Winter Leagues: Edwin Espinal Continues to Reach Base at a High Rate

In the Dominican on Monday night, Starling Marte went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. He picked up an outfield assist, throwing a runner out at home plate in the fifth inning to keep the game scoreless. Marte is now 3-for-20 through five games. His first three at-bats on this night, which included a strikeout, ground out and fly out, were against former Pirate pitcher Radhames Liz.

On the night he officially reached minor league free agency, Edwin Espinal went 2-for-4 to give him a .356 average through 14 games. He leads the Dominican with a .463 OBP. As with all minor league free agents, we cover them during the entire winter, unless they sign elsewhere. That’s because we have seen multiple players over the years re-sign with the Pirates, including Danny Ortiz last year.

Jung-Ho Kang went 0-or-4 with a walk and a strikeout, continuing his rough winter. Through 17 games, his .214 OBP is last among players with enough plate appearances to qualify for league leaders. His 21 strikeouts are three more than any other player in the league.

Anderson Feliz also became a minor league free agent on Monday. He went 0-for-3 with a walk. He’s hitting .364 through 22 at-bats.

In Venezuela, Elvis Escobar went 1-for-3 with a triple, walk and two runs scored. The triple was his first of the winter. Escobar is batting .286/.340/.352 in 23 games this winter.

In Mexico, Eumir Sepulveda allowed two runs on eight hits over five innings. He’s pitching in a lower level version of winter ball than the one that we normally cover from Mexico. Sepulveda pitched there last year as well and went from someone who was going to play summer ball in Mexico, to playing in the GCL. He had spent three seasons in the DSL for the Pirates and didn’t get a Fall Instructional League invite in 2016, but pitched well enough in winter ball that the Pirates brought him to the U.S. instead of releasing him. The 21-year-old righty finished his season up by allowing one run on two hits over his final 9.2 innings.

  • We need hitters who do not strike out. This looks like someone we should protect. If Josh Bell gets hurt we are in a real bind.

    • It seems like this guy can hit. Given the state of the Pirates offense, I would think he would deserve a look at some point.

  • Espinal shows talent both with his hitting and fielding. He needs to be signed, whether it’s a minor league contract or a spot on the 40 man roster. I know if he is signed to a minor league contract he would be subject to the rule 5 draft.

    • I’m guessing the Pirates offered just a minor league deal so far, which I wouldn’t blame Espinal for passing on at this point. He’s only 23, did a solid job in Triple-A, and is now one of the best hitters in winter ball. There’s no reason for him not to try for a 40-man spot right now, because the fallback of a minor league deal will always be there.

      Some minor league free agents rush to secure the first spot because that might be their only shot. He’s not in that type of situation, so it doesn’t hurt to take his time this winter.

      • The Pirates have shed about 6 spots on the 40 since 10/01, and i cannot think of any reason why he should not occupy one of those open slots. I would think the odds of the Pirates leaving him unprotected would be extremely slim.

        Something has to give though because he and Osuna are the same and Osuna was a productive bat for the Pirates in 2017 – 24 EBH (13 doubles/4 triples/7 HR) in only 215 AB.