Pirates Prospects » Winter Leagues http://www.piratesprospects.com Your best source for news on the Pittsburgh Pirates and their minor league system. Mon, 22 Dec 2014 20:12:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Winter Leagues: Playoff Teams Are Set in the Dominican http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-playoff-teams-are-set-in-the-dominican.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-playoff-teams-are-set-in-the-dominican.html#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 13:00:08 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91522 The regular season in the Dominican Republic wrapped up on Sunday. The league is now off until Saturday(12/27), when the top four teams will compete in the round robin tournament, which consists of 18 games for each team. The two best from the round robin tournament go on to a championship series and the winner of that series will head to the Caribbean Series, where they will meet the best teams from the winter leagues in Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. Below, you will find the Pittsburgh Pirates that are on the rosters of the teams competing in the Dominican League round robin tournament. Some players are just reserved to certain teams, so they may not actually appear in the playoffs. There have also been instances of players switching teams in the past from a team eliminated from the playoffs to a team that made it.

Estrellas de Oriente: Stolmy Pimentel, Gustavo Nunez

Aguilas Cibaenas: Willy Garcia, Nate Baker, Edwin Espinal

Toros del Este: Alen Hanson

Gigantes del Cibao: Carlos Paulino(free agent)

The league is going to hold a draft for the round robin tournament, where playoff teams can select players of an approved list of players from the two teams that didn’t make the playoffs. Mel Rojas Jr. and Deibinson Romero are both eligible to be picked.

Due to the Dominican League taking off until Saturday and light schedules in other leagues due to Christmas, there probably won’t be many Winter League articles until action picks back up on the weekend.

Sunday’s Action

In the Dominican on Sunday, Edwin Espinal went 1-for-4 with one RBI. He finished 8-for-18 in six games, which included a four hit game on Saturday.

Mel Rojas Jr. went 2-for-4 with a double and one RBI. He finished with a .254 average in 130 at-bats, collecting ten doubles, one triple and no homers.

Gustavo Nunez went 1-for-5 with a triple and one RBI. He committed his fifth error of the season.

Carlos Paulino went 1-for-4 with a double. He had a little trouble on defense, making his first error, allowing a passed ball and runners were 2-for-2 in stolen base attempts.

In Venezuela, Deolis Guerra threw a scoreless inning and picked up his first win of the season. He wasn’t perfect in the inning, giving up two walks and throwing a wild pitch. Guerra has made seven straight scoreless appearances totaling 6.2 innings.

Jhonathan Ramos retired the only batter he faced, stranding two inherited runners. He has an 0.59 ERA in 15.1 innings over 22 appearances.

Junior Sosa went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He is hitting .179 in his last nine games.

In Panama, 17-year-old pitcher Brian Sousa gave up a run on one hit, while recording two outs. He was signed by the Pirates for $160,000 on July 2nd, right after the international signing period began.

Edgar Munoz went 1-for-4 with a walk. In seven games, he’s hitting .385, with four doubles and six runs scored.

Ashley Ponce went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. He is 5-for-22 in the first seven games.

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Winter Leagues: Four Hits From Edwin Espinal, Rojas and Diaz Reach Base Three Times http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-four-hits-from-edwin-espinal-rojas-and-diaz-reach-base-three-times.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-four-hits-from-edwin-espinal-rojas-and-diaz-reach-base-three-times.html#comments Sun, 21 Dec 2014 14:00:56 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91507 On Saturday night in the Dominican, Edwin Espinal had a huge game. Two days earlier, the 20-year-old first baseman started for the first time this winter and collected three hits. He did himself one better in his second start, collecting four hits, scoring twice and he drove in a run. Espinal is 7-for-14 in five games. What he has done the last two starts is fairly impressive considering his age and the fact he spent the season in Low-A ball. For comparison sake, Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco, coming off their strong seasons in Low-A in 2012, went a combined 7-for-42 that winter in the Dominican.

The starter for Espinal’s team was Wandy Rodriguez, who threw four shutout innings. In the seventh inning, Nate Baker came in and threw a scoreless frame. He gave up a single, with no walks or strikeouts. Baker has given up one run in 3.2 innings over six appearances. He’s seeing limited work, but has five straight scoreless outings.

Espinal wasn’t the only one getting on base on Saturday. Mel Rojas Jr. walked twice and singled in three plate appearances. He also drove in his 11th run of the year. Rojas is hitting .246 in 40 games, with nine doubles, a triple and 16 walks.

