This morning I posted a couple recent highlights from Jose Osuna in the daily Winter Leagues article. That has been a common theme with the winter coverage. He has easily been the best player in the system this off-season and it’s one of the best winter performances we have seen from a Pirates’ player.
A question I get asked often about winter leagues is the level of play. Osuna is in Venezuela, where the average player has AAA experience. You’ll get some Low-A players like Elvis Escobar, though they don’t usually see much playing time. You also get a lot of players with some Major League experience, but not many star players. The league usually gets better as the season goes along, so it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see Osuna fade these last couple weeks, but he obviously hasn’t yet.
With that being said, I thought I’d break down the nine homers from Osuna so you can get a sense of who he is hitting them off of this winter. Here is the list, along with their 2015 level. and the highest level during their career. I’ve included videos of eight of the homers. The other one isn’t available.
1. Brett Lee – 24-year-old lefty, who split the 2015 season between High-A and AA, just like Osuna.
2. Robert Zarate – A familiar name if you’ve been following along, since he just signed with the Pirates last week. He pitched in AAA in 2015, his highest level. He’s been one of the best pitchers this winter in Venezuela.
3. Roberto Zarate again, though it came three weeks later. No video.
4. Yorkfrank Lopez – He’s an example of the type of pitchers who see early season action. He topped out at High-A in 2014 and Osuna’s home run basically ended his season, as he was pulled from the game and hasn’t pitched since.
5. Jesus Zambrano – He pitched in AAA in 2015, though it was only after the A’s moved him up directly from rookie ball. Only 19 years old, he’s a good prospect with very little pro experience.
6. Mitch Lively – Has spent the last four seasons in AAA and was voted the best pitcher during the Venezuelan Winter League during the 2013-14 season.
7. Rob Bryson – Reliever, who topped out at AAA in 2013 and spent parts of four seasons in AA.
8. Wilfredo Boscan -We know Boscan because he spent the entire year in AAA with Indianapolis, though he was technically on the Pirates three times this season, he just never got to pitch. He qualifies as a AAAA pitcher. This is the only homer Boscan has allowed this winter in 40.1 innings.
9. Raul Rivero – He’s a 29-year-old veteran, who made it as high as AA in the States, plus played summer ball in Mexico, which is classified as AAA. Not the best pitcher, though he has been one of the best pitchers this winter in Venezuela, ranking fourth in ERA.
As you can see, it’s not the best list of pitchers, but it’s about equal to what you see in Venezuela. No one with Major League experience, just a lot of AAA experience, which Osuna doesn’t have yet. He has faced some pitchers with Major League experience this winter, just hasn’t homered off them…yet. Osuna is hitting .337/.399/.529 in 57 games, ranking him third in the league in OPS.