The Dominican Summer League opened up their season on Saturday with the Pirates taking a 9-5 loss. The 72-game schedule runs into late August this year, due to a slightly later than normal start. The team plays with a 35-man roster, but more players usually appear at times during the season. The Pirates currently have 40 players in camp, with four pitchers recovering from injuries who either won’t play this season or will appear later in the year.
At the end of last year, we posted an article noting 12 players to watch from the 2015 DSL team. Seven of those players are currently in Extended Spring Training in Bradenton. The Pirates added some interesting names during the 2015-16 signing period, spending most of their bonus pool money on position players. Because some of these players are still 17-18 years old, you could see an unknown player at this time, who makes a huge jump this season. If you’ve followed the amateur draft, you know some 18-year-old high school kids can go from a late round pick to a first round pick over the spring, and they aren’t training at a baseball facility that comes close to what the Dominican academy offers.
To make this preview easier, I have included the list of all 40 players below, with basic information for some players and more information for the players with better scouting reports.
Of note, the Pirates just released 19-year-old outfielder Eliezer Ramirez, who was signed for $120,000 in 2013 and missed most of last year with a broken hand. He was considered a raw player when he signed and didn’t get much of a chance to play during his two seasons.
Yeudry Manzanillo – Signed during the last International signing period, he fits the Pirates mold for pitchers. A 6’3″ righty, with a projectable frame. Ben Badler from Baseball America said that he signed for $150,000 and he throws high-80s with a curve/changeup combo for his off-speed pitches
Reymundo Pena – Small, 20-year-old lefty signed during the off-season. His fastball sits 86-88 MPH. No other information is out there on him, so he’s either a late-bloomer and we will find out during the season, or he’s just a filler. One thing that might help his case is that he signed on July 2nd, the first day of the signing period, and that’s usually reserved for better players, not fillers.
Joel Cesar – Small relief pitcher who reportedly hit 100 MPH since signing. Our reports had him hitting 97 MPH and having spotty command. He’s 20 years old and signed last year for $50,000. One thing I’ve noticed is that reported top speeds don’t always show up during the season. That happened a few times last year.
Oliver Garcia – A 6’3″, 18 year old righty, who signed at the end of October. Another wait and see player. He sits 88-90 with his fastball.
Angel Martinez – A 6’3″, 18 year old lefty, who signed at the end of October. Another wait and see player. Pitched in long relief during the season opener.
Jose Delgado – A 6’3″, 21-year-old righty, who signed back in February. One of two 21-year-old players the Pirates signed that day. A couple recent older players, Yeudy Garcia and Edgar Santana, went to college before signing and they both shot through the system. Not sure about Delgado and the other player (see below), but older doesn’t necessarily mean filler. Pitched in relief during the season opener.
Julio Gonzalez – A 21-year-old who struggled badly as a rookie last year. Signed as a catcher, then only played third base in 2015. Switched to the mound this season due to a strong arm.
Randy Jimenez – A 6’3″ lefty who turns 18 later this month, he’s on the raw side and will likely need time to reach his potential. Throws high-80s with a solid curve and a strong feel for pitching. He signed for $100,000.
Sergio Cubilete – The Opening Day starter, who started off good in the game, then gave up a lot of walks and that led to five runs. Just like Delgado, he didn’t sign until right before his 21st birthday. He is a 6’4″ righty.
Kleiner Machado – We didn’t get much of a scouting report on Machado, but the Pirates obviously liked him enough to have a deal already in place before he was eligible to sign on July 2nd. He’s the youngest pitcher on this team, turning 17 in March. Machado signed out of Venezuela for $90,000, which was the highest bonus they paid to a player from that country this last signing period. He’s a 5’11” righty.
Luis Diaz – He’s an 18-year-old lefty who looked like a bargain signing at $50,000 this off-season. He can sit low 90s after only hitting high 70s a little more than a year ago. He is out with a shoulder injury at this point. No word on when he might return.
Leandro Pina – A 17-year-old righty, who signed on July 2nd for $115,000, making him the second highest bonus pitcher from the 2015-16 signing class (That period ends on June 15th, so it’s possible but unlikely that could change). It should come as no surprise that he is 6’3″, a height that is basically an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale for the Pirates. Pina’s best pitch is a changeup and his fastball hits 91 according to Ben Badler.