Carlos Paulino went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. He is hitting .133 in his last nine games. He is still a free agent.

In Venezuela, Elias Diaz went 1-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored. We mentioned the other day that Diaz had three walks in his first 11 games. He has five now in his last two games. On defense, he made his second error of the year, this time on a bad throw to second base during the only stolen base attempt of the game.

Junior Sosa went 1-for-3 with a walk, RBI and run scored. He also picked up an outfield assist.

In Puerto Rico, Yhonathan Barrios was coming off two straight solid outings, but he ran into trouble on Saturday. He faced three batters, giving up one run on a single and two walks. He has ten strikeouts in 7.1 innings this winter, though that doesn’t tell the whole story. He has a 12.27 ERA and has allowed 19 base runners.

In Australia on Sunday afternoon, Sam Kennelly started his second game and went 0-for-3. He played second base on Sunday and has also seen time at shortstop and third base in the four games he’s played this off-season. He is 2-for-7 with two singles.

In Panama, Edgar Munoz went 1-for-3 with a walk, RBI and run scored. He has a 1.091 OPS through six games.

Ashley Ponce went 3-for-5 with a run scored. He came into the game with two hits in his first five games.

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Winter Leagues: Stolmy Pimentel Throws Six Shutout Innings http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-stolmy-pimentel-throws-six-shutout-innings.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-stolmy-pimentel-throws-six-shutout-innings.html#comments Sat, 20 Dec 2014 14:02:56 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91494 Friday night was a slow night for Pittsburgh Pirates news in winter league, but one big story came out of the Dominican. Stolmy Pimentel threw six shutout innings, giving up two hits, no walks and he struck out six batters. Pimentel faced one batter over the minimum. It was a big rebound game for him after he gave up five earned runs over 1.2 innings in his last start. Pimentel has a 5.06 ERA though nine starts, but that total is skewed by two poor outings. In his other seven starts, he has a 2.48 ERA over 29 innings. He has now thrown 32 innings in winter ball after throwing 32.2 innings this year for the Pirates. He also pitched 10.1 innings in the minors on a rehab assignment this year, so he is now up to 75 innings on the year.

Edwin Espinal had three hits in his first start on Thursday. On Friday, he pinch-hit for DH Manny Ramirez in the fifth inning and went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts.

Josh Wall retired all three batters he faced, one by strikeout. In four outings, he has allowed two runs over three innings.

In Venezuela, Elias Diaz went 0-for-1, but he ended up walking three times and scoring three runs. He had three walks total in his first 11 winter games. Diaz has a .162/.295/.270 slash line through 37 at-bats. In that same game, Junior Sosa was a late-game replacement in left field and he walked in his only plate appearance.

Matt Nevarez faced two batters and gave up a walk and single. For the second game in a row, a runner Nevarez left on base, scored with Jhonathan Ramos on the mound. This time it was hardly the fault of Ramos, who faced one batter and got a double play grounder that allowed the runner from third base to score.

Deolis Guerra pitched a scoreless inning, striking out one batter. He has made six straight scoreless appearances, totaling 5.2 innings. In 15 innings this winter, he has 19 strikeouts.

In Puerto Rico, Yhonathan Barrios had his second straight solid outing, throwing 1.1 scoreless innings. He allowed one hit and struck out two batters. In his last outing he threw two shutout innings, but both of these shutout performances had one downside. In each, he allowed an inherited runner to score on a wild pitch. It’s a nice turnaround for Barrios, who gave up nine earned runs in his first four innings.

In Panama, Edgar Munoz went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a walk. He has a .421/.500/.632 slash line through five games.

Ashley Ponce went 0-for-2. He is 2-for-12 with four runs scored in five games.

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Winter Leagues: Big Game From Edwin Espinal, Brian Sousa Makes His Debut http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-big-game-from-edwin-espinal-bryan-sousa-makes-his-debut.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-big-game-from-edwin-espinal-bryan-sousa-makes-his-debut.html#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:11:37 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91444 In the Dominican on Thursday night, Edwin Espinal made his first start of the season count. He went 3-for-4 with a double, a run scored and he drove in two runs. Espinal spent this season in Low-A ball, so the lack of playing time isn’t surprising considering the difference in play between Low-A and winter ball in the Dominican. He has been playing in their version of the minor leagues(called the Parallel League), so he has likely shown enough improvements to get some time with the big club. During the regular season, the 20-year-old first baseman hit .283/.327/.385 in 122 games for West Virginia.

