This week on Pirates Prospects, we’ve been previewing the rookie level teams in the system. Earlier this week, we broke down the 2022 Dominican Summer League rosters.
Today, we’re continuing our preview with a look at ten prospects to watch on this team. We didn’t want to do a numerical ranking for the FCL, due to the lack of experience of most players at that level. At this level, there is even less experience, and we’ve yet to even see these players for ourselves. The top ten below gives you a group to follow this year in the DSL.
Ten Players to Watch on the 2022 DSL Pirates
Gustavo Armas, OF – One of the higher upside signings from the 2020-21 class, he’s one of many outfielders on this list. It’s a group that mixes huge raw power and five-tool/athletic players, but no one really fits both of those groups. Armas is in the latter group. His upside is an average runner with four other plus tools. He’s an 18-year-old, filling out a 6’2″ frame, who has a .663 OPS in his limited time last year and this year in the DSL. Right now he’s more of a contact hitter who uses the whole field, but he has good power projection to his game because he has good size and makes a lot of hard contact.
Tony Blanco Jr., OF – I’m not committing to any order here, but I feel safe in saying right now that Blanco is the second best prospect on the team. He’s out of action for the moment, so we haven’t seen his debut yet. He received a $900,000 because of his bat. Multiple evaluators, including one I spoke with, say that he has 40-homer potential in the majors. There are some worries about it translating from raw power to game power, but this is the middle of the order bat you can dream on.
Rodolfo De La Cruz, OF – Cruz has the defensive abilities to play center field, and a bat with high upside due to his ability to consistently barrel the ball. It’s said that he has great hand-eye coordination, which made him a solid hitter at a young age, with room to add more power as he fills out his 6’0″ frame. There are plenty of tools here to potentially mold into an MLB player.
Yordany De Los Santos, SS – For now, De Los Santos is the top prospect here. A toolsy shortstop with middle of the order potential is going to get a lot of attention (and a $1.2M bonus). He lacks the power upside of Blanco, but he’s going to stick at shortstop and there’s already a lot to like with him at the plate, with his ability to make consistent contact. He got that seven-figure bonus for a reason.
Ewry Espinal, OF – I mentioned up top that the outfielders are either big tools or big power. Espinal is big power potential, though he does have a strong arm, so there’s a second tool worth mentioning. However, the power was already coming through in games at 16 years old and he had room to grow into more power. I said power a lot here on purpose. The Pirates have a similar player in Dioris Valdez as well, who was considered for this article, along with a few other outfielders, which is definitely a position of strength on both DSL teams.
Eduardo Oviedo, OF – Oviedo received a $450,000 bonus in January, as a high upside center fielder, who has current skills and projection to his game as well. He’s extremely athletic, with tools to impact the game on both sides of the ball. He’s got a large frame that is still filling out. The Pirates have a type, going for the toolsy/athletic/projection outfielders and he fits that mold well.
Axiel Plaz, C – He could end up being a glove-first catcher down the line, but there’s definitely potential with the bat as well. He’s said to be extremely advanced defensively for someone who is still just 16 years old. The glove alone should move him through the lower part of the system, but he’s also a strong kid who drives the ball well already, so the bat has a chance to develop into something special as well.
Pitterson Rosa, RHP – He got a $700,000 bonus in January, which was the highest price for any pitcher in this 2022 DSL Pirates group. He got great reviews from Spring Training as well. He has a 6’2″ frame with tons of projection. He came up as an outfielder, then converted late to the mound, where he made quick progress, including a 94 MPH fastball at 16 years old. The Pirates have some high profile pitchers left over in the DSL from the 2019-20 class, but he’s ahead of the pack as far as prospect status. He’s the only pitcher I considered for this article. Three others got strong reviews from Spring Training based on performance, but the scouting reports weren’t great. Pitchers develop later more often than hitters, so keep that in mind.
Ruben Vizcaya, OF – He fits in the Gustavo Armas mold as a potential five-tool player, who can make an impact on both sides of the ball. Vizcaya is a bit smaller than Armas, but he’s still filling out his 5’10” frame. At 18 years old this year, we should start seeing some progress, though the defensive abilities won’t show up on paper and that’s a big part of his game.
John Zorrilla, IF – Zorrilla is repeating the league, though he wasn’t healthy last year (shoulder injury), so his work was extremely limited to bench time, often just pinch-running. When the Pirates spent a large portion of their 2020-21 international bonus pool on Shalin Polanco, it was Zorrilla who some considered to be the second best prospect from the rest of the group. I mentioned that stats from this year are meaningless at this point, but it’s a nice sign to see him hit two homers already this year. He was going to make this list regardless because he’s a high upside infielder with potential for five tools that are all above average.
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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.