The Dominican winter league held their annual draft on Wednesday night and six Pittsburgh Pirates were selected. The winter draft this year was for Dominican players who made their debut in full season ball during the 2018 season. Once these players are drafted, that teams holds their rights during the winter whether the play or not, and they are able to trade players to other teams in the league. The group of Pirates picked tonight includes three top 50 prospects in the farm system, as well as some other interesting names.
The players selected each year usually don’t make their winter debut until the following year and some never play winter ball at all. Oneil Cruz was one of the top picks last year and ended up pinch-hitting in the final game of the season for his only appearance. If he’s healthy, he will likely see much more playing time this winter. For the Pirates, hitters are much more likely to play winter ball than pitchers, though we do usually see some winter league pitchers signed each off-season as free agents. Richard Rodriguez would be a prime example of that type of player. He signed fairly early with the Pirates and we covered him here for the rest of the winter.
Now that you know a little about the process, here are the players who were selected tonight. There were 137 players available in the draft and six teams making selections for 16 rounds.
Lolo Sanchez was selected tenth overall by the Aguilas Cibaenas. He hit .243/.322/.328 in 114 games, with 14 doubles, a triple, four homers, 41 walks and 30 steals. He’s the top prospect in this group and his speed/defense could allow him to possibly see some playing time this winter. As with every other player in this group, he will need permission from the Pirates to play winter ball. Sanchez is currently ranked 18th in our top 50.
Rodolfo Castro was selected 19th overall by Toros Del Este. He played 105 games for the Power, hitting .231/.278/.395, with 19 doubles, four triples and 12 homers. Castro mostly played second base, but also put in 11 starts at shortstop. He is currently ranked 49th in our top 50.
Domingo Robles was selected 32nd overall by Estrellas Orientales. Robles is currently ranked as our 33rd best prospect. He finished the season in Bradenton after putting strong numbers with the Power. The 20-year-old lefty had a 2.97 ERA in 115 innings with West Virginia, then had a 4.76 ERA in five starts with Bradenton. That high ERA was mostly from his awful first start (nine runs in 3.1 IP), because he followed that game with six runs allowed over 25 innings.
Joel Cesar was taken 66th overall by Gigantes del Cibao. Cesar played for the West Virginia Power this year, where he had a 3.15 ERA in 54.1 innings over 24 appearances, with 50 strikeouts, a 1.23 WHIP and a .222 BAA.
Rafelin Lorenzo was selected 82nd overall by Aguilas Cibaenas, who selected Lolo Sanchez 12 rounds earlier. Despite making the Power Opening Day roster, Lorenzo only played 24 games for them. He was seeing limited time as a backup, then missed over two months with a badly cut hand. He put up a .770 OPS when he was healthy.
Samuel Reyes was taken 85th overall by Toros del Este, joining Rodolfo Castro. The younger brother of Pablo Reyes, Samuel (pictured above) spent the season with the Power, where he had a 2.72 ERA in 43 innings. By the end of the season, he was making starts, finishing his year with six shutout innings and a career high seven strikeouts.
Sergio Cubilete, Jhoan Herrera and Raul Siri were all eligible for the draft, but they were among the 41 players who were not selected.
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.