The GCL Pirates started their 2013 season today, losing 6-4 to the GCL Yankees. In the past we’ve had limited reports on the GCL guys. Most of those reports have come from pre-draft or pre-international signing talks, analyzing stats, or just the limited times we’ve seen the teams. In the past few years Wilbur Miller has seen the GCL team during the season a few times, and I’ve seen them for a few games, but the total amount of games combined is probably in the single digits. Following the season there have been instructs reports, and some limited reports in Spring Training.
Since I’m down in Bradenton this year, I’m really looking forward to seeing a lot of these guys more often. I’ve already seen them in extended Spring Training, and while I didn’t get to make it over there as much as I would have liked, it was a 100% increase over our coverage of extended Spring Training in the past. The thing about guys at this level is that most are raw, and you’re looking more at potential than results. Occasionally you’ll get some amazing results, like Tyler Glasnow or Dilson Herrera in recent years. You’ll also see some extreme advancements during the year, like Glasnow going from a low-90s guy to a guy who could consistently hit 96 last year.
Glasnow is a prime example of why I’m excited to be covering these guys this year. Last year I saw him at 89-91 and touching 93 in Spring Training. The next time anyone from the site saw him was at the end of the year when John Eshleman saw him hitting 96 in State College in his final start. Throughout the year Glasnow went from a guy who was sitting in the upper 80s/low 90s to a guy who looked like a future top of the rotation pitcher. It’s not a guarantee that other pitchers or players will make such an extreme progression. But this is a level where guys can progress in a short amount of time, and I’m looking forward to tracking that progression a little closer this year, rather than waiting until they jump to A-ball and experiencing a sort of time warp between what they were and what they now are.
Aside from the projectable guys, the biggest thing to watch will be first round pick Reese McGuire, and Austin Meadows when he eventually signs. Those two will be the top prospects at the level, which is really something special to watch. Usually you don’t get top 100 prospects in the GCL, or at least the Pirates haven’t in the last few years. They’ve had potential top 100 prospects, and they’ve had Luis Heredia as the lone exception. But with the new signing deadlines, the Pirates will be able to send their two first round picks to the GCL for an extended period, and maybe send them to Jamestown by the end of the year.
Below are my thoughts on each player on the GCL roster. I’m sure a lot of these reports will change by the end of the year, and even throughout the year. I’ll be keeping track, starting with the first game at 10 AM Saturday morning, which might be the only thing I’m not looking forward to with GCL coverage.
Adrian Grullon, RHP - Grullon should get some time in the rotation and is an interesting pitcher to watch. He’s 20 years old, throws 88-93 MPH, but was sitting in the upper part of that range when I’ve seen him. He’s a tall, projectable pitcher at 6′ 7″, 197 pounds, and has loose arm action with the chance to add velocity. He throws a good slider, and has some work to do on the changeup. The size, the fastball/slider combo, and the potential for added velocity make him a sleeper to watch.
Hayden Hurst, RHP - The Pirates went over-slot to sign Hurst in the 17th round of the 2012 draft after Mark Appel decided not to sign. Hurst can throw 91-94 MPH with his fastball already, and is a tall, projectable pitcher at 6′ 5″, 235 pounds. He’s got good cutting movement on the fastball, and has the potential for some good off-speed pitches. Hurst has dealt with problems this Spring getting hit around, and dealing with control. He’s got one of the best young arms on the team though, and should be one of the top starters.
Cesilio Pimentel, LHP - Pimentel is an interesting starter, throwing 88-91 MPH with his fastball and pairing that with a good slider which could be an above-average pitch. He’s got an erratic delivery which could add some deception. He’s also got a good frame at 6′ 2″, 185 pounds.
Miguel Rosario, RHP - He’s not a big pitcher like a lot of the other guys in the system, but he’s a hard thrower, sitting at 92 MPH. He only threw 6.2 innings in the DSL last year, but his stuff has looked good in Spring Training and he’s gotten a lot of innings as a starter.
Jon Sandfort, RHP - Sandfort was taken in the third round last year in the draft. He’s been working in the 87-90 MPH range with his fastball, which is down from the mid-90s and touching 96 range that he’s hit in the past. He could reach those levels again if he strengthens his arm. He has good downward movement with his fastball, and a nice big breaking 12-to-6 curve. He has improved his changeup this year, and should be one of the better pitching prospects to watch at the level. If he can regain that old velocity from high school, he could be one of the better pitching prospects to follow in the lower levels of the system.
Blake Taylor, LHP - Taylor was taken in the second round this year, and signed quickly for under-slot. He can touch as high as 94 with his fastball, and eventually could sit in the 92-94 MPH range. He’s got a good curveball, and needs improvement on his changeup and fastball command. Taylor is 17 years old and is a very projectable pitcher. He’s got the potential to eventually be a middle of the rotation starter one day.
