Where Does Luis Heredia Rank?

After the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie from the 2010 draft class, we put together our updated top 10 prospect lists, to show where Taillon and Allie, and the other 2010 draft signings, would fit in our rankings.  Today the Pirates signed top Mexican pitching prospect Luis Heredia for $2.6 M, giving him the biggest bonus in Pirates’ international signing history, and the fifth largest bonus in MLB international signing history.

Heredia has received a lot of hype this year, mostly due to his size (6′ 6″, 185 lbs), his potential, and his arsenal of pitches, led by a 92-93 MPH fastball that is said to have good control.  Because of this, Heredia is a guarantee to rank in the top ten prospects in the Pirates’ farm system.  The question is: where does he rank?  We took the time to answer that question, by giving an explanation as to where Heredia would be placed in our rankings from the other day.

Tim

Heredia is signed, but where does he fit in our rankings?

Heredia has a lot of upside, but at this point he’s all potential, with not much to rank him on other than his stuff.  Unlike Taillon and Allie, Heredia is more of a gamble to reach the majors.  I had Taillon rated number one, and Allie rated fifth, behind Tony Sanchez, Bryan Morris, and Starling Marte.  The highest I would consider Heredia would be 6th, although I’m not sure I’d place him above Rudy Owens and Jeff Locke.

Heredia has the potential to have better stuff than Owens and Locke, but this brings up the classic debate of potential vs results.  Locke and Owens both have good stuff.  Locke throws in the low-to-mid 90s and has an excellent curveball.  Owens doesn’t have the same velocity, but has a strong arsenal of pitches, and excellent command over those pitches.  Both pitchers have also had success as high as the AA level.

Heredia, on the other hand, has yet to throw a professional pitch.  He could eventually be a top of the rotation starter, which would put him ahead of Owens and Locke.  However, Heredia is far from a guarantee to be a top of the rotation starter, much less even make the majors.  Owens and Locke have the success in the upper levels, they’re both fairly young pitchers, and they are closer to guarantees to realize their potential, which I have as 2-3 starters on an optimistic view, and 3-4 starters on a conservative view.

Because of this, I’d have to rank Heredia 9th on my list, bumping Andrew Lambo out of my top ten, and putting Heredia one spot above Zach Von Rosenberg.  I’ve been considering moving my 6-10 rankings around, moving Chase d’Arnaud down, and moving Locke ahead of Owens.  However, even with a shuffle, the highest I’d rate Heredia at this point would be 8th, as he still falls behind Owens and Locke at this point.  That said, with a strong debut in the GCL next year, I could definitely see Heredia jumping up the rankings.

John

One day after trying to figure out where to put Stetson Allie on the Pirates top 10 prospect list without him throwing a professional pitch, I get the even harder task of trying to find a spot for someone two years younger than him who doesn’t even have high school stats to go by and less of a scouting report.

It sounds like Heredia has already added a tick to his fastball, as the initial reports from just two months ago had him at 88-91 and touching 92 which is now up to 92-93 consistently in his last outing. It also sounds like he may have grown an inch taller too. He still is all about projection at this point. He’s not done growing and they will add weight to him right away, and slowly they will work on his secondary pitches (which need work). If the reports are true, it’s said he already has excellent fastball command which is first priority to the Pirates for minor league pitchers.  If he displays that early on he may be ahead of the curve that he can now work on.

Based on projections I could see someone ranking him as high as #2, but for me he is just too far away from the majors to go that high right from the start. After thinking about it, I’m going to rank him right behind Allie right now at 8th on my list for the simple fact that Allie already throws harder than they currently project Heredia and he’s already got that workhorse frame they hope the wiry Heredia can one day come close to. I can see both players though shooting up the list by this time next year although a 1st overall pick in next years draft, plus a healthy Sanchez and Marte might stop either from reaching the top four spots.

Kevin

I’m very stubborn about ranking international free agent prospects.  I have an inherent distrust about all of these players until they reach the states because we are relying on sketchy scouting reports and don’t have any idea about their level of competition.  Part of what we have to do, since we can’t see all of the Pirate prospects live, is depend on both professional prospectors and fans to give their scouting reports on these guys.  Heredia and the Latin free agents do not allow that luxury.