Gustavo Nunez went 1-for-3 with two strikeouts. He is hitting .281 through 37 games despite a 4:33 BB/SO ratio.

Mel Rojas Jr. grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the tenth inning and played an inning in left field.

Carlos Paulino went 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his first home run of the season. He is hitting .260 through 27 games.

In Venezuela, Elias Diaz went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. He is hitting .167 through 11 games. In 15 games in the Arizona Fall League, Diaz had a 10:7 BB/SO ratio. In Venezuela so far, he has three walks and eight strikeouts.

Junior Sosa went 1-for-4 with a single and two strikeouts. He batted lead-off and played center field.

Matt Nevarez faced four batters, allowing one run on a double and a walk. The run scored after he left the game and the pitcher that allowed it was Jhonathan Ramos. He gave up one hit before recording the last two outs of eighth inning. Nevarez has pitched 24 innings over 26 appearances, striking out 25 batters while holding the opposition to a .155 BAA. Ramos has pitched 20 times, allowing one earned run in 14.1 innings. He is still a free agent.

Julio Vivas threw two shutout innings. He walked one and didn’t allow a hit or record a strikeout. In 13.1 innings over 14 appearances, Vivas has allowed just seven hit(.156 BAA) and the walk he issued on Thursday was his first of the season. The 21-year-old righty spent the 2014 season in the GCL so he is pitching well this winter against much tougher competition.

In Australia, Sam Kennelly singled as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and remained in the game at shortstop. He is 2-for-4 in three games this season.

In Colombia, Tito Polo scored a run in his team’s 6-2 win. Andy Vasquez scored one of the two runs for the opposition, but also made an error that led to two unearned runs. Polo hasn’t played in a couple weeks, while Vasquez has been in Colombia for a couple weeks after moving over from the Dominican league. He is currently a minor league free agent after spending eight seasons in the Pirates’ system.

In Panama, Brian Sousa made his winter debut and threw 1.2 scoreless innings, allowing one hit, while striking out two batters. He is one of the youngest Pirates players you’ll see in winter ball, turning 17 in August. Sousa signed for $160,000 on July 2nd, the first day of the international signing period. Prior to joining the Panama league, he was in the Dominican Summer League version of the Instructional League, where scouting reports had his fastball at 90-91 MPH, with good movement on his curve, but lacking control on both pitches.

Edgar Munoz went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two runs scored. In four games, he is 6-for-15 with four doubles.

Ashley Ponce went 2-for-4 with two singles, two runs scored and a walk.

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Winter Leagues: Willy Garcia Homers, Shows Improvements at the Plate http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-willy-garcia-homers-shows-improvements-at-the-plate.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-willy-garcia-homers-shows-improvements-at-the-plate.html#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:15:40 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91425 In the Dominican on Wednesday night, three Pirates players saw action for Aguilas Cibaenas. Willy Garcia went 1-for-4, with his fourth home run of the season. He is second in homers to Sebastian Valle(five) among Pirates in winter ball. He is having a winter season very similar to his regular season for Altoona, hitting .269/.314/.462 in winter VS .271/.311/.478 for Altoona.

His BB/SO numbers aren’t good in winter, though they have improved over Altoona. During the regular season, he struck out once every 3.03 at-bats, compared to once every 3.82 at-bats in winter. He has walked nine times in 140 plate appearances(once every 15.6 PA), compared to 24 walks during the year in 474 plate appearances(once every 19.8 PA). The Dominican league as a group issues more walks than the Eastern League, so that could explain the improvement in the latter, but the league also records more strikeouts than the EL, so that makes his current strikeout rate look a little better.

There is also the matter of the competition in the Dominican being slightly better than the Eastern League. He occasionally will see lesser pitchers, but a survey of the pitchers from last year showed that the average pitcher in the league would be closer to AAA than AA.

Edwin Espinal played his second game, going 0-for-2 after pinch-hitting for Manny Ramirez in the seventh inning. Espinal’s only other appearances was as a defensive replacement at first base nearly a month ago. Back in September, Espinal was one of four Pirates players that were drafted into the Dominican league. So far, he is the only one to see any playing time.

Nate Baker threw a scoreless sixth inning, retiring the side in order on three grounders. He has five appearances, giving up one run over 2.2 innings.