Wei-Chung Wang, LHP - The Pirates signed Wang out of Taiwan in 2011, and he has spent the last year rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He made his debut today, throwing 4.1 innings and allowing four runs on two homers, but had eight strikeouts and no walks. Wang used to throw in the low-to-mid 90s, but his velocity hasn’t returned yet following the surgery, and he’s been in the upper 80s. He’s got a nice curveball, which will lead to a lot of strikeouts in the lower levels. The Pirates thought enough of him that they gave him $350,000 initially, which was a record out of Taiwan. He’s got a good size, and if he can regain that arm strength and the old velocity, he could be a good left-handed pitching prospect.
Luis Campos, RHP - Campos throws in the upper 80s and is in his second year in the GCL after getting hit around last year. He profiles as lower level bullpen depth.
Melvin Del Rosario, LHP - Del Rosario can throw 88-93 MPH with good sink to his fastball, and he’s also flashed a slider that has the potential to be above average. His velocity has been in the lower end of that range in Spring Training. Command of his pitches has been an issue. Because of his fastball/slider combination, I could see him getting a lot more innings than the other pitchers listed as bullpen arms, although I’m not sure he’d be in the mix as a starter.
Roberto Espinosa, RHP - He throws in the 80s with his fastball, and has a good curve. This is his second year in the GCL, and he should remain an organizational reliever.
Jeff Gibbs, RHP - The Pirates added Gibbs as a minor league free agent this Spring. He was hit hard in the Arizona Summer League last year at the age of 21. He should serve as bullpen depth in the lower levels.
Cameron Griffin, LHP - Griffin was taken in the 23rd round out of Stetson University. The left-hander throws in the low 90s, and has mostly worked as a reliever in college. He should take that same role with the GCL squad, picking up some innings in relief behind a young pitching staff.
Jimy Hernandez, RHP - Hernandez is a hard throwing right-hander who hasn’t pitched in the Pirates’ system since 2011, when he was hammered in the GCL. He missed all of last year with an injury. He should serve as bullpen depth, like a lot of other guys on this list.
Yhonathan Herrand, RHP - Herrand is a hard thrower who can hit 97-98 MPH with his fastball. However, he has zero control. If he could ever add some control, then he’s got the frame and the stuff to be a special pitcher. The odds of this happening are unlikely, and he should be a hard throwing reliever in the lower levels until that control improves.
Henry Hirsch, RHP - Hirsch was taken in the 22nd round out of the University of New Haven. He had a good K/BB ratio in 2013, but was hit hard in his junior year. He’ll probably work out of the GCL bullpen, and could make it up to Jamestown this year, serving as lower level relief depth.
Andy Otamendi, LHP - Otamendi is in his second year in the GCL. He’s a lot like the left-handers the Pirates usually bring up from the international rookie leagues. He throws mid-to-upper 80s with good control of his off-speed pitches. He’ll pitch out of the bullpen, and doesn’t project as a prospect due to the lack of stuff.
Oderman Rocha, RHP - Rocha is an interesting guy to watch, just because he’s a tall, projectable right-hander who has put up great numbers in the foreign rookie leagues. He’s improved his control in each of the last two years. He will probably serve as a reliever, but will be one of the guys who could get multiple innings. I saw him getting hit hard a lot in extended Spring Training, but it was hard to tell if that was him, or the fact that a lot of those hits came against guys in Jamestown like Elvis Escobar.
Angel Sanchez, LHP - He’s a huge, 6′ 7″, 190 pound left-hander. He doesn’t throw with much velocity, sitting in the mid-80s, and has some horrible control problems. Sanchez does have a good curve, and is intriguing just because of the size.
Cristian Santiago, RHP - He’s a 6′ 4″, 232 pound right-hander who had control problems last year. He throws 89-91 MPH. The size makes him an interesting pitcher, although he’s 23 years old this year, so he’s most likely an organizational guy.
Danny Arribas, C - Arribas is an interesting guy, signing out of The Netherlands and spending the last two years in the DSL. He’s played catcher, first, and third, and could get some time at the corners with McGuire on the roster. He’s very athletic, and has a line drive approach. Last year he saw improvements with his K/BB ratios and his gap power. The Pirates could use Arribas in the infield due to Sammy Gonzalez being a backup to McGuire. I’d expect Arribas to get the second most time behind the plate.
Sammy Gonzalez, C - Gonzalez looked like a sleeper prospect a few years ago in the NYPL. Then he had labrum surgery, moved to first base for a year, and although he’s back behind the plate, he might have lost his chance to become that sleeper prospect. It will be hard making it past McGuire, Jin-De Jhang, and Wyatt Mathisen in the lower levels.
