The DSL Pirates had a great month of July, posting a 17-9 record. Unfortunately for their playoff chances, they finished June with an 8-18 record and lost their first two games in August. As for the month of July, the Pirates had three starting pitchers that really stood out. While deciding the Pitcher of the Month, it was a tough choice between Richard Mitchell, Luis Escobar and All-Star Yeudy Garcia. All three of them made five starts and had an ERA of 1.57 or less. As for the Hitter of the Month, All-Star second baseman Raul Siri ran away with the award.
We ended up picking Richard Mitchell for the top pitcher, but Garcia and Escobar both made a strong case. The two runner-ups are both hard-throwing righties, while Mitchell won with impeccable control and pitching to contact. Garcia was featured here and has pitched even better since that article came out. He had an 0.76 ERA in 23.2 innings over five July starts. Garcia picked up 17 strikeouts and continued to get ground balls at a high rate. On the year, he has thrown 47.2 innings, posting a 13/37 BB/SO ratio, with a very impressive 3.08 GO/AO ratio and not surprisingly, he hasn’t allowed a home run.
Luis Escobar may have been the best pitcher in July up until his last start, when he allowed two earned runs over four innings and issued four walks. He had a 1.57 ERA over 23 innings during the month and held batters to a .158 BAA. After allowing ten earned runs in his second start as a pro, Escobar has given up 12 earned runs over his next nine starts combined. He came into this year as a raw pitcher due to the fact he was still playing third base two years ago, so the pace in which he has picked up pitching is quite impressive. Like Garcia, who can touch 95 regularly as a starter, he throws hard too. Escobar was hitting 94 MPH prior to the start of the season, which is one of the main reasons he moved over from third base.
Mitchell Outshines the Rest
Richard Mitchell is in his third season in the DSL, although it should be noted that he just turned 19 days ago. This is his first year as a starter and it took him some time to get used to the expanded role. He had a 5.40 ERA in five June starts, though he still put up decent results in three of those games. Mitchell broke out in July and carried that over into his first August start. In July, he completed all five of his starts in the sense that DSL pitchers are limited to five innings or 75 pitches and can’t top 30 pitches in a single inning. No Pirates starter has completed more of their innings than Mitchell this year. He had a 1.08 ERA during the month, holding batters to a .211 average while issuing just three walks, giving him an 0.92 WHIP. He also had a perfect record, going 4-0, which by itself is more wins than any other pitcher on the staff has this year. On the season, he has walked just 13 batters, held hitters to a .214 average and hasn’t allowed a home run.
Mitchell has been more consistent recently and according to someone who has been watching the team all year, his improvements come from his ability to keep the ball down in the zone more often. Early in the year, he was leaving pitches up occasionally, which led to more damage. Since late June, he has been pounding the lower half of the strike zone, going heavy with a fastball that hits 91 MPH, which he has excellent command of, hitting both sides of the plate. His change-up has also shown improvements and now looks like his second best pitch, though his curve isn’t bad as well. I’m told that his curve has a big break, but it’s more of a sweeping action like a slider, rather than over the top like a 12-to-6 curve. He has also held up well in all of his starts, throwing just as hard and consistent in the fifth inning as he did in the first.
The important part for his success is the terrific fastball command and ability to use his change-up in key spots, which will help him move up the ladder a little faster. The Pirates moved some of the more advanced 2013 DSL players to Bristol this season, having them skip the GCL, and Mitchell could be on the same path next year. He has taken to the Pirates way of pitching and credits the team philosophy for his recent performance.
Mitchell said of his month of July “I always believe in the process and trust the coaches. I pitch to contact no matter what happens.”
That last part is important, because it seems like pitching to contact got him in some trouble early in the year, but getting his pitches down and filling the strike zone has allowed him to put together a run of seven straight strong outings.
Siri Has Performed Well All Year
Raul Siri had been the top hitter on the Pirates since day one this season. During July, he hit .318/.430/.500 in 110 plate appearances, easily best among all Pirates players. During the All-Star game in the middle of the month, he took home the MVP honors. On the season, he is hitting .317/.421/.523 in 54 games. He has played every game this year and has reached base at least once in 48 games. Siri ranks fifth in the DSL in OPS, seventh in slugging and first with 19 doubles and 104 total bases. We did a feature profile on Siri a couple weeks ago, with scouting reports from four people close to the teams.
His prospect status was questioned early on due to his age(20), the fact he didn’t get any press(or high bonus) when he signed and he is small at 5’9″, 175 pounds. He has shown he can hit and if you check out the link with the scouting reports, most believe he is a well-rounded player. I was told recently that injury issues were part of the reason his signing was delayed. While that answers the late-signing question, it brings up another issue that has to do with his size and whether he can handle the wear and tear over a full season. So far, the early results are very positive and Siri has moved into the top prospect discussions, placing somewhere in the top seven spots. That is a big jump for someone who was a virtual unknown coming into the season.
The Rest of the Best
One injury to report from the last week. Catcher Mikell Granberry hurt his back and will be out 1-2 weeks. He had a strong month of July, posting a .795 OPS in 51 at-bats and showing improvements with his defense. The season has just 18 games left, so he won’t be getting in much time before it ends.
The top three bonus players from last year’s July 2nd signing period were all over the place this July. Edison Lantigua hit .312/.349/.455 in 19 games and drove home 16 runs. He had a tough ending to his month, falling ill during Thursday’s game and missing the last two games of the week due to dehydration. He’s probably going to miss the beginning of this upcoming week as well.
Shortstop Adrian Valerio hit .259/.315/.346 in 19 games, which was pretty close to his month of June in which he put up a .663 OPS, doing that with a slightly lower average, but showing more power. Valerio will get far due to his amazing defense, but he will only go as far as his bat takes him.
Right fielder Jeremias Portorreal had a tough month, hitting .173/.279/.267 in 88 plate appearances. He started the year as the top prospect on the team and it’s hard to get too down on a player that turns 17 in four days, showing just how young he is this season. Not much has gone right for him though, so his high ranking is based more on his potential, rather than any performance he has shown. Portorreal has a .567 OPS this year and leads all Pirates hitters with 58 strikeouts.
Finally, infielder Luis Perez had a strong July, hitting .340/.507/.380 in 20 games. He hasn’t been mentioned here, because he wasn’t playing much early in the season. Perez was part of a mass signing last year(that included Siri), with no scouting report and until a few days ago, his age wasn’t even listed on his MiLB.com page. When we found out a few weeks ago that he was already 20 years old, that took some luster off his season, which is his first in pro ball. If Perez finishes August like he July, then he will definitely get more prospect consideration, but right now he is still outside the top ten.