Prospect Highlights: A Pirates First Baseman With a Rare Talent

The GCL Pirates have a first baseman in his fourth year of pro ball that displays a talent rarely seen in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ system. I’ve pointed out a couple times during the year, that Altoona super-utility player Drew Maggi was the only hitter in the system, with significant at-bats, who had more walks than strikeouts. He recently slipped just under even, with 38 walks and 39 strikeouts right now. Down in the GCL this year, Carlos Munoz has a 17/7 BB/SO ratio through 22 games. While it’s too early to mention his ratio in the same breath as Maggi, who has played all season, this isn’t something new for Munoz.

Back in 2011 when the Pirates still had a minor league team in Venezuela, Carlos Munoz made his debut right around his 17th birthday. He was one of the youngest players in the league, so I called him an interesting player to watch based solely on his age and the fact he got playing time. The next year, he and everyone else from the VSL, moved to the Dominican Summer League, where he saw much more playing time. Munoz hit .261 in 47 games, and while he didn’t show the power you would like to see from a first baseman, he was still 17 years old when the season opened and he put up an impressive 40/18 BB/SO ratio.

In his third season, Munoz put together a little bit of everything, making the All-Star team, hitting for average, power and once again, his incredible plate patience was on display. He had a .319 average, 21 extra-base hits and a 54/27 BB/SO ratio. That earned him a trip to the United States for Spring Training this year and the clean-up spot in the batting order for the GCL Pirates. Besides the great SO/BB ratio this year, he has a .292/.427/.431 triple slash line.

Below are five videos of Munoz courtesy of the GCL Pirates fan page. You can get a good look at one of the best pure hitters in the Pirates system, displaying that rare plate patience that holds so many hitters back. His body type could be a concern and his second half last year was well off the pace he set in the first half, so that is something to watch this year as the GCL season winds down in the August Bradenton heat. Despite the size, as you can see in the videos below, two people that have scouted the team recently, commented that he moved surprisingly well.

Video #2

Video #3

Video #4

Video #5

 

John Dreker

Author: John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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  • Michael Shaeffer

    I love walks. Ball Four doesn’t get caught.

  • leadoff

    Looks more like a catcher to me. His walks right now don’t interest me much, he will get a lot of strikes thrown to him as he goes up the ladder.

    • freddylang

      When the walks to k’s are as good as his have been it shows uncanny eye and patience that could mean he is a special hitter. We’ll see what happens when he faces better pitching. Hopefully his batspeed improves. Getting in better shape couldn’t hurt.

  • duckwoes

    Good stuff John, thanks. I always think what a grind it must be in the complex leagues. For the players yes, but I always reflect on the umpires in these highlights. So far away from their ultimate goal!!

  • R Edwards

    From a first baseman, I want to see extra base power, HR power, and RBI production. Walks are nice, for a leadoff batter or middle infielder.

    • John Dreker

      He’s hitting .292 and has a .431 OPS, so it’s not like he’s just drawing walks and that’s it. I’m not sure you fully appreciate how difficult it is to have twice as many walks as strikeouts. That takes great plate patience, a great eye/understanding of the strike zone and it has to be a player that makes a lot of contact. That’s a difficult combination to get in any young player, but especially difficult from one that shows some power. For comparison, here is the complete list of players with twice as many walks as strikeouts in the Pirates system since 2012.
      Carlos Munoz, 2014
      Carlos Munoz, 2013
      Carlos Munoz, 2012

      That’s it.

      • R Edwards

        John – I do understand the rarity of guys who draw more walks, as opposed to strikeouts. I’m not totally dismissing that. But, from a first baseman prospect, I’d rather see the other things more than walks – home runs, extra base hits, RBIs, good average, etc. If he also draws some walks and is patient at the plate as well, that is an added bonus.

        I’ve seen enough of Ike Davis to know that drawings walks and hitting singles is fine for a second baseman, but not for a first baseman.

        • John Dreker

          He hit .319 with a .914 OPS last year and .292 with an .858 OPS this year(he’s already 2-for-2 with a double today as well), so not sure how he isn’t filling those needs as well? Those seem like pretty good numbers. If you like RBIs, he’s leading the GCL Pirates with 14

          • R Edwards

            You are missing my point John – and I probably was not clear. I was not saying anything specific to this particular prospect – he may be in fact a very good first base prospect. To be honest, I don’t know much about him.

            My comments had to do with the subject in general – which seemed to suggest that drawing walks was the “be all, end all”. I was just saying, for a first base prospect, I would be more concerned with the other stats that i already mentioned.

            • John Dreker

              Okay, so I see what you are getting at. I think you’re over-analyzing the article then. It’s a highlight article, showing a unique skill among players in this organization, so of course it’s going to focus on his walks. I really didn’t give an opinion on his prospect status because I don’t have a strong opinion yet. I want to see if he plays well the whole year, or drops off again before I really judge him. The focus was really just the walks vs strikeouts and then letting people see five of his plate appearances

    • leowalter

      Nobody on here seems to get the point that plate discipline is the most difficult skill to get across to all young players. All the HR power etc. means nothing if a kid is constantly chasing and refuses to listen. Ask Joey Gallo what he has learned about that subject.

  • CTBucco

    Nice look at the youngster. He appears to have that great mix of patience and the hand-eye coordination to put the bat on the ball a lot. Those are two of the key ingredients for the development of power, which, hopefully, we’ll see more of as he moves up through the system. I’m most encouraged to see a 1B prospect with a very good hit tool and patience.