Armando Bustamante – Third-year player, who will fill the utility role in the bullpen, doing some long relief, key situations for one out and closing games. Hits 90 with the fastball, while also throwing a sinker, changeup and a high-70s slider as an out pitch.
Wilmer Contreras – He’s an 18-year-old, 6’3″ righty, who signed for $85,000 last June (right before the deadline on the 15th) and almost immediately he was put into games. You don’t see that often, usually guys sign contracts for the following season, especially higher bonus players. He suffered an elbow injury after his third game and didn’t pitch the rest of the way, but appears to be healthy now. The scouting report had him hitting high-80s in relief, with a slider/change combo that needs work.
Saul de la Cruz – Currently at Pirate City recovering from Tommy John surgery. Signed last March and has yet to make his pro debut.
Yerry De Los Santos – He’s currently at Pirate City due to an elbow injury. He was a regular starter for the team last year, though the results were poor and his stuff is average at best across the board. Received a six-figure bonus back in July, 2014.
Ramon Garcia – A rare player who goes to the U.S. for the Fall Instructional League and comes back to the DSL. He’s a bulldog-type reliever who throws strikes with all of his offerings. He’s 24 years old.
Edgardo Leon – A 19-year-old, 6’3″ righty in his third season. In his first two seasons, he basically worked on fastball command and was sitting 88-89 out of the bullpen.
Adonis Pichardo – A 20-year-old, 6’3″ righty in his second season. Pichardo came with a good reputation when he signed for a six-figure bonus in 2014, and then reports had his fastball touching 96 MPH. The actual season reports had him sitting low-90s without command. He threw strikes, but usually right down the middle and he got hit hard at times. He also had two injuries that cost him time. Will likely see a lot of mound time this year if he stays healthy.
Raymond Rodriguez – A 19-year-old lefty in his third season, Rodriguez wasn’t used often during his first two seasons. He throws 91-92 MPH, and uses a lot of fastballs as he works on his command.
Roger Santana – An 18-year-old lefty, who signed for a six-figure deal in 2014. Santana was starting during Dominican Spring Training this year after being used as a long reliever all of last year. His fastball sat 89-90 MPH last year, but it had a lot of movement. His stats were poor in 2015, though reports said that he was a much better pitcher at the end of the year.
Eumir Sepulveda – A third-year player, he was injured most of last season. When he returned, reports had him hitting 90-91 with command of the fastball, along with two solid off-speed pitches.
Angel Vasquez – Currently at Pirate City rehabbing from off-season surgery. Third-year player who has put up decent results despite bouts of wildness.
Gabriel Brito – Signed for $200,000 in July of 2014, the Pirates really like the undersized (5’9″, 170 pounds) backstop. He had a shoulder injury early last year and a hand injury mid-season, which limited him to 32 games. He caught fire at the plate at the end of the season. His defense needs work. Should split the starting catcher time with the next player…
Samuel Inoa – He signed for $240,000 last July, one of the top bonuses for this recent international class. He has a strong arm and the Pirates like his defense. He is a line drive hitter who goes to the opposite field a lot. Inoa is 17 years old, stands 5’11”, 180 pounds and reports said that he already runs like a veteran catcher.
Ramy Perez – Extra who will likely see action at multiple positions. Pirates don’t have a true first baseman on the roster, so Perez could see time there. Fourth-year player, which means he will either be released at the end of the season, or in a few instances, fourth-year players move up to the States the next season.
Yair Babilonia – He’s a 17-year-old catcher signed out of Colombia late last year. Has an impressive amateur record, but may struggle for playing time with two high-priced catchers ahead of him.
Williams Calderon – An 18-year-old switch-hitting infielder in his second season, Calderon started off slow, then showed improvements as the season progressed in 2015. Much better hitter from the right side. He played left field in the season opener, so that could help with the crowded middle infield situation.
Johan De Jesus – He signed for $200,000 in 2012 and had two poor seasons before missing all of last year due to a PED suspension. He spent the year playing on the backfields with the “tryout” players, who are basically players who Pirates either signed to contracts for the following season or just players who are currently getting tryouts. This is considered his fourth year, so he will need to show a lot of improvements if he is going to move to the States next year. Started at first base in the season opener.
Kyle Simmons – One of two players signed out of the Bahamas on July 2nd, Simmons actually got into action the same year he signed. He’s 18 years old, who runs well, has a strong arm and can play shortstop or second base. In talking to him last year, he noted that he used to be a switch-hitter, but gave it up and it helped just concentrating on hitting right-handed.
