The last two days I watched the GCL Pirates in action, seeing a lot of the new draft picks and a lot of the lower level guys in action. The Pirates won 5-1 today, thanks to home runs from Dilson Herrera and Luis Urena, along with good pitching from Cesar Lopez. Below are some notes on some of the players who stood out this afternoon, plus pictures of each player.
Cesar Lopez – The Pirates signed Lopez out of Cuba for $600 K. At the time it was reported that he could touch 94 MPH with his fastball, although I’ve never seen him higher than the upper 80s in the past, as he focuses on his command. Today was the best I’ve seen him, both in terms of velocity and command. He was sitting 91-92 MPH with his fastball, and was very efficient. He had 37 pitches through three innings, and followed up with a four pitch inning in the fourth. Lopez is 21 years old this year, so he’s a bit old for the GCL. He’s too far off to project, but he’s got a good arm, a clean delivery, and with more starts like this he might be ready to start moving up in the minors to levels where he’s more age appropriate.
Yhonathan Herrand – The Pirates signed Herrand for a decent bonus out of the Dominican Prospect League, giving him $185 K as an 18-year-old. Herrand has touched 96-97 MPH in the past in shorter outings, although he really struggles with his command. Today I saw that, as he missed badly with a few pitches, issuing two walks in two innings. He was anywhere from 90-95 MPH, and hit 94-95 MPH pretty consistently in the first inning of work. While he did miss on a few pitches, he nailed a few pitches for perfect spots, showing nice downward movement on his fastball. Herrand has a great arm, but he needs to improve that fastball command before moving up.
Dilson Herrera – I was disappointed that I didn’t see Herrera yesterday, but he made up for that today. Herrera hit his sixth homer of the year on a two hit day. The homer wasn’t a blast. It looked more like a deep fly out off the bat, but carried over the fence (wasn’t wind aided, was just far enough for a homer). Herrera has seen his average drop lately, but he’s still hitting for power. He’s got good bat speed, and he’s a quick runner. He fields second base well. He was signed as a shortstop, but has played second base this year after playing mostly third base last year. The knock on him was that he wouldn’t hit for power, so it’s good to see him doing that this year.
Luis Urena – I’ve always been very intrigued by Urena. His numbers haven’t been good in the GCL, and he strikes out too much due to a long swing. I like him for the build and the tools. He’s got the build of a major leaguer: tall and strong. He’s got power, speed, and a great arm. I saw those tools on display the last two days. Yesterday he made a great throw to nail a runner at second base. Today the power was on display. He hit a long shot to left field for his third homer of the year. Later in the game he hit what would have been an absolute bomb to left, although the ball hooked foul. Unfortunately he also showed the downside to his game, striking out twice in three at-bats today (including striking out looking after missing the home run).
Jin-De Jhang – He had a big day at the plate yesterday, and started off today with a single. He’s a good hitter with good contact skills and he hit to all fields the last two days. I’m probably more impressed with his defense and surprising speed for his size. “Johnny”, as the players call him, is a wall behind home plate. He’s 5′ 11″, 220 pounds, but despite the size he’s a fast runner with the ability to steal a base. A lot of that is due to his all out hustle. He also has a great arm, throwing out a runner at third yesterday on a ball in the dirt, and nailing a runner at second today with a perfect throw — low, to the second base side of the bag, hitting the glove in the perfect position for the tag.
Stetson Allie – I got to see Allie play the field today. He was in at first base, and the results were mixed. Allie made a nice stretch and scoop to end a double play started by Jimmy Rider and Dilson Herrera. However, he let a few get by — throws that were wild, but not extremely tough for an experienced first baseman to make. You could chalk that up to a lack of experience. At the plate he didn’t do much, and struck out twice. I noted yesterday that he’s not exactly a free swinger, but he does swing at a lot of pitches. Most of the pitches are around the strike zone, so the swings are justified. His bat speed is a little slow, which led to late swings and a few fouls. I don’t like making opinions on hitters without seeing them for a long period of time. A lot of these guys I’ve seen before (such as Herrera, Urena, and Jhang). I’ve seen Allie in these last two games. He’s what I expected: a project. But I’m not ready to say whether that project will work or not, as it’s very early in the process.
Harold Ramirez – I got a lot of questions asking why Harold Ramirez wasn’t playing. He was one guy I was looking forward to, but he wasn’t in either lineup the last two days. He was in uniform, so I don’t think there’s anything to be concerned about. The guys who were hurt weren’t in uniform. This is likely just a playing time issue. There are so many players at this level that it’s tough getting them all playing time. And none of them are used to playing every day, so a few days off is common.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.