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Sunday, November 27, 2022

DSL Season Wrap-up Part One: The Pitchers

The DSL season just wrapped up yesterday with an 8-3 loss to the Rays team, but overall it has to be considered a successful year for the team. They finished 3 games over .500 at 37-34 which was a 6 game improvement over last year (8 in the win column). They also did it with a huge roster turnover and, as you will see in the pitchers and hitters write-ups, some of the best guys from a prospect standpoint didn’t have such a great year, so you can have high hopes for even better things next year. Like the VSL wrap-up I’m going to split this up into pitchers and position players just because there is so much to cover.

Despite the good performance in the win-loss columns, the team struggled as a group in the pitching category. They finished 29th out of 34 teams in team ERA(4.36). In the other major categories they finished 26th in strikeouts, 28th in WHIP and allowed the 4th most walks. About the only thing they did right as a group was pitch just well enough to win more games than they lost. It wasn’t all bad as you will see in the individual summaries and like I said up top, some of the guys the Pirates really liked were first year players and assuming they have them working on fastball command first like they do with the rest of the organization, struggles can be expected at such a young stage of development.

Among the starting pitchers, they have three guys who started more than ten games so I’ll start with them. Martires Cadet is a 19 year old, 2nd year 6′ 2″ lefty. He had good success his first year and basically matched that season this year, posting a slightly better ERA (2.31) but regressing slightly in K’s and his groundball rate. His low ERA actually only ranked 37th in the league and 2nd on the team of anybody with a significant inning total. He made the most starts (14), had the most innings (70.2) and posted a very good WHIP (1.10). The guy who led the team in ERA was Porfirio Lopez, who had a 1.53 mark in 13 starts. The 5′ 10″ lefty is 20 years old and a 3rd year player who pitched very well for a 2nd straight season, although last year he was even better. He had a team leading 1.03 WHIP and held batters to a .178 BAA. If I had to guess, based on age and success, these would be the two guys most likely promoted to the GCL next year.

The 3rd starter from that group is Arquimedes Lorenzo, a 19 year old 6′ 2″ righty who was signed back in November of last year for $90,000 by Rene Gayo. Gayo said he threw upwards of 92 already and had good command but he needed to work on his secondary pitches and add weight to his frame. He called him a hard working kid though and the Pirates stuck with him all season despite some struggles. He had a good .257 BAA and got plenty of groundballs, plus allowed just one homerun all year, but he got hurt by that command he was supposed to have. In 48 IP over 13 starts he walked 30 batters, hit another 10 and that led to a 6.56 season ERA. He did have some encouraging outings like in July when he pitched 9 scoreless innings over two games, allowing just three hits and two walks. However, those games were surrounded by two games where he allowed 13 runs over 4.2 IP. I fully expect him to return to the DSL next year and he is one of the pitchers I’d keep my eye on to break out.

Four other starters combined for all but five of the remaining starts. Jimy Hernandez, an 18 year old 6′ 2″ 2nd year righty made 8 starts and finished with a 4.43 ERA over 42 IP. He had a good first half to the season (3.33 in 10 games) but really struggled after the DSL All-Star break. Overall he allowed too many runners (1.55 WHIP), but he’s still young and he greatly improved over his first season in which he posted an ERA over 10 and walked more than a batter per inning. Ricky Perez is another 2nd year righty, with a good size at 6′ 3″, and 205 pounds, but he’s already 20 years old and he missed the last month of the season for an unknown reason, probably injury related. He also couldn’t match his 2009 stats which were decent (although his groundball rate in 2009 was amazing at 2.82 GO/AO). He was signed as a 19 year old just prior to the start of last season which screams of roster filler material and with missed time and advanced age working against him I wouldn’t expect much, although he could return to the team next year.

I split up the four starters who made between six and eight starts specifically into two groups because these two came with bigger price tags. Christopher DeLeon was signed in November of last year for $150,000, one of the highest prices paid out last year. He just turned 18, a skinny 6′ 0″ righty who has been a pitcher all his baseball life. He started out great, no earned runs in his first 9 innings over 3 starts, eight strikeouts and just four hits allowed. His next three starts got progressively worse, and after going two weeks between starts in early July he was shut down for the season. When he was signed he was all about projection. They said he had great movement on his pitches with a great change-up but the stamina/strength wasn’t there yet and his fastball showed that weakness. The other pitcher was the total opposite of DeLeon, already 6′ 5″ 230 lbs at age 18, Yhonathan Herrand was signed for $185,000 just as the DSL season was starting and he joined the team immediately. He already had the fastball which reached 95 MPH, but command was what hurt him. He started off as a reliever for seven games before joining the rotation to finish the season and actually improving his stats in that role. If he gets over those command issue, with that size and fastball already he could be a great signing that didn’t get the attention it deserved.

