For the last three weeks, we have been releasing the reports for the top twenty Pittsburgh Pirates prospects in our 2014 Prospect Guide. Starting tomorrow and running through Friday, we will post the reports for the top five spots and there should be no surprise over who is number one on that list. This year in Winter ball, six of the top twenty prospects got into action and two of them are still playing. Below is a brief summary of their performances and as you will see, there are a wide range of results.
The top Pirates prospect in Winter ball was obviously Gregory Polanco and he did not disappoint at all. Polanco won the Dominican Winter League MVP award and was also named the Rookie of the Year. He was the only player with an OPS over .900 in the league and led the DWL with 28 runs scored and 55 hits. Polanco is currently in the playoffs, trying to help his team come back from a 3-2 deficit in the best-of-nine series. Game six can be seen online today at 4:05 PM EST at Escogido.com. Polanco has struggled a little in the playoffs, though he reached base four times on Friday.
Next up among prospects is Alen Hanson, who joined the Dominican League late because he was playing in the Arizona Fall League. Hanson was also held back by the Extreme Fatigue rule, which limits the amount of time a player can see in Winter ball if he played too much during the regular season. Hanson was one of the handful of Pirates players that fell under that rule, so he saw action in just six late-season games and his team missed the playoffs. He went 4-for-17 at the plate with one walk and got two starts at second base. During the AFL season, Hanson was named to the Fall Stars game.
The tenth overall prospect is Harold Ramirez and he has had an outstanding Winter so far. He helped his team win the Colombian League title and now they will go on to the Latin American Series. During the regular season in Colombia, Ramirez had a .323/.426/.425 slash line in 162 plate appearances. In the playoffs, he went 5-for-17 with a homer and four RBIs in five games. It should be noted that when comparing him to the others on this list, the Colombian League is a couple steps below the Dominican and Venezuelan Leagues, though it is also better than what Ramirez saw in the NYPL this season.
Stolmy Pimentel ranked #13 on our prospect list and he figures to be a part of the Pirates bullpen in 2014, possibly seeing spot starts if necessary. He fell under the Extreme Fatigue rule due to his 178.2 innings during the regular season. Pimentel pitched just once in the Dominican League and he gave up one unearned run in 1.2 innings of relief work.
Andrew Lambo is one spot behind Pimentel in the prospect rankings. He had a rough start in the Venezuelan League, so the overall numbers were low, but there were some good signs. He was able to get into game action at first base and even when he didn’t play there during the game, he was taking ground balls. Lambo also hit well with runners in scoring position, batting .409 with 17 RBIs in 22 at-bats. The bad part was his .176 average with the bases empty and the fact he didn’t hit a single homer in 27 games.
Joely Rodriguez didn’t see much time during Winter ball, at least not in the Dominican League. The teams down there have their versions of farm teams that play in a league they call the Parallel League. A player like Rodriguez puts his time in there before he is ready for the better competition in the DWL. Very few pitchers that haven’t reached AA yet, actually see time with the big club. Rodriguez pitched one inning of relief on October 18th and gave up one run. Just for reference, Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson spent most of their time last Winter in the Parallel League.