DSL Season Wrap-up Part Two: The Hitters

DSL Season Wrap-up Part One: The Pitchers

Continuing with the DSL Pirates season wrap-up, on the hitting side of things the DSL Pirates they had some very good seasons, and as a group they fared much better than the pitchers despite the fact they had about the same amount of experience. They scored the 7th most runs in the 34 team league, had the 3rd highest OPS and finished 6th in stolen bases with 128. They also finished just .001 behind the leader in team batting average, and that .272 mark they posted represents a 20 point improvement over last year’s club. On to the players, and there are plenty of interesting ones here, many who will most likely return to next years team.

He may not be the best prospect here due to age, but I had to start with Slammin’ Sammy Gonzalez, the 21 year old catcher who hit the daylights out of the ball all season. Not many guys who sign at age 20 and have okay first seasons like Samuel did turn into anything special, but at the catcher position you can always give some leeway in development. Not many guys put up seasons like he did though, finishing 2nd in the DSL in average, at .349, a full 44 points over the next highest catcher in the league. He also finished 4th in both slugging and OPS and struck out just 19 times in 235 at-bats while doing all that. Hard to tell defense just by DSL numbers but he threw out 27% of basestealers and had just 2 passed balls. I would have to believe due to age he could move quickly next year and possibly end up at WV at some point, especially if the bat is legit.

Alen Hanson is a switch hitting, 17 year old 2B/3B the Bucs signed last year for $90,000 just after the July 2nd signing period started. He had a very impressive first season, finishing 10th in the DSL in average (.324), stole 20 bases, had the 4th most runs scored, and among middle infielders he had the 3rd highest OPS (.830). He played a strong defense at 2B, his natural position, but had some trouble over at the hot corner. His double player partner most of the season could be the best prospect on the team, Jodaneli Carvajal, who the Bucs signed for $350,000 back in 2008. In his 2nd season he really improved his numbers, mostly based on the fact he was playing everyday and last year missed some time. He hit .304 on the year this season and led the entire DSL in runs scored while stealing 23 bases. A natural SS known for his great hands and strong arm,it should be noted that in 14 games at 2B he did not commit an error. His problem seems to be just his size, listed as 5′ 9″ and 145 (his signing weight so he’s probably more now). He probably won’t develop much power but they expect him to be able to hit .300 with plenty of speed and defense as he moves up.

Willy Garcia signed with the Bucs in May of this year for $280,000 which up until Luis Heredia signed,was the highest bonus the Pirates paid for an International player since 2008, and is still the 4th highest ever. Playing in the Dominican Prospect League (DPL), Garcia joined the team as soon as his contract was official and had a decent season for a 17 year old first year player. When he was signed he was called by some the top leftover from last year’s July 2nd class and a future 5 tool player. He had a rough last 2 weeks before taking off the final week, possibly due to his struggles. His overall numbers don’t impress: .250 average in 51 games with a .667 OPS, but he showed strong defense and had 11 outfield assists. Miguel DeAza didn’t play a game for the Pirates, but was also a high priced 17 year old signed out of the DPL just recently ($150,000) and he’s described as a possible 5 tool player with an above average arm and speed, plus he hits from the left side. You’ll see below why I mentioned him.

A guy the Pirates, especially Rene Gayo, were even higher on was Luis Urena, a 17 year old (turned 18 last weekend) outfielder signed for $160,000 in November of last year. His stats are absolutely nothing to look at but the scouting report on him is enough for you to look past his first year struggles and hope for better things once he fills out. At 6′ 5″ and 200 lbs he’s already a big kid who they think one day will be a star with plus power, speed and arm. Part of his struggles could be he was from a very rural area of the Dominican and didn’t play against the top competition so he wasn’t used to the daily grind of a full season and probably never saw a good breaking ball until he reached the DSL. Whatever the problem was his mid-season injury in the middle of his only hot streak didn’t help him. I’m holding out hope that a full year at the Dominican Academy will get him on the path next year towards the projections they had for him when he was signed.

Last year’s top Int’l bonus of $165,000 went to Maximo Rivera, a 17 year old 3B who played sparingly throughout the season. Signed as a SS, the Bucs liked his power potential and speed but admitted he was a little raw and was all about projection. He hit just .202 in 99 AB’s and didn’t show any of that power and very little speed but he did improve as the season went on which is a good sign. At the same time they signed Rivera, they also signed Ramses Pena, another SS, for $150,000. A 17 year old switch hitter, Pena is also all about projection although he did play better than Maximo hitting .224 but taking 27 walks in just 98 official at-bats. He also played more often at SS and was 14 for 18 in stolen base attempts. Robertson Valdez, 17 year old 1B also got $150,000 last year signing shortly after July 2nd. He barely played all year but he’s another projection guy, one they think could hit 30 homers by the time he fills out. ¬†Between these three, and Urena/Garcia/DeAza, next year’s DSL Pirates have a lot of hope (and cash invested) in this group and I’d expect them to all return and play regularly making the DSL one of the more interesting offensive teams to watch in the organization.

As for the rest of the roster,they had three other catchers besides Gonzalez. They are Heriberto Figueroa, Yeffrey Jaquez and Jhoanel Jimenez. Figueroa was just recently signed and got into 10 games late in the year hitting .375, but he’s supposedly known for his defense first although runners were 10 for 10 off him in steals. His main problem is he’s a month older than Gonzalez, and was just signed, so the question is “where has he been all this time and how come it took an extra five years after he became eligible to be signed for someone to want him?” I’m skeptical for now on him being anything more than an organizational catcher kept around for his defense. Jaquez is a 19 year old signed in April, who hit well in limited action, .293 in 99 at-bats. He was signed at an advanced age and right before the DSL season starts, so those usually aren’t good signs, but he did hit well so who knows. Jimenez is a 20 year old, 2nd year player who had the best defensive stats of the group but played sparingly and didn’t hit as well as he did his first year, so he probably ranks 4th on the depth chart among the catchers.

Diego Goris is a 19 year old 3B, in his 3rd DSL season. He’s shown improvement every year finishing this year with a .310 average and 5 homers. I would expect him due to his age and experience to move up to the GCL next year. Haven’t heard much about him but he looks great defensively over at 3B (6 errors in 39 games) and at 6′ 2″ he has decent size. He’s always been listed at 165 lbs but he hit five homers this year as opposed to one his first two seasons so he may have finally filled out. Right behind Goris was 20 year old 2nd year player Leandro Mejia, who was the everyday 1B this year. He hit .309 in 59 games but showed no power which is not what you look for from a corner infielder who is that old already.Also in 21 games after the All-star break he didn’t take one walk so despite the good average and advanced age I could see him returning to the DSL next year if there’s a need at first base.

Raul Fortunato is a light hitting center fielder with speed and good defense/great arm. He stole 22 bases and had 12 assists while playing everyday in center but his .195 career average with no power and being just short of his 20th birthday won’t get him far. Next years OF with Urena, DeAza and Garcia as likely returnees seems to be packed so he might be done. Jesus Vasquez is a 6′ 2″ 18 year old 2nd year corner outfielder who basically repeated his first season stats. He hit .265 with 5 homers and stole 11 bases after hitting .268 with 5 homers his first year. You’d like to see some improvements year to year but his stats,size and age are all good enough that he can’t be written off just yet. Finally, Alberto Valdemora is a 20 year who spent the entire year with the team, wasn’t injured, started just 2 games all season, hit .120 and he’s a 2nd year player. Need I say more?

John Dreker

Author: John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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