter, Simpson, Weiss, and Eric Wood are not in the top 30, should any of them be now? I suspect Moroff should be making a huge jump up on that list, based on this season so far….

    • Garcia, Barrios and Moroff could be, but each have flaws. Moroff has really struggled lately and doesn’t have a great track record. Garcia is 22 already and Barrios is a reliever.

      No to the others mentioned, we have only started discussing it, so there is a lot to do before the list comes out, but I can safely say none of them will be top 30

  • I remember a few years ago, when the Pirates traded for Marlon Byrd, I misread the news and thought that the team sent “Heredia” to the Mets instead of “Herrera.” I was upset for a second, thinking we lost one of our best pitching prospects.

    Now, I realize it would have been much better if my misread had been the reality.

    • Boy that would have been a great trade.

    • The trade happened after I saw Herrera play for the 12th time that season and I knew right away it wasn’t going to work out well. My opinion was the trade was great short-term and bad long-term. We had Heredia rated higher back then, but Herrera was more of a sure thing(as sure as you can be about a young kid in Low-A), while Heredia had the higher upside. That has obviously changed

      • RF was a black hole back in 2013. The 2015 isn’t perfect but I don’t see any crippling holes that would require us to part with a top 10 prospect this year do you? Unless they go for a front line starter, which I don’t really see happening, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about paring with a top prospect in July. My biggest question is do we finally overpay for a reliever this year or is Melancon, Watson, Caminero and Hughes going to be enough. If the Pirates upgrade their 5th starter or their bench I can’t see that costing all that much.

        • The Pirates didn’t trade for Byrd because of a hole in RF. they made the trade because of the gigantic hole in LF. Marte was out with an injury forcing our plan Bs in RF (Felix Pie and others) to play in LF.

          • Even with a healthy Marte at that time I think they make that move.

            • I don’t think they do. Jose Tabata was playing really well in August at that point. He had an .851 OPS for the month. If LF wasn’t an issue I think they stick to the status quo and not replace the hot hitting Tabata.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        June 12, 2015 11:11 am

        I agree 100%. Although I knew it was a steep price to pay for a rental, I was okay with the trade because the Pirates were on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time in 20+ years – and they may not have made it without Byrd.

        That being said, it has predictably worked out to be a very bad trade long term. If we had re-signed Byrd for at least 1 year, that would have lessened the pain a little.

        For the same reasons, I will be a little anxious as we head down toward the trade deadline, concerned that the team will make an equally bad short-term trade for a rental. Look at how much Oakland gave up last year, in their attempt to go all in and win – it came with disastrous results short-term and long-term.

        • Our Russell equivalent would be Meadows or Glasnow and I don’t see them parting with either unless it’s a #1 starter signed past 2015. I would expect a quiet deadline. I would like a bench bat and/or reliever. I wasn’t sure how it turned out exactly but the one deal that intrigued me was the Bonifacio/Russell trade to the Braves. The Braves gave up Victor Caratini. Anyone know what a Pirates equivalent for Caratini would be? I wanted Andrew Miller last year but I believe the Pirate equivalent would have been Sampson. And for half a season of one reliever I wouldn’t have done that.

        • I say the only way this turns out to be a “very bad trade” is if Hanson has a worse ML career than Herrera.

          I have no qualms with losing one of these two for Byrd and the subsequent improved chance for 2013 Pirates to win WS.

  • I hope Heredia does well tonight as I had high hopes for him 5 years ago. If not he was his own worst enemy with a lack of conditioning.

  • If the Toad Heredia is still in the top 30 then in the opinion of PP this draft was a failure. No way this player stays in the top 30 or even the top 40.

    • I have no idea on his placement yet or how many draft guys will be in it, we just started thinking about the new top 30 and it is a long process. You also have to consider other players on the list though, Taylor Gushue, Jordan Luplow, Tito Polo, John Holdzkom all struggling along with him, Tyler Eppler at #26 missing half a season now. It’s not just add in draft guys and everyone else moves down the appropriate amount of spaces based on how many you add.

      • I know what you are saying but can’t help not feel any sympathy for him when he continues to show up out of shape. 5 years in this system and he has not learned anything from the pitching gurus and one of the best training systems in baseball.

        • The scouting reports on him were much better in 2012 when scouts would come up to me and offer their opinions of him unsolicited, just because I wrote about the Pirates and they saw him pitch recently. They have progressively gone down since then. As you said, he is partly to blame because the talent is there

      • just my opinion but with the current draft I see 3 locks for the top 30 and 2 others with a case. As for Heredia in my first quick look I think he is still too 40 but not sure about top 30.

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