Cristopher Perez – Very skinny shortstop who struggled both in the field and at the plate, though reports said things were starting to click for him at the end of the year. Pirates signed him for $150,000 in 2014 and he should see a lot of playing time at shortstop this season, as his defense has him projecting to stick there.
Francisco Mepris – An 18-year-old switch-hitting, second baseman. He signed in July and there wasn’t a scouting report attached, so he’s a wait-and-see player. Might be tough for him to get playing time with this group.
Rodolfo Castro – The youngest player on the team, Pirates signed the shortstop for $150,000 and believe he can stick at the position. Ben Badler noted that his defense was solid now, his speed was average and his bat needs some time.
Sherten Apostel – A big third baseman signed out of Curacao last July for a $200,000 bonus. He has a cannon for an arm and he’s very athletic. He makes good contact at the plate and has a ton of raw power. He will be given every chance to make it as a position player due to his upside, but he also has pitching as a strong fallback option. One of the top players to watch on this team, but it may take a second year in the DSL before you see results.
Rudy Guzman – An unfortunate story, Guzman has no proof of his ID before age 12 because his house was lost in a fire. Without proper ID, he is unable to come to the U.S. Guzman is 24 already, but he would have been in the U.S. two years ago because he’s a very toolsy player, who has power, speed, a strong arm and solid defense. Now he’s just biding time in the DSL, hoping to get a chance to move up.
Jeremias Portorreal – The Pirates signed him for $375,000 on his 16th birthday in August 2013 and in two seasons in the DSL, he has shown almost nothing. He has a high strikeout rate and no polished tools besides a strong arm. He’s a rare player who got an invite to the Fall Instructional League and then returned to the DSL the following season. He will play most of this season as an 18-year-old, so there is still time for him to start putting it together.
Eddy Vizcaino – A 19-year-old who got his start in the Dominican Prospect League before the Pirates signed him. He is a strong defensive player with range and a terrific arm. He showed some potential at the plate last year, doing a good job of getting on bases and stealing some bags. Only tool we won’t see is power, though he could turn into a doubles hitter with the occasional triples mixed in.
Kevin Sanchez – Likely the top prospect on this team, Sanchez was signed for $450,000 last year, the highest bonus the Pirates gave out. He has plus-plus speed in center field. He makes consistent contact at the plate and uses the gaps well, though he doesn’t have much power yet. Sanchez just turned 17 in April and he’s listed at 6’0″, 150 pounds, so he will fill out a little. His speed and ability to get on base should lead to a lot of stolen bases this year. Top player to watch with this team.
Carlos Garcia – A 17-year-old lefty hitter/thrower, who signed for $110,000 back in July. Garcia is a line drive hitter with some power potential. According to Ben Badler, he’s limited to corner outfield and his speed/defense aren’t anything great. That means the bat will need to carry him.
Larry Alcime – His $350,000 bonus was the second highest during this signing period. Alcime was signed out of the Bahamas on July 2nd He’s a strong 17-year-old who is raw at the plate, with a lot of potential. Pirates believe he could develop into a power hitter as he fills out and begins to make more solid contact. He can run well and has a strong arm, so his defense is a little more advanced right now. One of the top players to watch, though as always with a young kid labeled raw, the stats might not impress as much as the tools early on.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
Lets hope some of these low cost signings turn out to be great but the odds are against that happening. The Pirates have to sign more high end talent even if that means signing less players. I wonder which Banana talent the Pirates will give the largest bonus to this year. Since all the players for this year’s class have already agreed to contracts, who did the Pirates get?
Didn’t Polanco sign for $70K and Marte for $50 K? While Luis Heredia signed for over a million. What part of that supports your theory that you know more about Latin American baseball than the Pirates?
You won’t hear any names until July 2nd likely. Kevin Sanchez was already there playing on the backfields for awhile before he signed, plus he had a strong scouting report while with a top trainer, and no one had his name until July 2nd
“Reports said he already runs like a veteran catcher,” best line in the entire article.
When he was signed, he had already been at the Dominican academy for awhile. It happened at the same time Kevin Sanchez signed, so I talked to a few players and they all said plus-plus runner for Sanchez, ridiculous speed. One of them said in the report about Inoa when I asked about his running “the exact opposite of Sanchez”…another just said “very slow”