The Gulf Coast League is the start of the development process for most draft prospects. It is a 16 team league, and one of two rookie leagues above the VSL, DSL, and ASL. In the case of the Pirates, the GCL games are played in the Pirates’ Spring Training complex in Bradenton, with the bulk of the players coming from the VSL, DSL, and the draft.
From this point, players usually go to short season A ball (State College), then low A ball (West Virginia), then high A ball (Lynchburg), then AA, AAA, and the majors. There are five levels between the GCL and the majors, although a player can certainly skip a level if warranted. Due to the distance from the majors, here are my theories on the ages of the players, and how those ages relate to the quality of prospect those players are:
-19 and under: Proper age for this league, legit prospect
-20 to 21: Getting a little old, but still could have a shot
-22+: Think Yoslan Herrera in AA at 28
Click the tables to see the larger version:
The Pitchers: Six of these players came via the 2009 draft, although the top guys didn’t get many innings. Over-slot signings like Zach Von Rosenberg, Trent Stevenson, Zack Dodson, and Zachary Fuesser didn’t receive many innings. ZVR and Dodson each pitched a perfect inning. Stevenson looked good in five outings. 34th round pick Zachary Fuesser, who was signed for $125 K, looked worthy of the investment, although control was a bit of an issue.
The Hitters: Benjamin Gonzalez was considered the best defensive shortstop in the whole system coming in to the season, with the only downside being his bat. That changed this year, as he finished with a .289 average, with a solid on-base percentage. If Gonzalez can continue his hitting ways he could emerge as one of the top shortstop prospects in the Pirates system.
The Prospects: There’s a lot of pitching depth here, with Zach Von Rosenberg likely cracking the top ten prospects next year, and Brooks Pounders, Trent Stevenson, Zack Dodson, and Colton Cain (who didn’t pitch) likely making most top 30 lists. That’s a strong testament to the 2009 draft. On the hitting side, Gonzalez has made some strong strides on the offensive side of his game. Wes Freeman has some solid raw skills, but is more of a project. Cabrera and Gift are each interesting at their position, but probably wouldn’t crack the top 30 prospects not due to a lack of talent, but due to a good amount of talent in the Pirates’ system for once.
The Pitchers: The Indian pitchers, Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh, made their debut a year after winning a reality show and getting signed by the Pirates for their efforts. Singh was regarded as the better prospect, but Patel put up the better numbers. In each case, there weren’t enough innings to make any solid evaluations on the Million Dollar Arms.
The Hitters: Rogelios Noris looked really good, especially in August where he hit five of his six home runs. Strikeouts were a problem for Noris, with 51 in 136 at-bats. Gerlis Rodriguez looked good in July, with a .293 average and three homers in 99 at-bats, but failed to follow up on that in August, with a .267 average and no homers in 90 at-bats.
The Prospects: Singh and Patel are more of an experiment than prospects. The
rest of the guys I mentioned are marginal prospects, and more of a long shot in each scenario. They either have talent and haven’t broken out yet (Noris), or have good numbers big might not have the best build for baseball (Ramos and company).
The Non-Prospects: The guys on this list who had a successful season are too old for the level, and should be dominating the GCL. Andrew Walker was here for a really long rehab appearance, but is probably nothing more than an organizational catcher.
The 2009 GCL Pirates may be one of the most talented Pirates farm teams at the end of the season. Thanks to the efforts of the 2009 draft, Bradenton features a lot of top pitching prospects, including Zach Von Rosenberg, who is considered a top ten prospect in the organization. Benjamin Gonzalez and Gift Ngoepe are two strong defensive middle infielders who have displayed some decent offensive skills this year. Wes Freeman and Joey Schoenfeld are both young, raw talents who have a lot of upside if they can put things together. My top ten prospects from the 2009 team:
1. Zach Von Rosenberg, RHP
2. Colton Cain, LHP
4. Trent Stevenson, RHP
6. Zack Dodson, LHP