The DSL Pirates start their season this morning. It’s an odd start to the schedule because the league has off every Sunday. The schedule is 72 games long and breaks down to 36 two-game series, with one game home and one game away each series. That means that the Pirates are never home more than two days in a row. It also means that with the season starting on a Saturday, every team you play on Saturday, you will also play on Monday. That’s until the All-Star break when two days off in a row that weekend gets the schedule lined up so you face just three teams each week for the rest of the season.
In case you’ve ever wondered, there are no overnight stays in the DSL or GCL. Every road game ends with the team right back at the academy afterwards. People have asked me that over the years, so it’s just a random fun fact thrown out for you and I didn’t know where else to put it. The real topic of this article is the top prospects from the DSL in advance of today’s opener. Hopefully you read the season preview I posted yesterday. It lists all 38 players, along with the starters at each position, the starting pitchers and the best bullpen arms. I also noted the four injured players, the players from last year’s team who were promoted to Extended Spring Training in Bradenton, and the released players.
The title of the preview noted that the team is inexperienced and they had some potential. Not exactly the most glowing praise, but it’s not a team devoid of talent or potential. I’m not going to attempt a top ten list of prospects because we are talking about 22 of 38 players who haven’t played their first pro game yet. I got many reports from Spring Training and their version of the Fall Instructional League, plus we know most of the bonus information. Also, knowing the starting lineup/starting rotation helps with the guesswork.
It’s much easier to do a top ten at the end of the season though, so this is a list of ten players to watch, who have a better than average chance to end up in the top ten at the end of the season. I’ll likely be wrong on a couple, but at this point I at least have a good reason (or reasons) to think they could end up as a top prospect. They are presented in alphabetical order.
Jean Eusebio – Okay I lied a little bit. I have no problem naming him the top prospect on the team and I put him at the top even though he’s not first alphabetical. He is also the youngest player, so you have to be careful with expectations, because he will face numerous pitchers who are 3-4+ years older than him. Eusebio received the highest bonus ($550,000) the Pirates have given out since 2012. Over the winter, he played in a prospect league with many older players and he put up huge offensive numbers there. I’ve seen Spring Training highlights from him and his hitting and running are impressive. He’s a line drive hitter, who uses the whole field, plays center field and can run the bases. He’s also 16 years old. If you need just one good reason to follow the team, it’s him. I already have my trip to the Fall Instructional League planned out for early October and he is one of the main reasons I am going.
Francisco Acuna – The reason I put Eusebio first is because I lied again and Acuna is the second best prospect, but this is where the alphabetical order starts, so no more lies. His bonus was just $70,000, but there were some undisclosed issues at his signing, which cut his bonus by more than 50%. Acuna makes this list because he played winter ball in Colombia in a league that should have been too advanced for a 16-year old (he’s 17 now), but he held his own. He played shortstop everyday and hit at the top of the order. For reference, Tito Polo had already put in a season in the GCL and was three years older when he saw his first playing time in the same league. Polo didn’t have the same success as Acuna either. If he played in that league and wasn’t over-matched, then he should be able to handle to DSL and move to the U.S. for the Fall Instructional League in September.
Larry Alcime – Alcime received a $350,000 bonus to sign out of the Bahamas in 2015. If you missed it, or ignored it, you should read the article I did about him where he talks about signing out of the Bahamas, what happens after you sign on July 2nd, and the adjustments he made during the 2016 season. It’s filled with information about the signing process and the DSL that you don’t get elsewhere. Alcime was raw when he signed, but he took to the adjustments the Pirates made and showed improvements, which have carried over into this spring.
Sherten Apostel – Another raw signing from 2015 who struggled as a rookie, though Apostel put up very good numbers in August. He gets rated a little higher because he’s not just a potential power hitter due to his size/frame, he also has an above average arm at third base and people have said that pitching is a legit option if his hitting fails down the line. I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts up big numbers this year.
