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Monday, December 5, 2022

2022 DSL Pirates Recap: The Hitters

The Pittsburgh Pirates used 73 players total between their two Dominican affiliates this season. Due to the amount of players at the level, we split our DSL recap into pitchers and hitters.

The group of DSL Pirates hitters is a little smaller than our pitching list, but it has bigger names. Not all of these players listed below did well, but stats aren’t always reflective of a player’s ability at this level.

I did a series earlier this year looking at the top hitters each year over a long stretch from the entire Dominican Summer League, and their success rate of making it to the majors compared to the rest of the hitters in the league. There was no difference between the two groups. Doing great in this league doesn’t guarantee a better chance at making the majors than putting up mediocre stats. We may have the best example of that with the 2022 FCL Pirates, where Javier Rivas was one of the better hitters in the league. His was quite literally the worst hitter in the DSL last year among all qualified hitters. His scouting report spoke highly of his potential, so the scouting reports are the focus with the players selected for this article.


Pittsburgh Pirates 2022 Minor League Recaps

Indianapolis Indians

Altoona Curve

Greensboro Grasshoppers

Bradenton Marauders

FCL Pirates

DSL Pirates Hitters

DSL Pirates Pitchers

DSL Pirates Hitters

Below you will find the players with the best scouting reports among the hitters with the two 2022 DSL Pirates affiliates.

Yordany De Los Santos – De Los Santos is the top prospect among Pirates in this league. They gave him a seven-figure bonus because he’s a shortstop who they believe has the potential to end up in the middle of their big league lineup down the line. His first season showed a .258/.372/.363 slash line in 59 games. He had 15 doubles, one homer, 14 steals in 17 attempts, and 32 walks. He had a 19.2% strikeout percentage, which is about average for the league.

Tony Blanco Jr. – Blanco has perhaps the best power potential in the entire Pirates system. We didn’t get to see it on display because he was injured for most of the year. He’s only credited with 19 at-bats, but he had a partial game in which he went 2-for-2 with a homer wiped from his stats, due to weather halting the game before it was official. He also played during the playoffs and hit another homer. So there were signs of power that don’t show up on the stat sheet. He’s going to be one to watch next year.

Axiel Plaz – Plaz made the most noise this season with his bat, putting up a .382/.500/.706 slash line in 32 games. It was quite a performance, considering he played the year at 16 years old and his defense is considered to be more advanced than his bat. The 18.6% strikeout rate and the power are both good signs for potential future success. The defense alone could be a carrying tool.

Carlos Tirado – Tirado actually played pro ball in the U.S. before signing as an international free agent. The Pirates got him into independent ball last year and he held his own, so it was a bit surprising that he ended up in the DSL this year. He put up a .265 average and an .811 OPS this year, with more walks than strikeouts (32:29). He’s got some power, which really didn’t show up in the DSL. He’s a potential power bat at first base.

Ruben Vizcaya – Vizcaya had a strong scouting report when he signed, referred to as an outfielder with potential for five tools. That has not translated to the stats in two DSL seasons, with slightly worse stats this season. He had a .693 OPS last year in 42 games, and a .640 OPS this year in 52 games. He just turned 19 years old as well, so he wasn’t young for the league.

Eddy Rodriguez – Signed as a power bat in 2021, he was an above average hitter for the league last season at 17 years old, then improved slightly this year. With solid contact rates each season, he had a .786 OPS in 36 games last year, and an .839 OPS in 48 games this year. I expect him to move up next year and be a player to watch in the FCL.

Roinny Aguiar – He’s not big, standing at 5’6″, 160 when he signed earlier this year, but he had a lot of tools to like on defense and on the bases. He’s got quickness, above average speed, athleticism off the charts and middle infield defensive skills. He hit just .204, but it came with a .715 OPS (league average was .709), with more walks than strikeouts (37:31 in 147 PAs) and 18 stolen bases. He played second base most of the time, and didn’t see any time at shortstop. The Pirates paid $315,000 to sign him.