Josh Wall also retired the side in order in the eighth inning for Aguilas. Since joining winter ball, he has made three appearances in the last six days. Wall pitched for Indianapolis this year and he is currently a minor league free agent.

Another pitcher from Indianapolis who is a minor league free agent, saw action on Wednesday. Rafael Perez made his sixth start. He has also made nine relief appearances. Perez threw five innings, giving up three runs(one earned) on six hits and two walks, with five strikeouts.

Mel Rojas Jr. went 1-for-4 with a single and a strikeout. He is hitting .242 through 38 games, with nine doubles, a triple, no homers  and two stolen bases in three attempts. Wednesday was his first start in ten days.

Gustavo Nunez went 1-for-5 with a run scored and two strikeouts. He is hitting .279 through 36 games.

In Venezuela, Junior Sosa was the only Pirates player to see action. He went 1-for-3 with a HBP. Sosa is making up for lost time during the regular season, when he played just 12 games for Altoona. In 25 winter games, he has a .267/.353/.387 slash line.

In Australia, 18-year-old Sam Kennelly played his second game of the season. He was a defensive replacement at third base in the seventh inning. He singled in his only at-bat and scored a run.

In Panama, Edgar Munoz went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk. He also struck out twice and made his second error. He is 3-for-10 with two walks in three games.

Ashley Ponce went 0-for-2 with two walks.

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Winter Leagues: Two Doubles From Pedro Florimon, Nunez Homers http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-two-doubles-from-pedro-florimon-nunez-homers.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-two-doubles-from-pedro-florimon-nunez-homers.html#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:28:53 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91402 Monday was a very slow day in winter ball, but there were a couple players in action and a note about another to mention.

The Panama winter league started play on Monday night. Edgar Munoz batted lead-off and played third base. He went 0-for-3 with a walk. Munoz hit .259/.304/.343 in 31 games for Bristol this year. Due to power problems, only two of the four Panama league teams played on Opening Day.

In Venezuela, Deolis Guerra retired all three batters he faced, one by strikeout. Through 15 appearances, he has thrown 13 innings, posting a 5.54 ERA, with a .234 BAA and 16 strikeouts.

Carlos Esqueda has started playing in the Veracruz league. In five games, he is 1-for-11 at the plate, with a double and two runs scored. Esqueda was with the Pirates in Extended Spring Training this year until early April when they loaned him to a team in the Mexican League. They retained his rights, but it is unknown if he will return to the organization in the future. His brother Jherson Esqueda pitched for the DSL Pirates this year.

Tuesday’s Action

In the Dominican on Tuesday, Willy Garcia had a chance to be the hero of the game, but he ended the ninth inning rally for his team. After two runs in the ninth, Garcia came up with his team down by one run with runners on the corners and two outs. He grounded out to second base to end the game. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and a run scored, yet there was some good that came from this game. Garcia walked for the second game in a row, something that doesn’t happen often(just five times during the entire 2014 season). He had a six game hitting streak prior to Tuesday.

Gustavo Nunez hit his third homer. He went 2-for-4, scoring twice and driving in two runs. He is hitting .282 through 35 games, with 13 extra-base hits and seven stolen bases in eight attempts. The downside is his 4:29 BB/SO ratio in 131 at-bats. Nunez went three weeks without an extra-base hit after signing with the Pirates back in November. On Sunday, he broke that streak with a double. Nunez put up decent numbers this year in the minors for the Braves, though they came with the caveat that he was a 26-year-old in AA. He batted .301/.353/.373 in 97 games and saw action at six different positions. Nunez was the Pirates Rule 5 pick in December 2011 and came back to the team as a minor league free agent.

Pedro Florimon went 2-for-3 with two doubles, a walk and a run scored. He had just one double in his first 88 at-bats. Florimon committed his sixth error of the season and third in his last two games. He is hitting .353 in his last ten games. In 27 winter games, he has a .253/.299/.341 slash line. Just like Willy Garcia and Gustavo Nunez, Florimon is having trouble in the BB/SO area, posting a 6:25 ratio. That is something that has followed him his whole career. While he does seem to have a great chance at the backup infield spot on Opening Day due to defense, his hitting in the majors has never been strong. In 214 games over the last four seasons, he has a .204/.266/.300 slash line.

Carlos Paulino went 0-for-4, dropping his average down to .262 through 26 games. He is 3-for-23 in his last seven games.

