Prospect Notebook: Heredia Will Face a Huge Test in State College

Luis Heredia will start his 2012 season in State College.

Luis Heredia will begin the 2012 season in State College, which is an aggressive push for a player at his age. Heredia is 17 this year, and won’t turn 18 until the middle of August, when the short-season league will be coming close to the end of the season. The New York Penn League is typically dominated by college hitters, which will be a big test for a pitcher who has only thrown 30.1 innings in his pro career.

“It’s going to be a challenge for him. No question,” Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said of the assignment.

Heredia didn’t put up the best numbers last year in the Gulf Coast League. He struggled with his command, mostly needing to learn how to repeat his delivery. The Pirates felt that Heredia had improved on that, plus his secondary pitches, enough to make the jump to the next level.

“Improved fastball command. The improved consistency of the breaking ball. The maturity to go handle a league where there’s going to be players four and five years older than he is,” Huntington said of the traits that led to the decision to promote Heredia. “But he’s going to face that hopefully his entire career. Until he becomes 30 and then he’ll be one of the old guys in the league. Just a variety of factors that we felt like he was ready to step up to that challenge, ready to take on an older hitter. It’s going to make him command his fastball. It’s going to make him throw strikes. They’re not going to chase the breaking ball out of the zone. We felt like it would be a good challenge for him. There’s going to be bumps along the way. He may have some one inning starts. He may have some six inning master pieces, but we’re looking forward to his learning process.”

Like all pitchers in State College, priority number one will be fastball command. Heredia can be one of the hardest throwers in the system. He’s touched 98 MPH in the past, although he works mostly in the lower 90s to focus on maintaining his delivery and his control. He’s got the feel for his breaking stuff, and needs to improve the consistency of those pitches as well. But the breaking stuff won’t be effective if he can’t command the fastball.

“Fastball command is what we’re trying to get him to focus on. That’s what’s going to allow him to be successful,” Huntington said. “We’re not taking any pitches away, but we want him to emphasize the fastball command, the consistency of the breaking ball and the use of the changeup. The other pitches within there, he’s going to be allowed to continue to use them, but our emphasis is going to be on the basic foundation pitches.”

Heredia has the potential for up to four “plus” pitches, including his fastball. He’s got a lower floor than guys like Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, but his ceiling is just as high, and maybe even higher. It will be interesting to watch him pitch this summer. If he grew up in the US, he would currently be in his senior year of high school. Instead, he’ll be pitching against hitters who just spent three to four years hitting college pitching. That will prove to be a huge test.

Heredia makes his 2012 debut on Thursday.

 

McPherson Impressive in Return to the Mound

Kyle McPherson returned to the mound yesterday after missing the first two months of the season with shoulder inflammation. The right-hander gave up one run on four hits in five innings, with a walk and five strikeouts.

On Sunday, Neal Huntington talked about McPherson’s return to the mound, noting that McPherson was a bit rusty, but that his stuff was encouraging.

“Our guys were very encouraged with what they saw with Kyle,” Huntington said. “Fastball, a little bit of rust, but commanded it fine. Breaking ball, a little bit of rust, but showed some very, very good signs. He used his off-speed stuff effectively. Most importantly he looked like he felt good, felt strong, felt healthy. Didn’t really protect anything so good outing from Kyle.”

 

Bell Rehab Update

Outfield prospect Josh Bell has been out since the end of April with meniscus surgery on his knee. He’s been participating in extended Spring Training, increasing the amount of baseball activities he participates in. He has yet to start running the bases, which is usually one of the final steps before a player can return.

“Josh is continuing to rehab the knee,” Huntington said. “Everything is going along just fine. Beginning more and more baseball activity, and not just the pure rehab activity. We’re looking forward to getting Josh back into more baseball functionality. Everything is going along fine.”

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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  • http://twitter.com/andrew_scott48 Andrew Scott

    Heredia is an unsung prospect in the Pirates system. You rarely hear him mentioned with Cole, Taillon, and now even the-yet-to-be-signed Appel, but he could end up being a huge cog in our future success.

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

      I think that’s because he’s playing in a short season league. Not much to talk about until he starts playing.

    • Kevin_Creagh

      He’s also on the cover of our book this year.

  • cocktailsfor2

    I communicated with Kyle the day after his start (hadda give him a little ration of $hit about the BB – we KNOW how much he hates the BB – ), he had already completed his gym work for that day, and said “Arm still feels strong today!”

    So, that’s a good sign. I’d think he’ll be in Indy pretty soon, if I were a betting man.

    • Lee Young

      duh Foo here….what is ‘the BB’? The only BB I know is the PG beat writer???

      • cocktailsfor2

        BB = Base on Balls / walk

        • Lee Young

          ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh…saw the caps and thought it was a person. Now it makes sense.

          • cocktailsfor2

            All good. ;-)

            If you’ve listened to Kyle any time he’s been on the podcast, you’ll know he REALLY hates giving up walks. He’s an intense young man.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_46YTB5OO4O7UM2OVB44UZSTXNA Nate

      Enjoyed your last podcast with NH

  • Lee Young

    Surprised to read this: “He’s touched 98 MPH in the past, although he works mostly in the lower 90s”

    I thought he ‘worked’ at a much higher MPH?

    .

    • j1066

      he is also 17 so the low 90s is very good for that age

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

        He works in that range mostly to focus on control.