VSL Season Wrap-up Part One: The Position Players

For the fifth consecutive season the VSL Pirates have taken the regular season title. They finished the season this past Sunday with a 48-20 record, 4.5 games ahead of the 2nd place Mariners,who they met in the playoffs, which started Monday. After splitting the first two games, both low scoring affairs, the Bucs won the deciding 3rd game Wednesday morning by a 21-2 score. They had the best home record, losing just seven of their 33 games at home, and finished with the 2nd best road record. In summing up the season I split the summary into two parts to get the most in depth report I could without making it a novel sized story. First up is the hitters. For most players I included at least a brief summary below, although a few guys it was hard to say much about due to poor results or lack of playing time. The team as a group finished fourth in the seven team league in AVG, OPS, homers, strikeouts and OBP. They finished 3rd in both runs scored and slugging percentage,second in walks and led the league in stolen bases.

Third Baseman Carlos Esqueda finished with a .342 avg, tops on the team. He fell a few AB’s short of qualifying for the league leaders but his average would have ranked fourth among the league leaders. He’s on the very small side (listed as 5′ 8″ 135) and at 18 he’s a little older than most high ranked first year players, but the average is still impressive. He needs to show a little power and more patience before you get too high on him and I can’t imagine at that size he would play anywhere but 2B in the future

Third year player David Pino finished second on the team in average at .311 and he led them in OPS at .907 but like Esqueda he fell short of the minimum AB’s to qualify among league leaders. He showed slight improvements across the board and should be in the GCL next year. He spent most of his time at 2B.

Among players who did qualify for the league lead in average, Francisco Aponte led the team with a .311 mark, good for 8th in the VSL. He finished tied for the league lead in walks(40), 1st in steals with 28, 3rd in runs scored (45), 4th in OBP (.438) and 8th in OPS (.799). In his 3rd VSL season he played all four infield positions and both corner outfield positions after primarily playing 2b his first two years. He will probably be a key member of next year’s GCL team.

First year player Jordan Galvez, an 18 year old from Colombia, hit .309 while splitting time between 2B and 3B. He walked just nine times and was barely over 50% on stolen base attempts, so he has plenty to work on. It’s doubtful he will make the move to the GCL despite the good average. They would probably like to see him show some power and a little more plate patience, plus a couple other VSL/DSL players who play his same position did more to deserve the promotion.

Jose Ozuna probably put together the most impressive season among hitters. At age seventeen he led the VSL in home runs with 10 and also hit 16 doubles, 3rd most in the league. His 43 RBIs also placed him 3rd in the VSL and tops on the team. At 6′ 2″ 213 he is already a big kid and could handle the jump to the states, despite the young age and fact he’s played just one season in the VSL. His strikeout rate was very good for a power hitter and his 19 walks shows he has at least a little plate patience. He played 53 games in RF and led the team in outfield assists with six.

Jose Roman was Mr. Clutch for the team hitting much better with runners on base than with the bases empty, and drove in 40 runs on just three homers. That RBI total was good enough for 6th most in the league. Jose also placed 3rd in doubles (16) along with Ozuna. He played 1B mostly, spent some time at DH and played a few games each at all three outfield positions. He’s a 19 year old, 6′ 1″ 200 lefty out of Puerto Rico who was in his first season.

Ullises Montilla and Manuel Moreno are both 18 year old outfielders who joined the team mid-season. Both hit well and showed good plate patience. Montilla had 27 walks vs just 11 strikeouts while Moreno had 13 walks in just 72 plate appearances. They both split LF although Moreno got some time in at CF (he also wore #18 like another Pirates player named Moreno) before missing a few weeks, probably with an injury. He returned just in time for the playoffs. I think both return to the VSL for a full season, but wouldn’t be surprised to see either head to the states due to their age and patience at the plate.

Jose Ortiz was the main catcher all season. At age 20 he was old for a first year player but he played decent defense, took some walks and showed a little power when he did hit. It should be interesting to see what they do with him next year due to his age and the fact they have three other catchers on the roster, all of them much younger.

Kelly Aponte is huge for a foreign league player, 6′ 5″ 220, and he also strikes out a lot. Aponte missed 50 games to a PED suspension last year. He will be 20 next year and I’d imagine they won’t give up on him so expect to see him at 1B/DH next year in the VSL and hope his size translates into power.

Other players included Luis Cardona, who at 22 is way too old for the league, and ineligible to play next year there due to the fact he’s been in the league the maximum four years. He was the team’s main center fielder, playing 63 games there so the defense is probably there. He has good speed so he may play in the GCL, but should not be confused with an actual prospect. SS Ashley Ponce is a 19 year old from Panama in his 3rd year in the VSL. He’s a skinny kid whose numbers regressed slightly from the previous season, which was just average. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him cut, or return for a 4th season. Catcher Norman Elenes was one of the youngest players in all of baseball last year, he’s still just 17 but hasn’t shown a thing in limited action either year. The good thing is he will still be 18 next year and could get some good time behind the plate where the team is very weak. Two other catchers, Carlos Marquez and Javier Avila, both in their first years, should return next year as both played poorly in limited action. Marquez is a year and a half younger, much bigger and hits lefty, so he would be the one to watch among the two. Luis Sucre played a lot of games this year but didn’t bat many times. That might be because he didn’t hit for average or power or show plate patience or any speed, but it was his first year and he will still be just 18 when the 2011 season starts.

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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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