With the July 2nd international signing period beginning next Saturday, I figured I’d take a look at the first three weeks of the DSL season. They have played 19 games, which is just over 1/4 of their season. Before I start I’ll answer the question you already have. I don’t know of any specific player attached to the Pirates for July 2nd. I just know they were busy scouting in Mexico early this year and brought a few of the players to their academy in the Dominican for workouts.
Now on to the early DSL results. The top signing last year was Kevin Sanchez. He had a minor leg injury at the end of Spring Training and didn’t play in the first few games. I’m not sure if he’s 100% yet despite the fact he is hitting .333 at this point. He has plus-plus speed and they have him batting lead-off. I can’t imagine they don’t want him running unless there are some lingering effects from the injury. He’s attempted just two stolen bases. Assuming he plays regularly the rest of the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts running often and ends up in the 30 stolen base range.
Catcher Gabriel Brito was also injured at the end of Spring Training and just recently returned. The Pirates have eased him into the lineup, having him play partial games at first. He was one of the top signings from the 2014-15 signing class. Brito returned for a second season and was supposed to share the catching duties with Samuel Inoa, who signed for $240,000 last July 2nd. You usually don’t see two high-priced catchers at the same time because you want them both playing regularly. Inoa has started slow with a .388 OPS.
Sherten Apostel signed for $200,000 out of Curacao and had a very interesting scouting report when he signed, though they noted he was raw. So far he’s hitting .173 and has just two extra-base hits, both doubles. However, he has a .348 OBP due to a high walk total, so plate patience is a good sign. His scouting report noted he has a strong fallback plan as a pitcher, but due to his size and athleticism, I think he remains a third baseman for awhile.
Larry Alcime was signed for $350,000 out of the Bahamas, as the Pirates signed some top players from unconventional places. He was another raw player with huge upside and he’s had an extremely difficult time, posting a .050/.093/.075 slash line…yes, that’s right. He also has 17 strikeouts in 40 at-bats. The good news is that he is playing this entire season as a 17-year-old, so they have plenty of time with him.
Rodolfo Castro has been a pleasant surprise as the youngest player on the team. He turned 17 right before the season started. He’s playing regularly at shortstop and he leads the team with a 1.013 OPS. Last year’s shortstop could be a good person for Alcime to look at for hope. Cristopher Perez was horrible last year for most of the season, finishing strong in the last week or so just to get him a .199 average. He has a .960 OPS so far this season.
Jeremias Portorreal looks to be a bust, though I hate saying that about an 18-year-old, so I’ll wait until he turns 19 in six weeks. In his third season in the league, he has a .525 OPS.
On the pitching side, I noted in last night’s Prospect Watch that Leandro Pina has thrown 20 innings this year without allowing an earned run. Since DSL pitchers are on a five inning max, he has pitched all of his allowed innings in his four starts. Pina has a fastball that hits low-90s and an advanced changeup. He’s a 17-year-old, 6’3″, RHP, who they signed for $115,000 last year.
Joel Cesar was one to watch this year because there were reports that he hit 100 MPH. He’s small and was a reliever, but the Pirates turned him into a starter. I was told he was hitting 96 MPH in his first start and he got injured in his second start. It’s not major, but he’s already missed two starts.
Wilmer Contreras was signed last June and got right into games, then quickly hurt his elbow. He’s healthy this year and holding batters to an .083 BAA while pitching in long relief.
The Pirates are near the bottom in hitting, with only six of the 42 teams in the league having a lower OPS than their .615 mark. They are also one of two teams in the league without a home run, though a large majority of the teams have five or less homers, so it’s not as bad as it sounds.
So there are some good signs with Sanchez, Castro, Perez, Pina and Contreras all playing well, as well as some lesser prospects, but there are just as many top players struggling, which has led to the poor overall offense and a 7-12 record.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates won 6-1 over the Dodgers on Saturday night. They will now send Chad Kuhl to the mound for his first Major League start and he gets to go up against Clayton Kershaw. Kuhl had a 2.58 ERA in 76.2 innings with Indianapolis, posting a 16:59 BB/SO ratio and a 1.50 GO/AO ratio. He has struggled in June, posting a 6.75 ERA in four starts. Kershaw had a 1.57 ERA in 115 innings, with 141 strikeouts and an 0.67 WHIP. He has failed to go seven innings in a start just once this season and that was when he went six shutout innings against the Braves back on June 4th.
