The Dominican Summer League began on Monday. The 56-game schedule will run until the end of August. Here’s a look at some of the names to watch on the two affiliates of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the league.
While the Pirates have two teams in the league, there’s no real reason to separate them into two groups. Players can be assigned to either team. The two teams even play each other six times.
Having two clubs allows the Pirates to play the important players at important positions. The schedule is so short that you can’t get good playing time for two players at the same position on one team. You want your top catchers, center fielders and shortstops playing their natural position regularly. You want to have the innings for your top pitchers.
The Pirates have a total of 76 players between the two teams. That includes four players who are going to miss the entire year. There are also a handful of players on the 7-day Injured List. As you can imagine in this league, missing any amount of time becomes significant when the entire length of the league is 79 days.
Before getting into the players, I need to reiterate what is important about this league. The players who see the most time are usually the top prospects, barring injuries of course. The scouting reports when the players sign are much more important than stats.
Stats in this league are almost meaningless. Your future isn’t any brighter with a good season or a bad season. Sure extremes are good/bad to see, but they don’t guarantee anything. If a 19-year-old pitcher is walking a batter an inning, he’s going to have a hard time making the majors. However, that goes for just about anyone is this league.
You also have to remember that the entire league is a small sample size. They used to play 72 games a year and stats showed there wasn’t a difference in the success rate of the best/worst hitters/pitchers in the league. A 56-game schedule won’t change this.
Teams will get about two players to the majors from each year’s class. Sometimes that includes a player who is in the DSL multiple years, so not every year sees two unique players reach the majors.
If the Pirates get four of the guys below to the majors, that’s average for the league. Anything more is very good. That includes cup of coffee players too. That’s just how the numbers play out for this league as a whole. Teams look for tools and hope to develop as many of these players as possible. There are plenty of those upside types below.
The top prospect this year is either Raymond Mola or Tony Blanco Jr. Both rated high going into their signing year. They were just behind Yordany De Los Santos in last year’s class and Jun-Seok Shim in this year’s class as the top rated Pirates.
Blanco is repeating the league. He has tremendous raw power, possibly the best in the entire system. He will go as far as that power takes him. That’s the one tool that will possibly get him to the majors. He’s a huge player and his swing isn’t the prettiest, but he gets to power easy.
Mola is a potential five-tool player, with no real tools that stand out above the rest. It’s possible he adds power as he grows, but with him you can hope for a player who does everything average or better. That would give you a solid all-around prospect.
The biggest bonus from this year’s international signing class is catcher Jonathan Rivero. He’s a lefty bat with power potential, who is advanced for his age. Don’t be surprised if he does well this year. He has all of the tools to remain at the catcher spot.
Pitcher Carlos Mateo received an $800K bonus. He might actually be the best prospect here. He throws strikes with a mid-90s fastball coming from a big frame that is still filling out. He’s secondary pitches are a bit raw, but the arm is special and the upside is huge.
The Pirates paid $750K for Bladimir Pichardo, who was described as Carlos Mateo-lite. Their scouting reports are almost the same, except Pichardo is a few MPH behind on the velocity.
Carlos Castillo didn’t get a huge bonus out of Venezuela, but he made significant strides after agreeing to a deal, so the Pirates tapped into some of that upside already. He doesn’t have the Mateo upside, but there’s a legit prospect potential here. His fastball went from high-80s to low-90s right before signing. He also had a bit of a growth spurt, so he has plenty of filling out to do.
Pitterson Rosa got a $700,000 bonus last year, then had a strong season in the DSL. He was originally an outfielder, who showed tremendous potential quickly when he switched to the mound and was quickly hitting 94 MPH. I’m not sure why he’s back in the league, but it is surprising. He dominated in his season debut this year.
David Matoma from Uganda has made some strides since signing for a five-figure bonus. He was already throwing low-90s, with a feel for three pitches when he signed. He’s one to watch here, if not just for the story of him being from Uganda.
Cuban outfielder Cristian Jauregui was a higher profile signing, though his $270,000 bonus doesn’t compare to the rest of the big names. He’s had a very rough start to his pro career, but I’d concentrate more on the scouting report that rated him as an athletic player with tools and potential to have an impact on defense, offense and the bases.
Angel Aquino is a 6’5″ outfielder with big power potential and room to add more as he fills out his frame. There’s real upside here with the bat, but he’s more than that. His defense and arm also have plus potential, and he runs well. He doesn’t make consistent hard contact yet. Here’s where development is key. His upside is huge, yet his bat is still very raw.
Infielder Roinny Aguiar is a small switch-hitter with upside due to his off-the-charts speed and his strong defensive skills up the middle. Those skills got him a $315K bonus. If the bat develops, there’s a potential top of the order player. He isn’t a big player, at 5’7″, 160 pounds, but he’s strong for his size.
Most of the players here signed during the last two international signing classes. Playing three years in this league usually isn’t a sign for future success, but it doesn’t rule it out. That’s especially true now that stateside roster space is limited with five teams instead of seven.
Pitcher Yojeiry Osoria had huge potential when he signed back in 2019, yet he hasn’t developed enough to leave this low level. The Pirates signed four pitchers with big league starter upside and none of them have made it to full-season ball yet. Osoria is the only one still in the DSL.
Infielder John Zorrilla is also in his third season. He too had a huge potential in his scouting report. In fact, he was in the U.S. this year, so it’s surprising to see him back in the DSL. He was injured for most of his first season, so repeating the league wasn’t a red flag. This third season could be though.
The Pirates Gold roster has a trio of repeats with upside in their outfield. Gustavo Armas, Ruben Vizcaya and Eduardo Oviedo were all bigger signings for their class among Pirates players. Armas and Vizcaya are in their third seasons, while Oviedo really struggled last year. It’s a group of toolsy players who haven’t given the Pirates any reason (at least in the stats) to move them up.
The outfields for both teams have guys with tools, who are repeating the league. Mostly it is raw power, but someone like Juan Machado has plus-plus speed. They could develop something from Rodolfo De La Cruz, Robert De Paula or Angel Rodriguez. That’s a group of upside bats, who aren’t one-trick ponies.
There might be a more surprising repeat on that team. First baseman Carlos Tirado was signed last January after he held his own at a young age in independent ball in the U.S. Now he’s spending a second season in the DSL, which is far from being as good as the independent league.
There are plenty of names here to watch, plus some other players of note who could develop into a prospect because everyone here is still young. There aren’t many players you would consider to be roster fillers. Most have something that makes them intriguing for now.+ posts
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.