In Mexico, it was announced that Sebastian Valle would miss at least a few games with a finger injury. He hurt his hand during the third inning of Sunday’s game and had to leave early. He is hitting .303/.379/.477 in 39 games. He is expected to return to action later this week.

In Panama, Edgar Munoz went 2-for-4 with two doubles, a run scored and an RBI.

Ashley Ponce made his season debut and went 0-for-4. He played second base and batted second.

One transaction of note. Ramon Cabrera signed a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates released him back in late November to make room on the 40-man roster to protect players from the Rule 5 draft.

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Winter Leagues: Alen Hanson Makes a Brief Return to the Lineup, Valle Leaves With Hand Injury http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-alen-hanson-makes-a-brief-return-to-the-lineup-valle-leaves-with-hand-injury.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-alen-hanson-makes-a-brief-return-to-the-lineup-valle-leaves-with-hand-injury.html#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 13:00:40 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91359 On Sunday night in the Dominican, Alen Hanson returned after missing seven weeks due to a right hand injury suffered when he was hit by a pitch. His return to the lineup didn’t last long though. After playing second base in the first inning(handling one grounder) and then grounding out to third base in the bottom of the inning, Hanson was replaced on defense to start the second. I was told during the game that he was under the weather from a stomach bug, which is good news since it doesn’t relate to the hand injury.

Pedro Florimon hit a triple during what  was otherwise a tough game. He went 1-for-5, struck out twice and made two errors at shortstop.

Willy Garcia went 1-for-3 with an RBI double, a walk and a strikeout. The double was his 13th of the season, which leads the Dominican league.

Mel Rojas Jr. had an RBI double as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning. Earlier in the season, Rojas had a streak of five straight games with a double, which ended on November 15th. The double he hit on Sunday was his first extra-base hit since the streak ended.

Speaking of breaking a long extra-base hit drought, Gustavo Nunez hit his first double since joining the Pirates nearly three weeks ago. He went 3-for-6, scored twice and drove in three runs.

The Aguilas/Tigres game had two pitchers of note, both currently free agents. Wandy Rodriguez started the game, his first start in a game that counts since May 21st for the Pirates. He has been building up his arm against younger players in the Dominican during the last month, preparing to enter the Dominican winter league. He went three innings, allowing one run on two hits, with one walk and three strikeouts. One of the relievers for Rodriguez was Josh Wall, who spent most of the season pitching at AAA Indianapolis this year. It was the second outing for Wall, who allowed a run on two hits and a walk without retiring a batter.

In Venezuela, Deolis Guerra retired all three batters he faced, getting a ground out and two strikeouts. In 12 innings over 14 appearances, he has a 6.00 ERA, though he has also recorded 15 strikeouts.

Junior Sosa went 1-for-5 with a single, as his team blew an early 8-0 lead, losing 14-9 while committing six errors. In that same game, Julio Vivas pitched one inning, allowing a run on two hits. He has a 1.64 ERA through 12 appearances.

In Puerto Rico, Yhonathan Barrios threw two shutout innings, giving up no hits, one walk(which was intentional) and striking out three batters. His only mistake was a wild pitch that allowed an inherited run to score. Prior to Sunday, he really struggled in his first four outings, allowing nine earned runs on 13 hits in four innings.

In Mexico, Sebastian Valle went 0-for-1 before being taken out of the game for a defensive replacement during the bottom of the third inning. He left with a hand injury and the only early word was that there was no fracture. We will post an update in this article if there is any new information during the day.

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Winter Leagues: Sebastian Valle Collects Three Hits, Harold Ramirez Named to All-Star Team http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-sebastian-valle-collects-three-hits-harold-ramirez-named-to-all-star-team.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-sebastian-valle-collects-three-hits-harold-ramirez-named-to-all-star-team.html#comments Sun, 14 Dec 2014 15:18:10 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91350 In Mexico on Saturday, Sebastian Valle went 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI. When the Pirates signed him three weeks ago, he had a .534 OPS through his first 20 games. Valle has now played 18 games since signing and he has raised his season OPS 330 points during that time. While his plate appearances fall short of qualifying for league leaders, his OPS would rank him eighth best in the league.

Valle actually played well in winter ball last year in Mexico, posting a .784 OPS in 46 games, but there is a big difference between this year and last year. One of his biggest issues during his minor league career has been a lack of walks and a slightly high strikeout rate. Because these guys are playing winter ball for three months, it’s not a small sample size and allows you to see improvements from one year to the next. In 138 at-bats last year, Valle had nine walks and 30 strikeouts. This year in 108 at-bats, he has 12 walks and 19 strikeouts, showing obvious improvements in both areas.