Among the non-starters, what better way to start than the two guys who stand out the most. Brayan Almonte, an 18 year old righty and Angel Sanchez, a 17 year old lefty, are mirror images of each other. Each of them stand 6′ 7″ and weigh in at just 190 lbs. Almonte has to be an intimidating pitcher, 26 walks in 24 innings with a .165 BAA. He has to be all arms and legs coming at you with no idea where the ball is going, good luck hitting that. He pitched 14 games on the season posting a 5.58 ERA, but in his last 10 games his ERA was just 2.25 and his K rate went up sharply in that time. He didn’t allow any homers, but his flyball rate was horrible so I’m guessing he worked the top half of the strike zone (and above) most of the year. Angel Sanchez was the youngest player on the team and he posted a 4.02 ERA in 13 games, good enough for a place on the DSL All-Star team. Like Almonte, he showed control issues all year, not as bad, but he also improved too as the year went on and unlike Almonte he had a great flyball rate (1.91). Both of them were signed shortly before the DSL season got under way.

Among the other pitchers, the top prospect is probably Isaac Sanchez who the Bucs signed for $180,000 a couple months ago out of the Dominican Prospect League, and in his few appearances he showed why they paid that amount. They limited his use, pitching him just 6 times over a 40 day stretch, but in 8.2 IP he allowed just 3 hits, 1 run and struck out nine. The scouting reports say the 17 year old 6′ 0″ righty throws his fastball up to 92 and his curveball is already a polished out pitch, going as far as saying it’s Barry Zito-like while also saying he has a good changeup.

Christopher Richardson is an 18 year old 6′ 0″ lefty the Bucs signed in April this year. He tied for the team lead in strikeouts, but it took him only 38 IP to post 47 K’s. He also posted decent control for a DSL pitcher, walking 18 and had a good groundball rate, so his 5.68 ERA and the fact he didn’t have many clean outings are hard to explain. He never got hit hard but except for a 4 IP, 1 hit, no walk, no run, 6 K game a couple weeks ago he just didn’t have any other good outings. Jona Corporan was Richardson’s mirror image, an 18 year old righty also signed at the same time, he too showed a great K rate. He only appeared in eight games, two as a starter and only allowed 6 hits in 13.2 IP with 17 K’s, but they were overshadowed by his 20 walks and five hit batters. In fact he only allowed a hit in 3 of his 8 appearances, but still posted a 7.24 ERA. They stopped using him in games in early July, brought him back for a 4 walk performance on July 29th, then went 2 more weeks before he finished with a perfect one inning of relief on August 12th to end his season.

Aneudy Merejo doesn’t profile as much,small righty, didn’t sign until just after his 19th birthday, but the Bucs liked what they saw. He throws his fastball up to 92 MPH, has an above average slider, and they say he just knows how to pitch and loves to compete. They used him strictly in relief and he had good results posting a 2.93 ERA with 8 saves in 22 games. He showed good control, didn’t give up too many hits, and in fact if you could look past his one 7 hit, 4 walk outing in late July, his stats look even more impressive. Like Merejo, the Bucs inked Luis Valdez in early November last year and they really liked him according to the scouting report. He is a stocky 6′ 0″, 215 RHP, 18 years old who they signed for $75,000. He throws lows 90’s with an above average curveball and plenty of projection from a durable frame. They really limited his use though having him go just 25.1 IP over 13 games despite decent outings, and he finished the season strong throwing three scoreless August outings covering 9 IP.

Yoan Gonzalez was the teams go to guy whenever they needed multiple relief innings, and he pitched a lot: 52 IP in 18 games, all in relief. He is another of those older players signed to fill a roster, and he seems to have taken the innings eater spot. He’s a lefty so he has that going for him, but he’s already 20 and nothing stands out about his stats or size (6′ 0″, 165) so it’s hard to see much there. Miguel Ferreras is the opposite of Yoan in that he’s a RHP who didn’t pitch well, but he’s 2 years younger and has size on his side at 6′ 5″ and 220 lbs. Ferreras actually pitched horrible, walking 26 batters and giving up 20 hits in just 14.1 IP while posting a 15.07 ERA. They stuck with him all year so there’s probably some potential but those numbers are hard to recover from, and that would be quite a turn around if they made something of him. Clario Perez is a soon-to-be 18 year old 2nd year righty. I think he got injured in early June, as he had back to back bad outings then got shut down for over a month. His stats last year were average but this season he regressed in every category and only got in ten games. He’s going to pitch all next season as an 18 year old so he still could develop into something.

Finally, falling in the what else would you do with a 21 year old, 3rd year pitcher from the DSL who has never shown anything category,Yerfi Taveras started the DSL season by getting bombed early and often and some how he not only got promoted mid-season to the states but pitched 3 games with the Bradenton Marauders! A full 4 levels higher! I can’t even explain why he was still with the DSL team to start the year, how he got promoted to the GCL or why they picked him to pitch in the FSL but it happened. Now let’s never talk about it again.

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John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.


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