Week three of the DSL season was not kind to the Pirates club. They lost five in a row after winning 13-2 on Monday. They were outscored 36-15 in those games and once again, the pitching has been the biggest problem for the team, especially the bullpen. Below, you will find the week in review and some thoughts on the early season, starting with the top prospects on offense.
Right fielder Jeremias Portorreal had his six game hit streak snapped on Saturday. Despite the streak, which started last week, he went 4-for-17 this week and struck out five times. Portorreal is still just 16 years old(born 8/7/97), so just the fact that he is playing everyday in this league says a lot about him. He has a .218/.328/.309 slash line through 55 at-bats. Even with a slow start, and some other players hitting well, he is still the top prospect on the Pirates team.
Adrian Valerio had a big week last week, but this week was a tough one for the young shortstop. He went 1-for-18 in five games after collecting nine hits last week. He has made seven errors already, though the reports on his defense keeps getting better. Numerous sources have told me how well he plays shortstop, with the last one on Saturday saying “He covers a lot of ground, has a very good arm and very good hands.”
Left fielder Edison Lantigua had a decent week, going 4-for-17 just like Portorreal, but he did it while hitting two doubles and drawing five walks. Lantigua has a .220/.385/.340 in 50 at-bats, with 13 walks. He ranks slightly behind Portorreal on the prospect charts. Lantigua was signed to a $275k bonus last year. He is seven months older than Portorreal, which means a lot more at their current stage of development. Both are left-handed hitters and at 6’0″, 175 pounds, Lantigua still has plenty of filling out to do, while Portorreal is 6’3″, 195 pounds and he’s projected to hit for more power. The early walk total is a good sign for Lantigua, showing strong plate patience at a young age.
Second baseman Raul Siri has been the best hitter this year and he had another nice week, hitting .348 with a .950 OPS in 28 plate appearances. He is a 19-year-old rookie that doesn’t have much size, plus he is struggled a bit on defense, so right now it’s tough to get too high on him. Last year, the team had an infielder named Pablo Reyes, who did nothing but hit well and he moved up to Bristol this year. Siri could definitely follow in his footsteps if he continues to hit like he has the first three weeks.
Catcher Mikell Granberry had a solid week at the plate, but behind the plate he has not lived up to the hype. The initial scouting reports on his defense were good, but a couple first-hand reports I got during the Dominican Spring Training, called him raw behind the plate. The latter seems correct. On Saturday, he made his fourth error and allowed two stolen bases in two attempts. Runners are 31-for-35 against him in steals this season, putting Granberry well below the rest of the catchers on the team in that category. His bat has been solid and he’s getting the bulk of the playing time for now, so we will see if he makes the necessary improvements as the season progresses.
Eliezer Ramirez signed a six-figure bonus last year, yet the young outfielder hasn’t seen much playing time. In 19 plate appearances, he’s gone 3-for-14 with a double and five walks. The outfield is crowded with Portorreal and Lantigua seeing regular action, leaving little playing time for the other three outfielders. Ramirez is also a bit raw and he knows he has to put in the work to succeed.
Ramirez says that when he isn’t playing, “Im always focused on working hard to improve. With hard work, everything can be accomplished.” On the days he doesn’t play, he spends time working in the batting cages with DSL hitting coach Johe Acosta, who he credits with helping him the most. Ramirez also works on getting stronger, so the focus/desire is there for the young player, who has a great attitude towards the game despite doing more watching than playing at this time. With the bonus he received, his time will soon come.
On the pitching side, Luis Escobar and Richard Mitchell might be the two top prospects, but two other new pitchers have shown some strong velocity numbers this year. Starter Yeudy Garcia has made four starts this year and thrown five shutout innings in two of them. The 6’3″ righty is already 21 years old, which is old for the DSL, and especially old for a rookie. That being said, reports have him hitting 95 MPH, which has helped him collect 17 strikeouts in 19 innings. He has also shown excellent control, walking just four batters. Reliever Edgar Santana is a year older than Garcia and also a rookie, who has thrown just one inning. He is an intriguing arm because he has hit 96 MPH with his fastball and he has a plus slider.
Richard Mitchell had a solid start of Monday, then got hit around on Saturday. Talking to him last weekend, he stressed that he has been concentrating on throwing first pitch strikes and pitching to contact, the latter would explain his low strikeout rate on the season, but it’s also produced two poor outings this year. He is still young and it’s his first go-around as a starter, so it’s a learning experience for him.
At age 18, with a fastball that reaches 94 MPH, Luis Escobar is the top prospect on the team, but he has experienced some growing pains his rookie season. His last two starts have been his two best starts, with his outing this week being the better one overall. He still hasn’t been able to make in through five innings in any start, so there is still plenty of work to be done before we consider him to have turned a corner. Escobar has an 11.77 ERA, but ten of his runs allowed came in his shortest outing and he’s given up seven earned runs combined over his other three starts.
Getting To Know Carlos Bustamante
Pitcher Armando Carlos Bustamante was signed by the Pirates last October out of Mexico. He was one of three players signed at the same time and the Pirates believed the 18-year-old, 6’0″ righty showed considerable potential. They scouted Bustamante for several months before signing him.
The current scouting report on Bustamante has him throwing his fastball in the 86-89 MPH range, with a 79-80 MPH change-up and a slider that sits in the high 70′s. Bustamante calls the slider his best pitch at this time. Like most pitchers in the Pirates system, he is working on fastball command, pitching to contact for quick outs and throwing his fastball downhill, keeping the ball down in the zone. Bustamante has seen considerable improvements in his game and credits coaches Dan Urbina and Jairo Cuevas for helping him so much.
Bustamante is currently pitching in relief, throwing 3.1 innings once and three frames another time. He has had some control issues, giving up 11 walks in 10.2 innings, although he didn’t walk anyone in his 3.1 innings appearance. Bustamante will pitch on Monday and will likely see multiple innings again. Last year, relievers were on a 45 pitch limit in the DSL, so he should be on the same limit. Starters get stretched out to five innings or 75 pitches.