The ratios from last year are more in line with his career stats, so it’s possible that this 24-year-old catcher, who was once a top prospect in the Phillies system, is now making an adjustment and turning a corner in his career.

In action from Venezuela, Junior Sosa went 1-for-3 with a single. He has a .269/.355/.403 slash line in 23 games.

Matt Nevarez was charged with a blown save in his team’s 3-2 loss. He came into the game in the eighth inning with a man on first and one out. Nevarez faced four batters, allowing a double and two walks(one was intentional). The inherited runner he allowed to score was charged to Jhonathan Ramos, who retired the first three batters he faced before the fourth reached on an error. The run was unearned. Ramos remains a free agent, but he has pitched well this winter. In 19 appearances, he has an 0.66 ERA and a .180 BAA.

In the Dominican, Mel Rojas Jr. was the only Pirates player to see action and he was used as a pinch-hitter. He popped out to third base in the ninth inning of his team’s 6-3 loss. Rojas has struggled during winter and while that may have helped keep him with the Pirates during the Rule 5 draft, it’s also not a good sign. In 35 games, he is hitting .237/.326/.322. He’s been dropped to the bottom of the batting order and he’s seeing less playing time recently.

In Colombia, they held their All-Star weekend on Friday and Saturday. Harold Ramirez has only played a handful of games, but he was the lone representative of the Pirates in the game. On the season, he is 4-for-14 with four walks and he’s been hit four times. He has a .902 OPS.

Andy Vasquez took part in the Home Run Derby, losing in the first round after he was one of four players to hit just one homer. Vasquez is a free agent after spending eight seasons in the Pirates system.

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Winter Leagues: High-Priced International Signing Among Pirates Playing in Panama http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-high-priced-international-signing-among-pirates-playing-in-panama.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-high-priced-international-signing-among-pirates-playing-in-panama.html#comments Sat, 13 Dec 2014 14:43:51 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91325 The final winter league to start play this year(and every year) is the Panama League. The rosters have been released and three Pittsburgh Pirates players are on the active rosters, while another is listed as a reserve. There is one very interesting name among this group, 17-year-old right-handed pitcher Brian Sousa. He signed for $160,000 on July 2nd, as soon as the international signing period began. That total might not seem very high, but the Pirates haven’t spent a lot on international pitchers, an area where they go for quantity over price tag. That $160,000 bonus is the second highest for a pitcher this year and not far off the $190,000 Hector Garcia got last year, which represents the second highest bonus by the Pirates for an international amateur pitcher behind Luis Heredia. Yoslan Herrera and Cesar Lopez also got higher bonuses, but both were older players out of Cuba, so they really don’t fit in with the 16-17 year old amateurs signed during the July 2nd signing period.

Sousa will pitch for Indios de Urraca during the Panama winter league, which begins play on Monday. Last week, he was finishing up at the Pirates Dominican academy, playing in the Dominican Instructional League(equal to Fall instructs for the DSL players). Sousa actually saw some brief action in the Panama winter league last year when he was just 16 years old. He was one of the few names connected to the Pirates before the July 2nd signing period began and a couple sources out of Panama called him the best pitcher in this year’s signing class.

Also listed on the Indios roster is Ulises Montilla, who played in the league last year. He is on the reserve roster and it’s possible that he doesn’t play in the league this year. He suffered a severe lower leg injury back in June while playing for Bristol and might not be able to play yet. Two infielders from the Pirates are also on active rosters in Panama, Edgar Munoz and Ashley Ponce. The Panama league is the second-tier among Caribbean leagues. While the big tournament takes place between Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico and the Dominican, a second group of four leagues from Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua and Veracruz(Mexico) also play a postseason round robin tournament.

Now to action on the field and there wasn’t much yesterday. In Venezuela on Friday night, Elias Diaz went 0-for-3 with a walk, RBI and run scored. He is hitting .182/.270/.303 through his first ten games.

Deolis Guerra threw a scoreless eighth inning, giving up an infield single to Delwyn Young. The hit was followed by a failed sacrifice bunt attempt and a double play line out to first base.

In Mexico, Sebastian Valle went 0-for-3, his first start without a hit in over two weeks. With the score one-sided, he left for a defensive replacement in the eighth inning.