Reese McGuire, C - McGuire should get the bulk of the catching duties. Danny Arribas is the other contender for playing time, but McGuire will obviously be the primary guy here. He’s got strong defensive tools, and will need more work on his hitting. I’m not sure if he will catch right away. Wyatt Mathisen took a few weeks of instruction before catching out of high school last year, although Mathisen played more shortstop than catcher in high school. He should get plenty of playing time, and might even have a shot at moving up to Jamestown by the end of the year.
Trae Arbet, SS - Arbet was taken in the fifth round of the 2013 draft, and given an over-slot bonus to sign. He’s a very athletic shortstop with the range and arm to stick at the position. Those tools are good but not great, raising questions of whether he will stick at short over the long-term. That’s normal for any prep shortstop, so it shouldn’t be seen as out of the ordinary. He has good bat speed and power, but tends to chase pitches out of the strike zone. In short, he’s a project but has the potential to be a good all-around shortstop. The Pirates seem to believe in his ability to stay at short, judging by the over-slot deal, so he should play short in the GCL.
Adam Landecker, IF - Landecker was drafted in the 21st round as a second baseman. He was playing some third base last week in extended Spring Training. He has played second, third, and short in his time with USC, and should move around between second and third with the GCL Pirates.
Ulises Montilla, 2B - Montilla had a great season last year in the DSL, hitting for a .320/.407/.457 line in 197 at-bats. He has shown a good hitting ability in the times I’ve seen him in Spring Training and extended Spring Training. He’s a small guy at 5′ 11″, 170 pounds, and his future is really up in the air right now. I don’t want to say that he will or won’t make it for any specific reason, simply because I’ve only seen him in exhibition games. He is a guy I’ll be watching throughout the year. Put him down as a sleeper candidate, and probably my top guy to watch from the group of international infielders.
Carlos Ozuna, SS - Ozuna has a lot of speed and good fielding potential. The Pirates played him at shortstop exclusively in the DSL in 2012. He has played shortstop a lot in the Spring Training games, and will probably get a lot of time at the position. The bat will be a question mark, and like Montilla, he’ll be a sleeper candidate I’m watching.
Maximo Rivera, UTIL - Rivera is like the other sleepers in this group. He signed for a $165,000 bonus, which was one of the highest payments in the 2009 international class. He didn’t show much at the plate his first two years, but really broke out last year with a .367/.429/.472 line in 199 at-bats. He’s athletic enough that he can play anywhere, and last year he played everywhere except catching. He wasn’t getting as much playing time on the field toward the end of camp compared to other guys, so he’s probably lower on the depth charts, despite the bonus and the strong year last year.
Kevin Ross, IF - Ross was taken last year out of high school as a shortstop. He played six games at short, 14 at third base, and one at second. This year he’s been playing a few games at first base. He’s got a big frame and there could be some power potential. He won’t have the range to be a shortstop, and you’d like to see him stick at third or second to maximize the value of his bat. I think the fact that he was playing first is because the Pirates have several talented middle infielders coming up from the DSL, which means we could see guys moving around a lot to create playing time.
Enyel Vallejo, SS - Vallejo had a contract issues last year, which delayed his signing. He’s an extremely athletic player with a lot of energy. He’s also 21 years old and making his pro debut in the GCL. He’s been playing a lot of shortstop when I’ve seen him, showing some good fielding potential. Once again, he’s another sleeper.
Justin Maffei, CF - He was taken out of San Francisco in the 25th round this year. There wasn’t much room for him in Jamestown with Harold Ramirez, Elvis Escobar, and others, so he was sent to the GCL. He should start, at least until Austin Meadows arrives (which is something you can say about all three outfielders). Even after that he should start and get plenty of playing time, as he’s a speedy option who was playing center field in camp last week.
Candon Myles, LF - Myles is a speedy outfielder taken out of high school in the 2011 draft. He spent the 2012 season in the GCL, and will return in 2013. Last year he had a decent average (.279) and a great OBP (.365), but didn’t hit for any power. Speed is the main part of his game, but he’s going to need to add some power to make it past the short-season leagues.
Luis Urena, RF - It’s a bit disappointing to see Urena back in the GCL once again. He’s got some impressive raw power, and it shows up in games. The problem is that his plate patience is horrible. The hope is that Urena can finally figure it out this year and make the quick jump to Jamestown. He’s got the potential to be a five tool guy, but he’s starting to run out of time with so many trips back to the GCL.
1. Reese McGuire, C
2. Blake Taylor, LHP
3. Jon Sandfort, RHP
4. Trae Arbet, SS
5. Hayden Hurst, RHP
6. Adrian Grullon, RHP
7. Ulises Montilla, 2B
8. Luis Urena, RF
9. Carlos Ozuna, SS
10. Wei-Chung Wang, LHP