Osvaldo Bido – The Pirates have been finding hard-throwing older pitchers recently and signing them for low bonuses. Bido was next in line (plus another one listed below) and he really came out of nowhere. He signed the same day as Eusebio did in February, when very few interesting signings happen. All the 21-year-old, 6’3″, righty does is throw 95 MPH as a starting pitcher. Best fastball on the team and beat out multiple six-figure signings for a starting spot? Check. That’s good enough for me.
Pedro Castillo – A lefty hitting outfielder with a line drive stroke, the Pirates liked him enough to make him their second biggest target this past signing period behind Eusebio. Castillo is still a little raw and adjusting to the speed of the DSL, so it’s possible his playing time is somewhat limited and the final stats don’t impress you. Give him time though, the bat has potential and he should be a solid corner outfielder.
Santiago Florez – A 6’6″, right-hander signed at 16 years old for $150,000 is going to make the top ten. I’ve seen numerous pictures of Flores and he has room to fill out his large frame. That makes him interesting because he can hit 92 MPH already. He’s another player who might not put up big numbers this year, but there are plenty of reasons to like his potential.
Samuel Inoa – Some players are just here because they are the starting catcher and they got a $240,000 bonus (not pointing any fingers here). Inoa did not play well offensively or defensively last year, but he’s 18 right now and catchers usually develop slower than other positions. A second season should do him some good. Maybe we will see why the Pirates thought so highly of a 5’9″ catcher.
Samuel Reyes – Reyes gets a push because of who he knows, and that’s his brother Pablo Reyes with Altoona. He’s slated for relief and I don’t like including relievers who sign at 20 years old, but he throws 95 consistently and has control over five pitches. The reports I got last year and this spring were all great. One was just “he throws fire!!”. His stay in the Dominican will likely end in September when the Fall league begins.
Noe Toribio – He signed last year for $100,000 and reportedly hit 97 MPH, so that drew attention. I was quickly disappointed to hear he sits 91-92 MPH and no one has seen anything close enough to think he could hit 97. The reports all said he was the best pitcher there and he holds his velocity deep into his starts, so I’m going with the popular opinion and saying he is a pitcher to watch and a legit top ten candidate.
Bradenton trails in their division by one game with 15 games remaining in the first half.
West Virginia trails their division leader by six games, with 15 games left in the first half. They are in fifth place.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the New York Mets by a 12-7 score on Friday night. The Pirates will send Tyler Glasnow to the mound tonight. He made his last start against the Mets and allowed five runs on eight hits over five innings. It was his first start of the season in which he didn’t allow a walk. The Mets will counter with 23-year-old right-handed pitcher Robert Gsellman, who has a 5.75 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP in 51.2 innings this season.
In the minors, Nick Kingham makes his fourth start for Indianapolis and fifth start overall. His inning total has slightly increased each outing. His debut with Bradenton was five shutout innings. He Indianapolis debut six days later was 5.2 innings. That was followed by six frames on May 23rd and then one run over 6.1 innings in his last start. Kingham has thrown between 88 and 96 pitches in his last three starts. Altoona starter Alex McRae is glad May is over. He had a 2.12 ERA in April, winning our Pitcher of the Month. His May ERA was 5.33 in five starts. Cam Vieaux doesn’t care what month it is right now. He leads all starting pitchers for the Pirates with a 1.81 ERA.
MLB: Pittsburgh (25-30) @ Mets (23-30) 7:15 PM
Probable starter: Tyler Glasnow (6.95 ERA, 26:44 BB/SO, 45.1 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (30-23) vs Gwinnett (27-26) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (3.00 ERA, 6:17 BB/SO, 18.0 IP)
AA: Altoona (29-23) @ Bowie (29-26) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (3.60 ERA, 12:32 BB/SO, 55.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (32-23) vs Lakeland (23-32) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD
Low-A: West Virginia (25-26) @ Rome (31-24) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (1.81 ERA, 9:25 BB/SO, 44.2 IP)
DSL: Pirates (0-0) vs Cubs1 (0-0) 10:30 AM (season preview)
Here is more defense from Casey Hughston, who was in yesterday’s highlights making a diving catch.