John Zorrilla – Zorrilla had huge upside when he signed in 2021, but an injury limited him to 11 games and two plate appearances last season. He was healthy this year. He struggled badly due to a high strikeout rate, leading to a .118 average. He played third base fine, but he was signed as a shortstop and things went as bad as possible there, committing seven errors in 18 chances. He managed to show some signs of life, as a potential 2023 version of Javier Rivas, who also had a huge profile, but couldn’t hit DSL pitching. Zorrilla hit four homers, he went 5-for-5 in steals, and he drew 33 walks in 43 games.

Dioris Valdez – Valdez has huge power potential that has not translated due to strikeout issues. Things were so bad this year that he tried pitching (see pitching recap). He ended up doing both later in the year, but things didn’t get better at the plate. The raw power is real. The power arm on the mound is intriguing, but he has a lot of work to do in both areas.

Gustavo Armas – Armas was a high upside signing, with potential for four plus tools and average speed. He had some filling out to do when signed, but there were high expectations here. He had a .643 OPS last year, then took a step back with a .586 OPS this season. The worst part is that he’s still looking for his first homer.

Wesley Zapata – Zapata had a solid scouting report as an athletic middle fielder, who was considered raw at the plate. He looked raw last year, posting a .538 OPS in 39 games. He improved greatly this year, hitting .287/.369/.427 in 54 games.

Rodolfo De La Cruz – De La Cruz was signed as someone who was called a solid all-around center fielder. No big tools, but he had potential to become a strong player. He needed to add a lot to his 6’0″ frame when he signed, so expectations for power were low last year. It ended up being a rough season, with a .161 average and a .595 OPS, as well as a strikeout rate above 33%. He showed a little more power this year, but otherwise it was basically the same as last year, with a low average/high strikeout rate.

Robert De Paula – He was limited to 13 games last year and didn’t hit much, then played 43 games this year, and really had a rough time outside of some homers. He hit .190 with eight walks in 146 PAs, along with an obscene 39.7% strikeout rate.

Ewry Espinal – Espinal is another huge power potential guy who is developing slowly. He had a huge strikeout rate last year, and a .623 OPS. The strikeouts were still high this year, just over 30%, but it was a big improvement over last year. His walk rate (30%) and power numbers also improved, leading to an .883 OPS. The strikeouts are still a concern going forward, but the power is real.

Miguel Sosa – When he signed last year, he was called an athletic catcher with a strong arm, who already made a lot of hard contact. His weakness was that he was a bit raw behind the plate. He had a .678 OPS in 32 games last year, then improved to a .980 OPS in 31 games this year, batting 21 more times this season. He played more than half of his time in the outfield. It seems like the athleticism/arm made that move possible, so the defensive rawness behind the plate doesn’t hold him back.

Angel Rodriguez – Rodriguez missed the start of the season, then caught fire as soon as he entered the lineup. He cooled down, finishing with a .601 OPS in 30 games. It was said that he was raw, with five tool potential, and he showed signs of that being the case. He will likely repeat this level, but there is upside here.

Delfin Ramirez – Ramirez was signed back in 2019 and debuted last year due to the shutdown. He had a strong scouting report, comparing well to Javier Rivas, who is getting his name dropped a lot in this recap. That’s where the comparisons end, as Ramirez didn’t hit last year or this year. He’s here strictly due to his initial scouting report. He was signed as a shortstop, but he has yet to play there. At one point this season, he was being used as a mop-up pitcher, which is never a good sign.

Isaias Dipre – Dipre saw limited time last year as a second baseman, then moved to the outfield this year. That’s what happens when you sign too many shortstops.  He went from a .675 OPS last year to .796 this year, and while his strikeout rate is too high, his power improved and he showed some speed.

Juan Machado – Machado is a big-time speed player, plus-plus running ability. He got to utilize that more this year with a .311 average and a .475 OBP, which led to him stealing 16 bases in 31 games. He presents a very interesting case as to whether he can continue to get on base enough at the higher levels to have value as a major stolen base threat. That speed also helps him in the outfield.

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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.


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At the age these players sign and then play it leaves allot of time for improvement. I wish them all success, so that the Pirates can one day be a super team.

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