Last weekend, we talked about the DSL Pirates breaking a nine game losing streak and how bad the pitching has been early on, especially out of the bullpen. After finishing last week with a win, the Pirates went 4-2 this week and got some great starting pitching. One of the losses this week was strictly on the bullpen, which gave up seven runs over the last two innings. Since the bullpen usually consists of fillers at the back end, it’s a loss you can accept as far as prospects go. While you always want to see the team win, the more important things are the performances of the prospects and how they are progressing.
With that in mind, we start with the team’s top prospect, Jeremias Portorreal, who hit his second homer of the season, but continued to struggle at the plate. He hit .167 this week, with three walks and eight strikeouts in 21 plate appearances. Portorreal has a .185/.324/.272 through his first 27 games. It’s important to remember that he is still only 16 years old.
The second best hitting prospect is left fielder Edison Lantigua. He hit .273 this week, though it came with a change from his early trends. Lantigua had 17 walks in his first 19 games, striking out 15 times. This week, he walked just once and struck out six times. He has a .784 OPS due to the high walk total and eight extra-base hits.
Shortstop Adrian Valerio seems to get the most attention of any Pirates player in the Dominican due to his outstanding glove and the fact he has the potential to not only stick at shortstop, he will be a plus defender at the position. With that in mind, the focus has been on his bat, which could be what holds him back from reaching that potential in the Majors. Valerio hit .211 this week, collecting three doubles. The extra-base hits are great to see, because many of the lesser hitters down there just try to put the ball in play and don’t hit for any power. Valerio has 11 doubles and a homer in 108 at-bats. He is also making decent contact, with 18 strikeouts, meaning he isn’t over-matched. That likely means that he makes the jump to the States after one year, where fans down in Bradenton can get their first look at the defensive wizard, who turned 17 in March.
Speedy outfielder Victor Fernandez returned to the lineup after missing two weeks with a hamstring issue. He played for the first time on Saturday and stole two bases, giving him nine steals on the season. Talking to a couple pitchers, they were excited to have him back because he covers a tremendous amount of ground in center field. All the reports I’ve received on him say that Fernandez has game-changing speed on the bases and in the outfield.
Some others of note this week include second baseman Raul Siri, who had a nice bounce back after struggling last week. He hit .333 with three doubles and five walks, giving him the highest OPS this week among DSL Pirates. Outfielder Sandy Santos hit .375 this week, helping him raise his OPS to .712 this season. He is seeing as much playing time as anyone on the team, getting into 29 of the 31 games. Third baseman Johan De Jesus hit .273 this week. His overall numbers are still lacking, but he is still young despite spending all of last year in the DSL. De Jesus turns 18 next month. He does have some strong points this year, with 19 walks and 6-for-6 in stolen bases. Outfielder Eliezer Ramirez went 5-for-10 in his limited playing time this week. He’s hitting .257 through 15 games.
Strong Starting Pitching This Week
Pitcher Yeudy Garcia is an interesting case when trying to figure out prospects in the Dominican League. He has good size for a pitcher, standing 6’3″ and while he is listed at 185 pounds, he seems to have filled out a little already judging by recent pictures. In his first season, he is showing excellent control, picking up strikeouts, getting good results and his 4.00 GO/AO ratio is outstanding to say the least. Those numbers suggest he is a prospect and one other number helps his case, he hits 95 MPH as a starter.
So why would I question a rookie with all that going for him? Well, he’s already 21 years old in a league where the average age for pitchers this season is 19.0 years old. It’s certainly possible that he could be a late-bloomer, but it’s rare that someone signs at his age and makes an impact. The stuff and results are there and the Pirates showed they had no problem moving a pitcher directly from the DSL to Bristol this year, so if Garcia is a legit prospect, I’d expect to see the same move with him next year.
We got a quote on Garcia from someone that has caught him recently, saying “For me he is one of the best pitchers in the league. His fast ball is powerful and dominating and he has good separation in speed(with his other pitches). He is one of the best and most consistent pitchers here.”
Pitcher Luis Escobar is the top prospect on the pitching side for the Pirates. The 18-year-old from Colombia started off slow in his career, though that shouldn’t have set off any red flags. Less than two years ago, he was converted from third base to the pitching mound. The Pirates signed him after he got his fastball up to 94 MPH. He had a couple poor outings early, failing to get through five innings of work(DSL maximum for Pirates pitchers) in each of his first four games. Last week it looked like he was turning things around, and this week he had his best outing of his young career.
Escobar got two starts this week, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk over five innings in his first game. He went again on Saturday and threw five shutout innings, giving up just one hit. In 28 innings this year, he has a .266 BAA and 19 strikeouts.
Richard Mitchell matched Escobar with five shutout innings in his only start this week. He’s in his third season in the league, but he is still 18 years old. Mitchell also threw five shutout innings in his season debut. He has had some rough starts this season and the strikeout rate is extremely low, though that is in part due to him sticking to the Pirates game plan. Mitchell throw a lot of first pitch strikes and pitches to contact, keeping his pitch count low. Twice he has completed his five innings of work on 63 pitches. In his six starts, he has thrown 28.1 of a maximum 30 innings.
A couple weeks ago, we talked to reliever Carlos Bustamante, getting a scouting report on the young pitcher from Mexico. Since then, he has been lights out on the mound, giving up one run over 10.2 innings. On Tuesday, he went four innings for the first time, a total you rarely see out of the bullpen, since their pitch limit is usually 45 pitches. He went again yesterday and threw two shutout innings. Bustamante had some early control issues which haven’t popped up the last two weeks, allowing one walk in his four outings, after issuing 11 free passes in his first five games.