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VSL Season Wrap-up Part Two: The Pitchers

VSL Season Wrap-up Part One: The Position Players

Continuing with the VSL season wrap-up, on the pitching side of things the Pirates finished 2nd in the league in ERA, just 0.04 behind the 2nd place Mariners. They allowed the fewest walks (202) and had the best WHIP in the VSL, but finished next to last in strikeouts. They used 19 different pitchers (as opposed to just 16 position players) and 9 pitchers made starts. Even though they had a pretty steady five man rotation, they had a lot of rainouts, hence a lot of doubleheaders, and they needed fill-ins every so often.

The teams best starter was Orlando Castro. A first year player from Honduras who came with a record of dominating the subpar competition in his home country, Castro led all the regular starters in ERA (1.17) and WHIP (0.91) while finishing with a perfect 6-0 record. The 18 year old lefty is a little on the small side for a pitcher at just 5′ 11″, but for a first year player his stats were eye-popping. He finished literally just a couple innings short of qualifying for the league lead but it should be noted the VSL leader in ERA finished with a 2.49 mark, more than double that of Castro. His WHIP also would’ve led the league.

Nineteen year old Francisco Vilchez was the teams second best starter. He is a 3rd year righty who posted a 2.52 ERA, 2nd in the VSL. He had impressive numbers across the board and improved in many categories. His groundball rate was spectacular at 1.81 GO/AO and he held opposing batters to a .224 BAA. His 1.07 WHIP was 2nd on the team among starters and he led the Pirates in IP (64.1) and strikeouts (39). He will probably be a regular starter for the GCL next year.

The other three starters included 18 year old righty Roberto Espinoza who had a decent season, but his numbers fell across the board from his impressive rookie season last year. Luis Ortiz, another 18 year old righty, had a 4.35 ERA in 51.2 IP. A first year player, he finished the season strong posting a 1.75 ERA in five July starts. Rafael Rodriguez was the 5th starter. He’s already 20, only 5′ 9″ and his stats were not impressive. One interesting thing about him is he had a poor groundout ratio his first season back in 2008, last year he had a great number (1.91), then this year he dropped back down to more air outs than groundouts, which is very odd. At any rate, I can’t see him being a prospect or either of the other two making the move to the GCL next year but stranger promotions have happened.

Luis Campos is a 19 year old righty and a first year VSL player who showed good stuff in limited action pitching just 29 IP in 9 games, five of them as a starter. His BAA and WHIP were very impressive at .178 and 0.83 respectively. He also had a good groundball rate, and a very impressive 1.24 ERA which was even better as a starter (0.78). Due to his age he could possibly move to the GCL but 29 IP would be a very low number before being moved.

Jose Marrujo pitched 35.2 innings in relief as a 17 year old rookie, and pitched decent posting a 3.79 ERA which was skewed by a 6 earned run outing which lasted just 2/3rds of an inning. A 5′ 10″ righty from Mexico, he should be returning to the VSL next year. Jesus Barraza is a 19 year old clone of Marrujo at 5′ 10″, a righty, and also from Mexcio, but his stats were much more impressive. His WHIP was a minuscule 0.75 and his 0.54 ERA was even lower. He showed great control, walking just 5 batters in his 33.1 IP over 15 games, with all 5 walks coming in a 3 game stretch. While those stats greatly improved over his 2009 rookie season, his K rate and his groundball rate both dropped. Still, he should move to the GCL next year.

The team used two primary closers and both were experienced guys who had good success last year. Luis Figuera is a 19 year old 3rd year righty who posted a 1.12 ERA last year,following it up with a 1.78 mark this year and 8 saves. For a 3rd straight season he had a good VSL K rate (not a big strikeout league) and a good groundball rate which makes you wonder why he’s been there for three years. Raul Ruiz was the lefty closer, and is also a 3rd year player.  He is also 19 and put up very nice numbers as well. He had 15 saves and for the 2nd straight year held the opposition to a sub .200 BAA. He also had a good groundball rate for the 3rd straight year. If I had to guess, I’d say both are soft tossers with great breaking stuff who don’t have much projection, otherwise one or both would’ve been in the GCL this year.

Oscar Calderin is a 19 year old first year lefty with good size at 6′ 4″. Unfortunately he got bombed in his 7 appearances to the tune of a 14.73 ERA. Those seven games were also spread out over the whole season, so I’m guessing he is a very raw pitcher, but with that size from the left side I’m sure they will be more patient with him. Oderman Rocha, a RHP is just 17 and also has good size for a foreign league player at 6′ 3″, but like Calderin he was used sparingly and didn’t pitch well when he did get a chance. It should be interesting to see how these guys progress towards next year. Might give a good indication of how well the teaching is at the Venezuelan academy because at first glance of their stats neither seem like much.

Remberto Romo is a little righty from Mexico.  As a 2nd year player he struggled again, although he slightly improved from last season. He should return to the VSL next year although there probably isn’t any potential there due to age, size and struggles. Jovany Lopez, also a 2nd year player from Mexico, probably has slightly more potential than Romo based on the facts he’s a lefty and he’s shown excellent control each of his two seasons. He’s also on the small side and his overall stats aren’t anything great which doesn’t say much for a guy used strictly as a reliever

Richard Montilla and Ericdavis Marquez both struggled pretty badly, but the team kept going to them to give them chances. Montilla is a 19 year old righty with horrible control and Marquez is a 2nd year small lefty who got hit hard. Wouldn’t be surprised to see both of them gone before next season starts because its hard to see potential in either of those stat lines, and neither was a high profile signing. Deivis Goatache is a 22 year old fourth year player with a 6.21 ERA, enough said.

Finally we end with two 6′ 2″ first year righties who had much different seasons despite the fact they both pitched just 2.1 IP. Carlos Ruiz made just two appearances, a month apart from each other and both in blowout games while Jose Acosta pitched one game then got suspended for 50 games for a failed drug test. Neither was a high profile signing and I wouldn’t expect much from either of them in the future.

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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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