The Pirates have three rookie league teams: the Gulf Coast League Pirates, plus a team in the Venezuelan and Dominican Summer leagues. Last year the VSL Pirates were one of the most interesting teams to watch in the Pirates’ system, due to a lot of talented international players like Exicardo Cayonez
and Jorge Bishop
. This year those players have moved up to the GCL, while a new crop of players have arrived in the DSL and VSL.
Of the two international leagues, the DSL looks more interesting, prospect-wise, although the VSL Pirates are still winning at a league leading pace. The Pirates haven’t made a huge splash in the international free agent pools, as their biggest signing is still Cayonez at $400 K, but they’re definitely finding some talented players, with some of those players starting to have success in the United States.
Here are the notable players from the month of June, broken down by each league.
Gulf Coast League Pirates
Exicardo Cayonez -
Cayonez could be this year’s Starling Marte, as in the breakout international prospect at the lower levels. Cayonez started the GCL season with a .281/.324/.375 line in the month of June in 32 at-bats, with a walk and eight strikeouts. He’s been on fire in just as small of a sample size in the month of July so far, and has cut down a bit on the strikeouts. He’s not drawing a lot of walks, but with the way he’s making contact, that’s not a problem.
Eric Avila -
Avila has been the best power source on the GCL team so far, hitting three homers in 57 at-bats. In June he hit for a .314/.415/.571 line with two homers in 35 at-bats. He was also a perfect 4-for-4 in stolen bases. Avila is an interesting guy to watch, especially if he can continue to hit for good power, get on base at a good rate, and successfully steal bases, all while playing third base.
Jorge Bishop -
Bishop got off to a good start in his move to the US, hitting for a .303/.303/.455 line in 33 at-bats in the month of June, with one homer. He didn’t draw any walks, and only had two extra base hits, which was a concern, although he rarely struck out. Bishop has seen a dip in his production in July, although he’s walking more and striking out a bit more too.
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Junior Sosa - Sosa didn’t hit for a good average, but was great at getting on base, with a .242/.390/.394 line. Sosa doesn’t have much power, with one homer in 33 at-bats, and only two doubles, but is good on the base paths, stealing six out of seven bases in June.
Colton Cain -
Cain returned from an injury in the off-season to make his debut in the Gulf Coast League. He made just two starts in June, with a 4.05 ERA in 6.2 innings, and most importantly, a 5:0 K/BB ratio. Cain is probably working mostly on fastball control and command right now, which is why his 15:5 K/BB ratio in 14.1 innings is looking good. He was just promoted to State College
Yomar Pacheco - Pacheco was the most interesting pitcher to come from the international rookie leagues. In the month of June he pitched 10.2 innings in three outings, with a 4.22 ERA and an 8:3 K/BB ratio. Like Cain, Pacheco is probably working on his fastball, which is why the K/BB ratio is the most important thing.
Venezuelan Summer League Pirates
Carlos Esqueda - The Pirates signed Esqueda on July 10th, 2009 as a 17 year old shortstop out of Mexico. In his first professional season, Esqueda has looked very good at the plate. In the month of June he hit for a .371/.426/.452 line in 62 at-bats, with five doubles. Esqueda is doing a good job keeping the strikeouts down, although he isn’t hitting for much power.
Francisco Aponte - Aponte is in his third season in the VSL, after putting up a .410/.500/.492 line in 61 at-bats in 2009. He’s picking up where he left off this year, with a .342/.458/.386 line. In the month of June, Aponte hit for a .394/.481/.439 line in 66 at-bats. He doesn’t have any power, but he has good plate patience (17:26 K/BB ratio in 114 at-bats this season), gets on base at a good rate, and steals a lot of bases (19 for 23).
Francisco Vilchez - Vilchez is in his third season in the VSL, and is having a lot of success, although that should be expected since he had success last year. Vilchez has had problems with his ERA in June, with a 4.66 ERA in 19.1 innings, although his secondary numbers looked good and tell the true story. Vilchez had a 12:6 K/BB ratio, and a .250 BAA, plus an impressive 2.00 GO/AO ratio. His 1.46 July ERA so far has been more in line with his secondary numbers.