In the minors, it’s a nice day for the lower level pitching prospects, as both Gage Hinsz and Luis Escobar will be on the mound. Hinsz allowed two earned runs over five innings in his last start. He set career highs of six innings and nine strikeouts in his prior game. Escobar had some control issues in his first start of the season on Tuesday, despite throwing four shutout innings. He walked four batters and had four strikeouts. He threw 70 pitches total, 35 for strikes.
Indianapolis will either be going with Justin Masterson or Wilfredo Boscan. One was announced during the telecast, the other is listed on the team’s website. Bradenton doesn’t have a starter listed yet.
For Bristol, Blake Cederlind makes his pro debut after being drafted in the fifth round this year. The GCL Pirates and DSL Pirates are both off today.
MLB: Pittsburgh (36-39) vs Dodgers (41-35) 8:08 PM
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (MLB Debut)
AAA: Indianapolis (40-35) vs Buffalo (42-34) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Justin Masterson or Wilfredo Boscan
AA: Altoona (41-32) @ Bowie (32-42) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (11.77 ERA, 8:8 BB/SO, 13.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (40-31) @ Ft Myers (36-36) 4:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD
Low-A: West Virginia (36-36) @ Asheville (36-36) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Gage Hinsz (4.22 ERA, 6:19 BB/SO, 21.1 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (6-2) vs State College (5-3) 4:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Luis Escobar (0.00 ERA, 4:4 BB/SO, 4.0 IP)
Rookie: Bristol (1-1) vs Greeneville (1-1) 6:00 PM (season preview)
GCL: Pirates (1-0) vs Braves (0-2) 12:00 PM 6/27 (season preview)
DSL: Pirates (7-12) vs Indians (9-10) 10:30 AM 6/27 (season preview)
Here is an RBI double from Will Craig on Thursday night. He’s not hitting well yet, but he’s certainly getting on base a lot thanks to five HBP already.
6/25: Luis Paula, David Whitehead and Justin Maffei assigned to Bristol on rehab.
6/24: Pirates purchase the contract of Adam Frazier. Designate Cole Figueroa for assignment.
6/24: Juan Nicasio activated from restricted list. Designate Jorge Rondon for assignment.
6/24: Jacob Stallings optioned to Indianapolis.
6/23: JT Brubaker added to Bradenton roster. Colten Brewer placed on temporary inactive list.
6/23: Tito Polo assigned to Bradenton.
6/22: Pirates recall Kyle Lobstein. Wilfredo Boscan optioned to Indianapolis.
6/22: Jhondaniel Medina assigned to Indianapolis.
6/21: Pirates recall Wilfredo Boscan. Curtis Partch optioned to Indianapolis.
6/21: Pirates sign Braeden Ogle.
6/20: Trace Tam Sing and Erik Lunde added to Bradenton roster. Pablo Reyes placed on temporary inactive list.
6/19: Steven Brault sent to Morgantown on a rehab assignment.
6/19: Pirates purchase the contract of Jacob Stallings. Jason Rogers optioned to Indianapolis.
6/19: Tomas Morales promoted to Indianapolis.
6/18: Pirates option Rob Scahill to Indianapolis. Recall Jason Rogers, Jorge Rondon and Curtis Partch.
6/18: Cory Luebke designated for assignment.
6/18: Juan Nicasio placed on restricted list.
6/17: Pirates released Garrett Russini and Guido Knudson.
6/17: Pirates sign Matt Frawley, Stephen Owen and Arden Pabst.
6/16: Pirates sign 13 draft picks.
6/16: Casey Hughston and Logan Sendelbach assigned to West Virginia. Julio Vivas and Billy Roth assigned to Morgantown.
6/15: Pirates sign Will Craig, Matt Anderson and nine other draft picks.
6/15: Pirates release Nick Buckner.
6/15: Trey Haley sent outright to Indianapolis.
6/15: Dovydas Neverauskas promoted to Indianapolis. John Kuchno placed on disabled list.
6/14: Pirates place Gerrit Cole on the disabled list. Recall Jameson Taillon.
6/14: Kevin Newman and Wyatt Mathisen activated from disabled list. Trace Tam Sing assigned to GCL Pirates.
6/14: Miguel Rosario promoted to Altoona.
6/14: Pirates release Robert Zarate.
