Complete DSL Coverage
Ten Prospects to Watch
As I mention every time I do these things, it is a lot more difficult to predict the top prospects at this level than it is at any other level. This season I have been fortunate enough to get much more input on the players. So rather than relying solely on things like bonuses, age/size, initial scouting reports when they sign and obviously stats, I was able to get many more first hand accounts from multiple sources who have seen these players regularly. That being said, there is still a ton of guesswork involved here. These are the top prospects, so sometimes stats won’t match the placement. If it was just best current player, the choices would be much different.
In the past I have included players who were signed, but had not yet played. This year I’m going to stick with the top ten that played this year in the DSL for my rankings. If I did include 2013 signings, the list would probably include all the top signings, who you can read about in the links under their names. They would be outfielder Edinson Lantigua, shortstop Adrian Valerio and outfielder Jeremias Portorreal. There is also a chance pitcher Luis Escobar would make it at the bottom of the list. The top prospect was an easy choice and second was the best of the rest, but after that, the rest of this top ten was tricky and I could see any number of guys being moved a couple of spots up or down.
Ten Prospects to Watch
1. Michael de la Cruz, CF – The top signing from the 2012 deadline, along with Julio de la Cruz, Michael got $700,000 and looked like he was worth every penny. A late season slump dropped his stats a little, but he got on base at a great rate, drawing walks and piling up hits. He can play above average defense in center field and has good speed. He is a potential five tool player that hasn’t hit for power yet, though that is usually the last tool to develop. At 17-years-old, de la Cruz seems like a sure bet to be with the GCL Pirates next season, needing just one year to make the move to the States.
2. Julio de la Cruz, 3B – The other de la Cruz did not have a strong rookie season, yet he still showed signs of being the top prospect the Pirates hope he will become. Julio hit .199, with a .640 OPS in 61 games. He showed some power, but little else and spent almost as much time as the DH, rather than playing third base. With experience and consistency, there seems to be enough potential in him that he could be the better prospect, but for right now he has fallen behind Michael de la Cruz. The Pirates really liked him when he was signed, so expect better things next year and possibly a surprise trip to the GCL despite the stats.
3. Jhoan Herrera, 3B – Herrera had a decent rookie season, showing some power and he wasn’t over-matched. He received a $300,000 bonus even though he signed a year later than he could have, so he was a bit of a late bloomer. The Pirates liked his power bat from the left side and he was adequate at third base, though he may need to move in the future. Herrera should remain in the DSL next year and seems like a good bet for picking a breakout player.
4. Yoel Gonzalez, C – This is a real tough pick, because he might be just a defense first type backstop and I heard reports that he still needs some polish to that part of his game. That was despite hearing he was advanced for his age when he signed last year. Gonzalez throws well, cutting down 49% of base runners and he started to hit at the end of the season, but the overall numbers were weak. If the bat can come around in his second season (he will be 17 when it starts), then you would have the makings of a line drive hitter, who should provide above average defense and control the running game.
5. Alexis Bastardo, OF – I could have easily gone 5 and 5a here with Bastardo and Tito Polo. At the beginning of the season, Polo would have been the easy choice, but injuries derailed him. Bastardo got better as the season went along and has all the tools to be a strong outfielder as he advances in the pros. He can run well, play defense, throw and hits the ball hard, making solid contact often, plus he has strong plate patience, waiting for the right pitch to hit. In August, he posted a 1.012 OPS and he hit .309 during the season with runners on base.
6. Tito Polo, OF – Polo is a little more polished overall than Bastardo, though his plate patience isn’t as good. When he wasn’t battling hamstring issues that caused him to miss games three different times this year, Polo was a stolen base machine that played solid defense and hit well. Polo also performed well last year as a rookie, while Bastardo was only signed last July. They are closely matched overall, even their age and size are similar. They give the Pirates two really good options in the outfield to go along with Michael de la Cruz. It’s a position that is deep, with two more outfielders narrowly missing this list, Eduardo Figueroa and Rudy Guzman.
7. Julio Vivas, RHP – He is the first pitcher on this list, but if it went to 20 spots, the back end would be dominated by starters from this season. Vivas is young, has great size and three years experience. He pitched well all season, keeping the ball on the ground and throwing strikes while pitching to contact, but he can also pick up strikeouts when necessary. He progressed nicely this year with the extra work in the starting role over a strong season last year when he threw 42 innings.
8. Jose Regalado, RHP – Regalado was called the best pitcher on either Pirates DSL affiliate, but he ranks behind Vivas due to a two-year age difference. Regalado is a strike throwing machine, who can pick up strikeouts and is nearly unhittable when he is on his game. He had a good season last year and was even better this year. The Pirates had a strong group of starting pitchers that improved over last season, so any number of them could potentially be a player to watch in the future.
9. Pablo Reyes, 2B – Reyes might just be the best pure hitter either Pirates team had this year. He has incredible head-eye coordination at the plate and makes solid consistent contact, showing some big power at times from a small frame. This was the second year in a row that he hit well, but this season was just a little better all around than his rookie season last year. Reyes also has excellent speed and can steal some bases. His size (5’10, 150 pounds) and lack of strong defense limited his ranking. He has been known to take bad at-bats with him out into the field.
10. Dario Agrazal Jr, RHP – He was a quiet signing last year, but Agrazal made some noise during his rookie season this year. He was elected to the All-Star game and went 6-0, 2.40 in 60 innings and looked better as the season went on. Agrazal is a young righty with good size and he comes from a strong pedigree. His dad was a top pitcher for many years in Panama and he was also a well-respected coach afterwards. Agrazal seems to have learned well from his father and he really took to the Pirates method of pitching to contact, keeping the ball down and pounding the inside of the plate.
Ten others to watch
Listed alphabetically: Jose Batista/LHP, Eduardo Figueroa/OF, Rudy Guzman/OF, Christian Henriquez/LHP, Dennis Hurtarte/1B, Richard Mitchell/RHP, Carlos Munoz/1B, Ramon Rodriguez/RHP, Dan Urbina/RHP, Eduardo Vera/RHP