GCL Pirates 2011 Season Recap: Top Prospects

We’ve talked about top prospects in the overall system in the past, and I’ve mentioned my preference for tiered rankings.  The obvious top tier in the GCL this year was Luis Heredia.  There’s no question that he stood above everyone else in the rankings.  After that, it’s very difficult to rank players.  A lot of guys at this level are very raw, making it hard to project what they could eventually become in the majors, or making it hard to project if they will even make the majors at all.  For that reason, the rankings below can vary greatly.

Our top 10 overall prospects factors in all of the individual rankings.  The individual rankings also include the best pitcher, hitter, biggest surprise, and biggest disappointments of the year.  The rankings factor in all of the players at the level throughout the year, regardless of whether they’ve been promoted to the upper levels.  Playing time is also considered.  In the GCL, a player needs 60 at-bats, 20+ innings pitched, or 10 relief appearances. This prevented 2011 draft picks like Jason Creasy and Jake Burnette from making the lists.  The one exception was Yhonathan Herrand, who made nine appearances, but was on the roster the majority of the season.  Also, players who spent time at the level rehabbing are not included.

2011 GCL Pirates: Hitters
2011 GCL Pirates: Pitchers
2011 GCL Pirates: Top 10 Prospects

Overall Top 10 Prospects

1. Luis Heredia, RHP
2. Willy Garcia, OF
3. Jose Osuna, OF
4. Yhonathan Barrios, 3B
5. Alen Hanson, SS
6. Cesar Lopez, RHP
7. Jodaneli Carvajal, SS
8. Luis Urena, OF
9. Gregory Polanco, OF
10. Yhonathan Herrand, RHP

Tim Williams

1. Luis Heredia
2. Willy Garcia
3. Gregory Polanco
4. Jodaneli Carvajal
5. Jose Osuna
6. Yhonathan Barrios
7. Yhonathan Herrand
8. Alen Hanson
9. Cesar Lopez
10. Dovydas Neverauskas

Best Hitter: Jonathan Schwind had the best numbers on the team, with a .347 average, and a 1.045 OPS.  He does come with the asterisk that he’s from the college ranks, which gives him an advantage in this league which is mostly made up of high school and raw international talents.  The runner up would be Jose Osuna, ad I’d say his numbers are more impressive considering his younger age, and his lack of experience.

Best Pitcher: The best pitcher is obviously Heredia, but the guy with the best numbers is Orlando Castro.  In the two times I’ve seen Castro, he’s mostly been in the mid-80s, although Wilbur saw him when he was with the GCL team, and he was pitching 88-92 MPH at the time.  I’d probably rank him higher in my rankings if that velocity range was consistent.

Biggest Surprise: He might be old for the level, but the fact that Miguel Mendez made the jump to pitching, then put up a 3.80 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, and a 21:5 K/BB ratio in 23.2 innings is impressive.

Biggest Disappointment: Jared Lakind received a $400 K over-slot bonus in the 23rd round, but looked overmatched.  He did show some good power numbers, but he also looked a lot like Wes Freeman looked in his early days, with poor strikeout numbers.

Wilbur Miller

1. Luis Heredia
2. Willy Garcia
3. Jose Osuna
4. Yhonathan Barrios
5. Alen Hanson
6. Jodaneli Carvajal
7. Luis Urena
8. Yhonathan Herrand
9. Gregory Polanco
10. Dovydas Neverauskas

Best Hitter: It’s tempting to say Jose Osuna, but the baby Bucs’ best hitter was Jonathan Schwind. A college draftee out of Marist, where he was primarily an infielder, the Pirates are converting him to catcher. He wouldn’t be as far ahead of the younger players in the GCL as a guy who came from a major college program, but it’s still unwise to place a lot of stock in his 1.045 GCL OPS.

Best Pitcher: It’s uncertain whether he’s going to be a prospect, with velocity that isn’t always above the mid-80s, but Orlando Castro dominated the GCL until the Pirates moved him up first to State College, then to West Virginia. The GCL Pirates had a very young pitching staff, the youngest in the league, so it’s going to take time before we can see whether anybody else is going to stand out, aside from Luis Heredia of course.

Biggest Surprise: If you take his performance in context, I think it was Luis Urena. He didn’t exactly dominate, with a .715 OPS and strikeouts in nearly a third of his ABs, but he came into the system as a very raw young player and was overwhelmed last year in the Dominican Summer League. His OPS was only .482 and he fanned 63 times against only 5 walks. This year he had 15 walks and 31 Ks, so he’s taken a big step forward.

Biggest Disappointment: This has to be Jared Lakind. The Pirates signed him to an above slot bonus last year, but he was overwhelmed this year. He showed some power, including a two-HR game, and he drew a lot of walks, but he hit 148/264/287 overall and fanned in 40% of his ABs.

Kevin Creagh

1. Luis Heredia
2. Jose Osuna
3. Yhonathan Barrios
4. Cesar Lopez
5. Alen Hanson
6. Willy Garcia
7. Luis Urena
8. Gregory Polanco
9. Dovydas Neverauskas
10. Orlando Castro

Best Hitter: Much like Wilbur and Tim, I’m selecting Jonathan Schwind. Schwind was over-age but I’m also giving him credit for learning the most difficult position of catcher on the fly.

Best Pitcher: Again, I will agree with Wilbur and Tim and select Orlando Castro. It’s tough to ignore a 0.72 ERA and a 22 K/2 BB ratio in 25 innings. The spirit of Nelson Pereira hangs over all short lefties (Castro is 5′ 9″), but he’s at least someone to monitor next year.

Biggest Surprise: Jose Osuna had a fairly impressive campaign in his stateside debut, posting a 911 OPS with 21 extra base hits in 178 at-bats. It will be interesting to see if Osuna makes the jump to full season next year in West Virginia at age 19 in 2012.

Biggest Disappointment: Not that he was a top prospect, but it was disappointing to see Joey Schoenfeld wash out of the system already. Schoenfeld was a 10th round draft pick out of high school in 2009, but never got out of the GCL. This year he only posted a 498 OPS in 21 at-bats before being waived.

John Dreker

1. Luis Heredia
2. Cesar Lopez
3. Exicardo Cayonez
4. Willy Garcia
5. Luis Urena
6. Jose Osuna
7. Alen Hanson
8. Jodaneli Carvajal
9. Orlando Castro
10. Isaac Sanchez

Best Hitter: Jose Osuna got the nod over Schwind due to the fact he had 54 more AB’s so I went with the guy who played a lot more. Schwind had a real nice season but he’s a 21 year old college player so he should do well in this league. They had similar stats so playing time was the main factor.

Best Pitcher: Orlando Castro was so good in the league he barely around long enough to qualify for the top pitcher. He continued his dominance from his rookie season in the VSL.

Biggest Surprise: Osuna not only showed some of the power he displayed last year in the VSL but he improved his average 80 points making the jump to the states. He also had a better walk rate and cut down on the strikeouts. I wasn’t expecting a .331 hitter with plate discipline from him.

Biggest Disappointment: Joey Schoenfeld not only returning to the GCL was a huge disappointment but being cut after just 2 weeks at age 20 was a huge shock. He was supposed to be raw when signed with huge upside but he must’ve shown nothing for them to have got rid of him so quick.

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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