6/13: Sam Street activated from Temporary Inactive List. JT Brubaker assigned to GCL Pirates.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two of the better players in team history. Starting with the other five players (their bios can be found in the link above), we have pitcher Howie Pollet (1951-53, 1956), pitcher Elmer Singleton (1947-48) and third baseman Deb Garms (1940-41), who controversially won the 1940 batting title. Also outfielder Babe Herman (1935), who was a star during his day, and pitcher Elmer Ponder (1917, 1919-21). Pollet was involved in two of the bigger trades in team history, coming over from the Braves in 1951 for Cliff Chambers and Wally Westlake. Chambers had thrown a no-hitter a month earlier. In 1953, Pollet was part of the huge Ralph Kiner deal with the Cubs.
Garms hit .355 in 1940 to win the NL batting title, but many people felt he didn’t have enough plate appearances. NL President Ford Frick stated at the time that he only needed to play 100 games to qualify and Garms played 103, going to the plate 385 times. Now the minimum is 502, although a player can still win with less if their average is still higher than second place after you add hitless at-bats to their total (only for calculation purposes). For example, if a player had 480 plate appearances, and adding an 0-for-22 to his total still had him with the best average, then he would win.
The bios for the two other players can be found here. They are catcher Jason Kendall and IF/OF Bill Robinson. Kendall played nine seasons (1996-2004) for the Pirates and caught more games that anyone else in team history. He ranks in the franchise’s top 20 in games, runs, hits, doubles and stolen bases. He batted .306 in 1,252 games. Robinson played eight years (1975-82) in Pittsburgh and hit .276 with 109 homers for the Pirates. He hit 166 homers during his career. During the 1979 championship season, he hit 24 homers and drove in 75 runs.
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.
How would a DSL team stack up against, say, a good JuCo team or a NCAA D1 team?
May not be the right place for the question, but since Kuhl is the starter tonight, who gets bumped from the 40 man?
DSL players are a crap shoot, especially with the Pirates approach of quantity over quality. I look a the Redsox and Texas who spend big internationally (even when they have gone over slot and been prevented from spending more than $300,000 per player) and it seems those players produce at a high level (Bogartes and Marrza). Not all of them make it but the ones that do may become superstars. Sure the Pirates got Marte and Polanco on the cheap and have had great results with them, I just wish they would try to get at least one top 10/15 prospect each year, instead of touring the world and getting players from regions that have not produced the wealth of talent that the DR and Venezuela has. Lets hope this signing period the Pirates hit the jackpot with the Banana player that they usually sign. As for Portorreal let him have the rest of the year to turn it around, but it sure looks like they were wrong about signing him for the big bonus they gave him. Was that bonus at least $250,000?
Portorreal got $375,000.
As for these top 10/15 lists you keep mentioning, I’ll point out that these people ranking them have a hard enough time trying to get a top 10/15 list for High School kids they see play who are two years older and look how wrong those turn out every year. There is also the fact that players agree to sign with teams when they are 14-15, then they don’t go to scouting events, so no one is seeing them, trainers keep them off the radar. There is no such thing as a good top 10 or top 30 international prospect rankings, players are too young, they’re not being seen enough and teams agree to deals more than a year in advance in some cases.
I agree. Bless Rene and team for keeping up on these guys (and John/Tim). GCL guys are a crap shoot. These guys are fighting for a shot at being a crap shoot. The Heredia mess made me realize what a gamble these kids are…
John … Your Pirates History section made me think of two possible history articles:
1. Your personal All-Time Pirates all star team
2. The ‘most common’ Pirates team based on games started at the position
Most games at each position:
CF- Lloyd Waner
LF – Clarke
P – Friend
My top team is:
1B – Suhr
2B – Maz
SS – Wagner
3B – Traynor
OF: Paul Waner, Clemente, Stargell…or Stargell, Carey, Clemente if you insist they play their correct position. I just hate leaving Waner off because he’s a close second to Clemente
P: Phillippe, Adams, Leever, Cooper, Kremer in that order
Wow that was fast!
I agree about P. Waner – he has to make the team.
If you could move players around to a reasonable spot: Stargell could play 1B, Vaughn could play SS, and Wagner could go to LF.
Two more questions:
1. Could you see any of today’s players making this team? Cutch, Cole, etc
2. Who’s the closer – Face, Guisti, Tekulve?
While I chose Carey over McCutchen, I think it will eventually end up being McCutchen as the best center fielder. I didn’t pick a closer because all my starters are real men 🙂 Would have to be Face though, he could go five innings if they needed it
Great tv work on that highlight, shows the run scoring and next batter but not a close up of the hitter, wanted to see how big Craig is.