If you’ve purchased our 2020 Prospect Guide, you may have noticed in the Depth Chart section that the Pittsburgh Pirates are weak when it comes to left-handed pitching prospects. For the people who don’t have the guide yet, the spoiler is that only two lefties are in the top 50, both on the back-end of the list, and both are relief pitchers.
The last international signing by the Pirates was from a few weeks ago and we were just able to confirm some information. His name is Luis Gonzalez, an 18-year-old from Venezuela, who stands 6’0″, 200 pounds, adding 40 pounds of good weight in recent years. His fastball is 85-89, and it matches with a curve that has good spin and a changeup that is improving. He has the ability to throw strikes, with a clean delivery and clean arm action. He’s a bit of a project, but all of the tools for success are there.
Gonzalez is also a left-handed pitcher. He’s not to be confused with Luis Gonzalez, the 21-year-old right-handed pitcher for the DSL Pirates, but I’m sure it will cause some confusion down the line.
While adding Luis Gonzalez 2.0 to our 2019-20 international signing tracker, I noticed that he was the seventh left-handed pitcher signed by the Pirates since July 2nd. That’s a large number for one year, especially compared to some years in the past when they signed 1-2 left-handed pitchers.
I wouldn’t say that the Pirates specifically targeted left-handed pitchers this time, especially not on the international side. It’s a need in the system, but even the best international players are 4-5 years away, so a combination of drafts/trades/development could change that need by the time these players are ready. Since it is a weakness though, I decided to take a look at the left-handed pitchers at the lowest level of the system.
We don’t rank prospects until they make their debut in the United States, so none of the seven lefties for the 2019 DSL Pirates were eligible for the guide. Two of those young lefties were released over the winter and the group of five others didn’t include anyone who was considered for our DSL Pirates top ten prospects list. In most years that would be a major issue, but this is one of the best group of prospects to come out of the DSL for the Pirates, so it was tougher competition. In fact, I ranked the 2018-19 international signing class as the second best one of the decade for the Pirates, just behind the 2019-20 group.
With five DSL players and seven players signed, there are now a dozen lefty pitchers who weren’t considered for our Prospect Guide’s top 50 list. Below you will find a rundown of the southpaws. We don’t have much info on Gonzalez 2.0 yet, but we do know that he was a low bonus signing after the Pirates spent almost all of their remaining bonus pool space on Australian outfielder Solomon Maguire last month. Here are the other 11 lower level lefties, starting with the 2019-20 signings first:
Yojeiry Osoria – If I had to pick a potential top 50 prospect from this group, Osoria is the easy choice. The Pirates signed four high upside pitchers on July 2nd and Osoria was the lone lefty in that group. Just like the other three, his scouting report said that he had the potential to be the best from the group. He’s 6’1″ with a large frame and good arm action. At 16 years old, he throws high 80s, with excellent spin on his curveball and a changeup that has plus potential. He already commands his pitches, which is something you almost never hear with players this age. Osoria received a $600,000 bonus.
Diego Chiquillo – The Pirates signed two lefties on July 2nd. While Osoria is the big name here, Chiquillo received a $200,000 bonus, so he wasn’t a bargain pickup. There are some similarities here. Chiquillo throws a notch harder than Osoria, hitting 90 MPH more often, but they’re basically the same. They both have solid frames to add muscle as they mature, but Osoria gets the nod here because he’s broader and taller. The both display nice curveballs with potential for them to be true out pitches. The changeup, command and projection put Chiquillo behind Osoria, but he still has some strong potential down the line.
Jose Vasquez – He was signed a little later in July, but still just 16 years old at the time. Vasquez is small for a pitcher at 5’10” and he has already filled out his frame more than most pitchers this age. He throws a little bit harder than the two bigger signings above, but they clearly have more projection. Vasquez is very advanced for his age, with an easy, repeatable delivery, along with good spin on his curve and nice separation with his changeup.
Yoldin De La Paz – He was 17 years old when he signed in late October (May birthday). He was throwing high-80s at the time, with a four-pitch mix (slider/curve/change). He’s got a solid 6’0″ frame and athleticism to go along with good arm speed and action. He holds his velocity well and should be a starting pitcher, though he may start off as a long reliever.
Isaias Uribe – A potential late bloomer here, Uribe has good size at 18 years old and still plenty of room on his 6’3″ frame to fill out. The Pirates signed him as his stuff started to tick up, with his fastball reaching 93 MPH prior to signing. He also throws a curve and changeup, but the fastball is the best pitch right now due to a lot of movement to go along with the new found velocity and potential for more as he gets stronger.
Luis Brito – A projection signing here at 18 years old. He’s 6’1″, with a ton of room to add weight/muscle. The initial report I got on his signing just called him a skinny lefty. His velocity is a tick below everyone else here, but he has a strong curveball, with shape and spin. He’s athletic and has good arm speed, so the hope is that once he starts filling out, the stuff with play up.
2019 DSL LHP
Raul Mora – He’s already 20 years old and had some control issues during his pro debut in 2019, but Mora has some potential. When the 6’3″ southpaw signed 13 months ago, he weighed just 145 pounds. You would expect a small frame, but he has broad shoulders, so you’re talking about someone who had a TON of weight/muscle to add. Despite being skin and bones at the time, he was hitting 90 MPH when he signed. His best pitches are his curve and changeup, so you’re talking about a nice three-pitch mix here if he can display better control. He held batters to a .177 average last year and averaged nearly a strikeout per inning.
Adrian Mendez – The Pirates gave Mendez a $355,000 bonus, which was the highest bonus they have handed out for a pitcher since Luis Heredia. Mendez disappointed in his first season, showing poor velocity, well below average control, and his season ended early due to a team suspension. He just turned 18 this month, so there’s obviously time for him to turn things around, but he’s coming from a very low point right now.
Francisco Hodge – He’s the biggest lefty here right now, standing 6’3″, 210 pounds. Hodge has put up strong stats for two seasons in the DSL, showing nice strikeout rates, with the ability to keep the ball on the ground and runs off the board. He’s going to be 20 years old soon and doesn’t have the best control, so there are some question marks here.
Luis Peralta – He comes from a good bloodline. His brother is Freddy Peralta of the Milwaukee Brewers. Luis was a six-figure signing in 2017, who struggled in the DSL in 2018, though he had 62 strikeouts in 48 innings. He improved in all aspects in 2019, though it came at the expense of his strong strikeout rate, dropping from 12.0 per nine innings, down to 7.6 this year. Peralta isn’t the biggest pitcher at 5’11”, 170 pounds, and he turned 19 back in January.
Braham Rosario – Rosario looked like a better prospect prior to 2019. At the end of 2018, he was promoted to the GCL for a start. Despite making it to the U.S., he went back to the DSL in 2019 and put up strong results over 59 innings, but he remained there the entire season. That’s obviously not a good sign. He’s now 20 years old.
If you’re grading them now, Osoria clearly heads the class, with Chiquillo in second and relievers Uribe and Mora leading the way after them. Jose Vasquez has some nice upside as an advanced amateur signing, while Hodge, Peralta and Rosario are all older, but they had strong results in 2019. Yoldin De La Paz has starter potential, while Adrian Mendez was considered to be a strong prospect when he signed at 16 years old. It’s not a high upside group, especially after Osoria, but it’s also not devoid of potential after him either.