Orlando Castro - Castro was signed in 2009 out of Honduras. In his first season in the VSL, Castro has been impressive, with an 0.75 ERA in 36 innings, and a 23:10 K/BB ratio. In the month of June, Castro pitched 17 innings, with a 1.06 ERA a 7:5 K/BB ratio, and a .211 BAA. He needs more strikeouts, but it’s not a bad start with the low walks and the low BAA.
Roberto Espinoza - Coming in to the season, Espinoza looked like he would be the best pitcher in the VSL. Espinoza put u a 48:22 K/BB ratio in 62.1 innings in 2009, which was his first season in the VSL. So far this year he’s struggled in the strikeout department, with a 12:7 K/BB ratio in 29.2 innings, including a 2:2 K/BB ratio in 14.1 innings in June. Espinoza has an 8:1 K/BB ratio in 10.2 innings in June, so hopefully he’s breaking out of the strikeout slump.
Dominican Summer League Pirates
Alen Hanson -
The Pirates signed Hanson on July 10th, 2009 out of the Dominican Republic. In his first professional season, Hanson is off to a great start at the plate. Hanson hit for a .356/.411/.494 line in the month of June, with four doubles and four triples in 87 at-bats. He also stole six bases in seven attempts.
Samuel Gonzalez - Gonzalez is in his second season in the DSL, although he’s a bit old, after turning 21 in February. That could explain his successful .347/.435/.517 line this season, and because of the age, his success has to be taken with an asterisk, as he probably should be in the Gulf Coast League or State College by this point.
Jodaneli Carvajal - Carvajal owns the second highest reported signing bonus of a Latin American player by the Pittsburgh Pirates, after signing for $350 K in 2008. He didn’t do much in his first year in the DSL in 2009, but is off to a great start in 2010. In the month of June he hit for a .286/.364/.377 line with one homer in 77 at-bats. He’s only gotten better in July so far, and is probably the top prospect to watch on the team.
s="Apple-interchange-newline" />Willy Garcia - The Pirates signed Garcia this year to a $280 K bonus, which is the third highest reported bonus in team history. Garcia has gotten off to a good start, with a .303/.392/.379 line in the month of June over 66 at-bats. Garcia isn’t hitting for much power, but his 15:8 K/BB ratio in 112 at-bats this season is looking very mature.
Porfirio Lopez - Lopez is in his third season in the DSL, although he posted strong numbers last year, with a 1.23 ERA in 44 innings, and a 61:11 K/BB ratio. This year he’s doing well, with a 1.64 ERA in 33 innings, and a 25:11 K/BB ratio. Lopez is 20 years old, so he probably should be having this success at the international level.
Martires Cadet - Cadet signed with the Pirates in early 2009, and pitched mostly out of the bullpen last year in long relief roles. He put up a 61:16 K/BB ratio in 63.1 innings, with a 3.13 ERA. He’s repeating that success this year, with a 3.00 ERA in June, and a 17:9 K/BB ratio in 18 innings. On the season, Cadet has a 3.77 ERA in 31 innings, and a 27:12 K/BB ratio.
Yoan Gonzalez - Gonzalez has worked out of the bullpen this year, but has racked up a lot of innings. So far he has a 1.75 ERA in 25.2 innings, with a 20:7 K/BB ratio. In the month of June he pitched 18.2 innings, with a 0.96 ERA and a 13:4 K/BB ratio.
Aneudy Merejo - Merejo signed with the Pirates this past November out of the Dominican Republic. Merejo has a 2.52 ERA in 25 innings so far, with a 30:6 K/BB ratio. In June he had a 2.65 ERA in 17 innings, with a 14:6 K/BB ratio.
Jonathan Herrand - Herrand received a $185 K signing bonus this year, which is the fifth largest reported bonus by the Pirates. Herrand is a big framed pitcher who can reportedly throw 93-95 MPH, with a good changeup and curveball. He’s struggled some in his pro debut, especially in the month of June. Herrand had a 5.25 ERA in 12 innings in June, with a 10:14 K/BB ratio. That’s a serious lack of control, which is probably the only thing that Herrand needs to work on right now.
Wilson Lee - Lee was signed by the Pirates earlier this year
out of Australia, and is currently playing in MLB’s Australian Academy Program. So far this season he has a 3.97 ERA in 34 innings of work, with a 29:19 K/BB ratio and a .205 BAA.