6/2: Pirates designate Alen Hanson for assignment. Recall Max Moroff and Phil Gosselin.
6/2: Adrian Valerio placed on disabled list. Andrew Walker added to West Virginia.
6/2: Jameson Taillon assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
6/1: Gift Ngoepe optioned to Indianapolis
6/1: Brett McKinney assigned to Indianapolis
5/31: Anderson Feliz added to Indianapolis roster. Brett McKinney assigned to Morgantown.
5/30: Chris Stewart placed on disabled list. Pirates recall Elias Diaz.
5/30: Jackson Williams promoted to Indianapolis. Tomas Morales added to Altoona roster.
5/30: Trae Arbet added to West Virginia roster. Andrew Walker assigned to Morgantown.
5/28: Jameson Taillon assigned to Altoona on rehab.
5/27: Yunior Montero assigned to Bradenton. Danny Arribas assigned to Extended Spring Training.
5/27: Antonio Bastardo and Josh Lindblom assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
5/27: Andrew Walker assigned to West Virginia. Trae Arbet assigned to Morgantown.
5/26: Kevin Krause activated from disabled list. Mitch Keller placed on disabled list.
5/26: Eury Perez assigned to Morgantown.
5/25: Chris Harvey retired.
5/25: Gregory Polanco activated from the disabled list. Danny Ortiz optioned to Indianapolis.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
One former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date, plus two trades of note and some old draft news. The only former Pirate born on this date is second baseman Nelson Liriano, who played for the 1995-96 club.
In 2009, the Pirates traded Nate McLouth to the Braves for Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke and Gorkys Hernandez, a trade that worked out well. Exactly 103 years earlier, the Pirates dealt young Ed Karger to the Cardinals for veteran pitcher Chappie McFarland in a deal that didn’t go well. Karger went on to play until 1911 and he posted a career 2.79 ERA, while McFarland lasted six games in Pittsburgh before being put on waivers.
The Pirates have drafted some players of note on this date, taking Ryan Doumit during the second round of the 1999 draft and Jeff King as the first overall pick in 1986, the same year they took Stan Belinda in the tenth round and Jeff Banister and Rick Reed with back-to-back picks, going in the 25th and 26th rounds. In 1998, the Pirates pulled off some late round magic, taking Dave Williams, Joe Beimel, Jeff Bennett and Mike Johnston with consecutive picks in rounds 17 through 20.
On this date in 1955, the Pirates defeated the Reds by a 7-6 score, collecting 18 hits in the game. The day included Vern Law throwing 5.1 innings of relief for the win, and the Pirates scoring the walk-off run on a bases loaded single in the ninth by catcher Hardy Peterson, just his second RBI of the season. Roberto Clemente and Dick Cole each had three hits, while Dale Long had four hits. You can see the boxscore here.
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.
If we got one MLB player out of these 16 year olds I think the Pirates would
I just looked up Doumit. I didn’t realize that he has been out of baseball for three years now (2014 was his last season). I suppose injuries did a number on him but I thought he would be a decent in DH in the AL for some years.
Please tell me Acuna has grown 4 inches and is now 6′ tall?
John … Is there any type of age baseline concerning these players playing in GCL? For instance, in the unlikely event that Eusebio tears up the DSL, can he be promoted to the GCL at 16?
There are no age guidelines for any league other than they have to be old enough to sign. The Pirates could call Eusebio up today if they wanted to
I used to save and bookmark these DR articles so that I could reference them later to see how these guys did as they moved up the chain.
Then it got too depressing, so I quit doing it. 🙂
That’s funny about a year ago it finally dawned on me that these guys (the high visibility guys) would be in 10th or 11th grade if they were in the US. That makes these signings quite the crapshoot. I still like syncing up the players who have potential with the performances in the prospect watch. Otherwise, I’d start getting excited about some 21-year old putting up great stats…