The short answer is that Heredia would not be on my Top 10 until he throws stateside.  However, his theoretical ranking would be #9 for me.  It’s the whole “what is the likelihood he reaches his potential” for me.  Yes, his potential is top of the rotation stud, which only Taillon can claim right now, but Heredia is so far away from the majors and has so many hurdles to clear.  Morris, Owens, and Locke have been clearing those hurdles for some time now.

At the end of 2011, Heredia may very well be in my top 2 or 3, but I think a degree of caution should be taken with all the internationals.  Remember that Michel Ynoa has thrown 10 innings in 2 years in the States and is now undergoing Tommy John surgery.  Not a great return on investment for the A’s and I’m sure Baseball America would like their Top 50 ranking of him back.

Wilbur

Well, yes, Heredia is 16 and he presents the high risks inherent with anybody so young, especially any pitcher.  Of course, so do Taillon and Allie, maybe not to the same degree but certainly in the same ballpark.  Something to keep in mind with Heredia, though:  Dejan Kovacevic has reported that the Pirates have been following him closely for several years, to the point where they’ve played a significant role in his development.  He’s probably been pitching in something closer to a pro environment than Taillon or Allie, so the fact that he hasn’t pitched in a US pro game doesn’t bother me much.  Don’t forget, neither has Taillon nor Allie.

The Pirates probably know Heredia better than they do Taillon and Allie.  Kovacevic has stated that the Pirates consider him on a level with the other two, which is certainly reflected in his signing bonus . . . well, Veracruz’ and his signing bonus.  And no wonder.  Heredia is throwing in the low 90s as a 16-year-old, and already throws several types of fastballs.  To put this in context, 4th round pick Nick Kingham has stated that he was topping out at 89 in the summer after his junior year, when he would have been 17, but a year later was reaching as high as 94-95.  There’s a huge amount of projectability left with Heredia and, in my view, these rankings are all about ceiling.  I’d put Heredia 6th, right after Allie on my list.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Anonymous

    If true that he’s been pitching against older competition, that should relieve most of us. However, it’s hard to say what the older competitors were really like. I do like the signing, especially with that in mind.

    Sanchez comes up in all prospect lists. He had some nagging injuries early in the season and then had the very unfortunate injury that derailed him for the remainder of the season. Maholm survived something similiar, but my mind flashes back to Billy Conigliaro (lost his eyesight IIRC in one eye) and Herb Score (struck by a line drive while pitching). Respect everyone’s opinions and insights, but isn’t there reason to view Sanchez less optimistically?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DS5DVABNJZA6NVQPLQCSXP4Q6M Scott S

    Great stuff gents. I love this debate/discussion format.

    I also would keep Heredia at the bottom of the top 10, maybe even in the low teens as I tend to agree with Kevin’s skepticism if internationals. I will give Heredia a slight bump as it sounds like he’s been in a more structured environment.

    As far as Sanchez, until I hear that there is an long-lasting effects of the injury, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. In a weird way, a jaw injury seems less likely to have those long-term issues.

  • Anonymous

    Folks: I enjoy the opinions, and would like to add my own.

    I would not put Heredia on my top-10 list, essentially agreeing with Kevin. Yes, he has tools…and for a 16 yr old, fabulous tools. I would grade him as “Incomplete” — he needs to 1.) adapt to the level of talent he’ll see here, and 2.) adapt to HERE — the US of A. I’d agree — before we put him on any lists, lets see him during 2011 and after 2011.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Always appreciate additional opinions.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AP2TVHP34O4IFW4HF5G2NPGRNY Kenny

    I think that Heredia has “ace” potential right along with Taillon. Those two are our best “prospects” in our farm system before they throw their first pitch. Sure those guys in AA are looking good BUT best case scenario is they will be solid #2-3 pitchers. Allie who throws harder than both of them will be tried as a starter but I don’t see him staying there when he begins his rise up through the Bucs system. Stetson Allie slid to the 2nd round due to the fact that he has some control issues and teams were scared off by that as well as his asking price. I just think that Heredia is going to be special as he gets older and stronger. The control that he has a teenager is simply unheard of.