The GCL Pirates began their season on Monday. Below is a look at the position players who will start the year on the 2011 GCL roster. Also, be sure to check out our preview of the pitchers.
Joey Schoenfeld returns to the Gulf Coast League, after spending parts of the last two seasons at the level. Schoenfeld was a 10th round pick in the 2009 draft, and signed late, only getting 14 at-bats at the level. Last year he returned to the level, which was expected for a player out of high school. However, he only saw 64 at-bats, and fell behind Elias Diaz on the depth chart. In his limited time, he hit for a .281 average, with a .730 OPS. Schoenfeld is a very athletic catcher, with good speed, although he’s very raw. He was expected to move up to State College this year, but was passed over for Samuel Gonzalez, who made the jump from the international leagues. He should see the bulk of the playing time this year, and might even be a candidate to move up to State College by the end of the year.
Dylan Child and Jonathan Schwind are also on the roster. Schwind was drafted this year in the 41st round, and is being converted to a catcher after playing several infield and outfield positions at the college level. He’s played as the designated hitter in his first two games. Child is like Schoenfeld. He’s a very athletic catcher, although he’s raw. He’s got an above-average arm, and at the plate he has a line drive stroke with gap to gap power.
The GCL Pirates have a lot of middle infield prospects, which means they don’t have the typical assignments for their infield that other teams do. Jared LaKind is one of the few exceptions, as he is strictly a first baseman. Hewas drafted in the 23rd round last year, and the Pirates signed him away from a commitment to Arkansas, paying $400 K. LaKind was a left handed pitcher out of high school, but the Pirates selected him as a first baseman, due to his power potential. He had 14 at-bats in the GCL in 2010, and hit one homer.
Two of the top middle infield prospects are Yhonathan Barrios and Jodaneli Carvajal. Both were signed in 2008 for a large amount. Barrios was signed out of Colombia for $250 K. He was expected to make the jump to the GCL last year, but missed the entire season due to hammate surgery. Barrios has played third base in the first two games of the season. He’s a bit stocky for shortstop, and his bat speed gives the chance that he could add power going forward.
Carvajal was signed for $350 K, which was the second biggest bonus in franchise history. Carvajal has plus-plus speed, great hands, and a plus arm. He doesn’t project for much power, so his future is limited to a top of the order hitter. Carvajal has been playing second base so far this year, with Alen Hanson playing shortstop.
Hanson is an athletic middle infield prospect who projects to have a number of above average major league tools. He’s a line drive hitter who hits to all fields, with extra base power. He also has speed on the bases. The decision to start Hanson at shortstop is surprising, since Carvajal profiles as the better defender. Either the reports on Carvajal aren’t as accurate, or the reports on Hanson underestimated his defensive abilities. Neither case would be surprising, as they’re both making the jump from the foreign rookie leagues, which means not many people have seen them play.
Ashley Ponce will back up the middle infield positions, and has some speed on the bases. He started every game at shortstop for the VSL in 2010, after backing up Barrios and Jorge Bishop in 2009. Francisco Aponte plays all four infield positions, as well as the corner outfield positions. He profiles more as a top of the order hitter, and will likely serve as a super utility man for the GCL team. Daan Cornelissen returns to the GCL, after being signed out of the Netherlands in 2009. He’s very raw, with a major lack of contact skills, striking out in 45.8% of his at-bats. His frame might allow him to add power down the line, and since he’s only 19, he has some time to develop.
The Pirates have a lot of speedy, projectable outfield prospects out of the international ranks. Willy Garcia was signed for $280 K out of the Dominican Prospect League last year. He has a strong arm, good base running skills, and power potential, and is a potential five tool player. Gregory Polanco made the jump to the GCL last year, but struggled in his debut. He hit for a .202/.245/.287 line last year, although he was dealt an aggressive promotion. He’s very athletic, with good speed, the ability to play center field, and power potential due to his projectable 6′ 4″, 170 pound frame.
Jose Osuna is likely to receive most of the playing time along side Garcia and Polanco. He’s got a lot of power potential, after hitting ten homers and 16 doubles in 215 at-bats in the VSL. Luis Urena is another projectable outfielder, with a 6′ 5″, 198 pound frame. He has the potential for plus power, plus speed, and a plus arm. He didn’t fare well in the DSL last year, but was promoted to the US, likely due to his skills.
Junior Sosa and Ping-Hung Chi are two small, speedy outfield options. Sosa returns to the GCL this year, after hitting for a .296 average with 20 steals last year. He doesn’t have any power, and his game pretty much is based off of speed and average. Chi was signed out of Taiwan in 2009, and is very fast, with a 3.9 second home-to-first speed. Gavi Nivar is another projectable outfielder, with a 6′ 4″, 185 pound frame. He made the jump to the GCL last year, but missed almost the entire season due to injuries.
The estimated regular starters, based on the first two games (with bench players in parenthesis).
C - Joey Schoenfeld (Dylan Child)
1B - Jared LaKind (Francisco Aponte)
2B - Jodaneli Carvajal
SS - Alen Hanson (Ashley Ponce)
3B - Yhonathan Barrios (Daan Cornelissen)
DH - Jonathan Schwind
LF – Jose Osuna (Gavi Nivar)
CF - Willy Garcia (Junior Sosa, Ping Hung Chi)
RF - Gregory Polanco (Luis Urena)
2011 Un-Signed Draft Picks Who Could Appear on the Roster if Signed: Joel Bennett (CF, 11th Round), Candon Myles (CF, 12th Round), Jordan Dunatov (CF, 14th Round), Trea Turner (SS, 20th Round)