We mentioned the other day that Alen Hanson took batting practice in Bradenton and had no issues with his injured right hand. He has been cleared to play winter ball and could return to the Toros del Este lineup as early as Sunday.

There wasn’t much news on the field in the Dominican and all of it was from recent Pirates players no longer in the system. Joely Rodriguez made his first star since being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies and gave up three earned runs in four innings. He allowed six hits, two homers, no walks and struck out five batters. I was told two weeks ago that this was scheduled to be the last start of the winter for Rodriguez. Since he is out of the system now, this will be the last mention of him in the winter league articles, even if he does make another start.

Two minor league free agent from the Pirates saw action. Carlos Paulino went 0-for-5 and Josh Wall made his winter debut. He allowed one run(solo homer) on two hits and he had one strikeout. He spent most of the regular season pitching at Indianapolis.

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Winter Leagues: Sam Kennelly Makes Debut in Australia, Julio Vivas Impressing in Venezuela http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-sam-kennelly-makes-debut-in-australia-julio-vivas-impressing-in-venezuela.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/winter-leagues-sam-kennelly-makes-debut-in-australia-julio-vivas-impressing-in-venezuela.html#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 14:15:04 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91279 In Australia on Friday, Sam Kennelly made his season debut and went 0-for-2 before being pinch-hit for in the eighth inning. He played second base and handled all three chances in the field cleanly. Kennelly signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012 for $225,000 and at 18 years old, he is one of the youngest players in the Australian Baseball League. What stands out about that is that this is his third year playing in the league. Last year in the ABL, he saw time at all four infield positions. Kennelly looked good in the Gulf Coast League this year, posting a .284/.388/.343 slash line in 30 games. He reached base safely via walk/hit/HBP in 28 of those games and in one of the other two games, he scored a run after reaching on a fielder’s choice.

On Thursday night in the Dominican, Willy Garcia went 1-for-5 with an RBI single and a run scored. He has hits in eight of his last nine games. Prior to the streak, he had the lowest OBP in the Dominican League among players with enough plate appearances to qualify for the league leaders. A .400 average over the last nine games has helped raise his OBP to .315 through 35 games.

Nate Baker faced one batter and issued a walk. In four appearances, he has thrown 1.2 innings, giving up one run.

Gustavo Nunez went 2-for-5 with two singles. He still hasn’t collected an extra-base hit in 13 games since signing with the Pirates. In his previous 22 games, he had nine doubles and two homers. Nunez is hitting .259, but has only walked four times, so his .279 OBP actually ranks him last in the league, the spot recently held by Willy Garcia.

Carlos Paulino went 1-for-4 with a run scored. The free agent catcher is hitting .300 through 24 games.

In Venezuela, Elias Diaz went 1-for-4 with a single and run scored in his team’s 12-0 win. He raised his average to .200 through eight games.

Junior Sosa was 0-for-3 with a walk and run scored.

Julio Vivas is perhaps having the most impressive winter of any Pirates player. On Thursday, he retired the side in order, picking up one strikeout. Vivas has pitched 11 times, giving up one run on five hits and no walks in ten innings. The impressive part is that he spent the season in the Gulf Coast League, so he is facing competition well above what he saw during the regular season. Also he is seeing sporadic action over two months now, which usually doesn’t lead to success for young pitchers, but he hasn’t had one bad outing. Finally, one scoreless inning might not seem like much, but his team lost 19-7 on Thursday, so he shut down a team that was putting runs on the board all night.

Back in late July, we posted video of Vivas pitching in the GCL, which can be found here. In that article, I mentioned that he was in Venezuela last winter, but he never pitched. Coming off a season in the DSL, that isn’t a surprise, but it shows the progress he has made since last year. Pitchers usually don’t see as much time as he has until they at least reach High-A ball and a large majority(90% would be a safe estimate) in the league have experience ranging from AA to the Majors. It will be interesting to see how the Pirates handle him in 2015, where he ends up pitching and if he returns to a starting role. At his size, he should be able to handle the workload, but he is having tremendous success as a reliever.

In Mexico, Sebastian Valle had a quiet game by his recent standards. He went 1-for-4 with a single. In his last ten games, he has a .406/.486/.750 slash line. After a very slow start this winter, his season stats are .294/.376/.471 through 36 games. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify for the league leaders, Valle would rank 7th in the league in OPS.

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