Breaking Down Jose Osuna’s Winter Ball Success

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.

  • Thanks for posting the highlights. I like him quite a bit and if he’s healthy could give Bell a lot of competition at 1B. He was completely gassed at the end of the AA season as his bat slowed down quite a bit when we were up in Binghamton for the last regular season series.

    A little rest looks like it rejuvenated him

  • If Tim Neverett takes the Boston job we should get one of these guys from the above video, they really get into it.

  • It looks like this kid can pound breaking balls, which may be the single most encouraging thing I see on the videos. That and his teammates really light up when he connects. The Bucs could use some fire on the roster. I am looking forward to seeing him in person in Altoona in May. Fish all day, Curve at night.

  • I don’t mean to hijack this topic but I noticed the PBC invited Adam Frazier to the MLB spring training. Don’t see him breaking camp with us but his season in Altoona, I think only his second professional full season, was pretty remarkable. .326 with a .800 OPS for a guy who can at least play a super-sub level SS plus 2B and CF. I expect him to get his beak wet by July in that role dictated by MLB injuries.

    I fully see the Pirates in “get as many rookies a taste of the big leagues as possible” mode to set up the next generation core for 2017 and beyond. Here are some high talent guys I expect them to WANT to contribute in 2016:

    – Hanson at 2B. This is Harrisons’ best D position and he’s better than Walker but I think Pirates see Kang at SS thus Hanson’s glove work at 2B moves Harrison to 3rd.
    – Rogers trade was clearing MiLB roster space but Rogers/Bell/Osuna are the 1B of 2016. Morse is inexpensive bench bait for anyone with an adequate AAAA lefty 1B to offer.
    – Glasnow and Breault, not Taillon by ASBreak. Taillon won’t be ready but Breault one of those crafty lefties who is ready to be all he can be now, which is a 4/5 starter. Niese is a real good pitcher but RVogs is insurance in case the wheels fall of.
    -Melancon goes because the closer market has broke the Pirates way. Dodgers want something major-league ready and the Frazier deal just netted them MORE prospects. It’s just business whether you like it or not.
    -Garcia is going to be stuck in Indy for a while as he’s too valuable to waste on the bench … sorry.

    • I do NOT think Clint sees Kang as a SS, nor am I sure the Pirates do either, and suspect with that knee injury, you will very, rarely see him there

      • Don’t forget, Hurdle played Kang a lot at SS when he could have gone with a gloveman. He wasn’t averse to playing Harrison a lot there. A top 2B and solid 1B glove can make a mediocre SS totally fine. That’s one reason I think they got rid of Neal. As for the knee… we just won’t know but I think the brass thinks he’s coming along fine.

  • A HR hitter. Do the Pirates need one of them?

  • John, so does he start the season in AAA? Do we have room
    for him there? Does he get an invite and opportunity to play
    in the MLB camp? Ok, and you know the next question,
    is it out of the question that he would be our 4th outfielder
    at some time this season? Or September?

    • Apparently, he gets a waiver and just goes straight to Cooperstown. Connelly has connections.

    • My best guess is that he starts out at Altoona splitting 1B with Edwin Espinal, while also playing some OF and DH. When Josh Bell moves up to Pittsburgh, Osuna will probably go to Indy and play 1B everyday. That’s typical of what they do. It’s possible he could move up to Indy to start the year, but I’d be willing to bet, based on the current players in the system, the Indy outfield/DH will be split by Willy Garcia, Mel Rojas Jr., Danny Ortiz, Antoan Richardson and Jake Goebbert. Josh Bell will be at 1B everyday, which leaves no room for Osuna

  • So basically he will get almost half a season worth of ABs in AAA in winter ball and has produced against AAA pitching. Yeah…he should be in AAA this year.

    • Unless the Pirates are doing things differently in 2016, he will start his season at AA and rise to AAA as soon as Josh Bell is promoted to the majors. Bell was a ,300 hitter at AA, and a .350 hitter in 120 AB’s in AAA in 2015 with an OPS of over .950. It is a great situation for the future of this franchise, and I hope both of them continue the strong hitting.

      • Looks right to me emjay. Add that he is a pretty good looking defensive 1st baseman also.

  • It should also be noted that he is almost 6 years younger then the average player age in the league.

    • Average age is 26.9 for pitchers and he is 23

      • Average overall age per Baseball Reference is -5.2. That means that there are players much older then him on the offensive side that he is out performing.

        • They haven’t updated the stats for the league. The 5.2 you see was him being 22 when the league started and the average age of batters being 27.2, but since the average age hasn’t changed with new players coming in, Osuna is actually -4.2 younger than hitters now and 3.9 behind pitchers. I’ve pointed out numerous times that he is young for the league, but that doesn’t tell the same story as using the level of player. Thirteen players for Osuna’s team are younger than him and have played at least one game

          Some players only player winter ball, so they could be in their 30’s and never played above A ball because they weren’t good enough. There are also retired players in the league playing. If you use level though, you’re comparing his progress to the players in the league directly, whereas age makes a 25 year old MLB star and 25 year old rookie league pitcher the same value. A prime example would be Elias Diaz- MLB player and Francisco Diaz-Low-A player being the same age, playing the same position for the same team.

          • What Osuna has done this offseason (winter) is extremely impressive. Why would they even consider sending him anywhere other than AAA. He’s having a Polanco type winter!

          • I don’t know John. It seems like P2 wants to downplay Osuna for whatever reason. When Josh Bell hits a total of 7 HR’s over the course of a season (5 in AA and 2 in AAA), I didn’t hear anyone at P2 trying to quantify that he was hitting them against AA/AAA pitchers.

            I believe that we are looking at things differently, and that is fine. It makes life interesting. 🙂

  • I think this article is good to temper the enthusiasm a bit, however you still have to put bat to ball, and you still have to crush it. His physical shape and “attitude” for lack of better word does remind of Miggy a bit… I just hope he carries the confidence he’s currently enjoying into the season and continues to develop the power… it’s such a rare commodity in our system.

    • Why would it temper enthusiasm? He’s a player who has never played above AA who is facing much better pitching (at least 7 of his 9 hrs are off AAA pitchers) than he’s ever faced and is hitting incredibly well. What would temper enthusiasm about that?

      • Thought the same thing. After reading the article – which I thought was informative and well done – I immediately thought it said more for Osuna than I anticipated. Age/experience differences were pretty drastic – to his disadvantage.

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