The DSL Pirates clubs were ranked sixth and 19th in the 35 team league in OPS. As a group, they have a decent amount of six figure bonus players. Some lived up to those numbers, while others did not. Some players, that were signed rather quietly (aka low bonus) ended up having big years. The Pirates chose to move players like Edwin Espinal and Dilson Herrera to the GCL with minimal experience and high-priced signings from the 2011 July 2nd class, Elvis Escobar and Harold Ramirez, both jumped right over the DSL into the GCL. It left the two team DSL with a slightly lesser group of hitters than expected at this time last year. As you will see below, some of the players that went from the VSL last season, to the DSL this season, had trouble with the jump in talent between the two leagues.
Below are the stats from each hitter in the DSL, broken down by age groups. The first age group is where you’ll find the majority of prospects. The second group can include prospects, but these guys are getting closer to being too old for the level. They need to make the jump to the US next year to preserve their prospect status, and ideally start to move quickly through the lower levels of the system. The final group is mostly organizational depth. A breakdown of each group can be found below.
Complete DSL Coverage
18 and Under
Yunior Aquiles was signed to a six figure bonus in 2010, and described at the time as raw, though he’s very fast, with power potential and the ability to play center field. In two seasons now, the Pirates have seen none of that from him. He showed slight improvements over last year, and got more playing time, though his 2011 season was awful, so it wasn’t hard to improve on. He still struck out too much, and he played almost all of his games in right field. Due to the fact he is still shy of his 19th birthday, he still has time to live up to his potential, but he really needs to step it up next year.
Reggie Cerda is the youngest position player among the two Pirates affiliates and only one pitcher, Richard Mitchell, is younger. Reggie was given a light workload in his rookie season, catching nine games in each of the first two months and six games in August. He finished strong with the bat and will likely see much more time in the DSL in 2013.
Bealyn Chourio saw some decent time as one of the younger players on the VSL squad last year, then this season, he played just two games without an at-bat. His appearances came a week apart from each other at the end of June.
Carlos Munoz is a stocky lefty, who saw limited time and the end of the VSL season last year. This season he saw regular playing time all season, splitting his time between the two teams. He has the build to hit for power, but he hasn’t yet. Carlos did show an excellent walk rate, 40 of them in 47 games, with just 18 strikeouts.
Fredis Padilla was signed as a shortstop out of Colombia in March, though he spent most of his time at second base this year. He had real poor stats in both June and August, but he hit .321 in July, when he got most of his playing time. He was regarded as a guy who could really hit when he was signed, with the potential to add some power.
Gustavo Barrios started the season with the Pirates1 and hit well with strong defense. In late July, they moved him to the other club and he was one of the best hitters in the league over the last month of the season. He hit .353 in his last twenty games. He signed at the same time as Padilla out of Colombia, and he was also a shortstop, though he spent all his time at second base or as the DH. Barrios was called a “projectable” player when he signed, so his strong hitting in his rookie season was a pleasant surprise.
A third player signed out of Colombia at the same time was Tito Polo, who hit .317 through the end of July, before slowing down in August. Polo was called a strong hitter with plus speed, who could play center field, although his arm was not that good. He didn’t turn 18 until late in the season. Tito showed that plus speed with 17 steals and his .798 OPS was fourth best among both teams. He split his time between CF/LF.
Jesus Ronco played five games in June, then 11 in August. He played third base and some shortstop, plus caught one game. He hit just .174, but he’s only 18 and it was his rookie season in which he missed time, so he should be back seeing more playing time next year. Just like the previous three players, he was signed out of Colombia at the same time and like Barrios, he was called projectable.
Jose Salazar looked like an interesting player to watch. Last season in the VSL, he played shortstop over Dilson Herrera, who not only signed one of the bigger bonuses in 2010 among the Pirates international class, but he reached State College this year and did well there. With the move to the DSL this year, Jose saw most of his time at third base. His stats were very similar to last year, which can be considered a disappointment, despite the fact the DSL is a more talented league than the VSL. He will still be just 18 years old when the 2013 season opens, so he has time.
Luis Benitez showed a good eye at the plate and was quick on the bases. He is a switch-hitter, but he had trouble at both sides of the plate. Luis is definitely on the small side and he hit for no power in his rookie season. Steven De La Mota was listed as a first baseman, but he played left field and didn’t see any game time after June. His .145 average as a rookie, and lack of playing time, is not a good sign.
Maximo Rivera had the breakout season it seemed he was destined for after a strong finish to last year. The only problem was, he was supposed to be a power hitting third baseman by now. Last year he hit seven homers, with most of that damage coming late in the year. This year, he hit .367, third highest average in the league. He also stole 34 bases, second most in the DSL. Rivera only hit four homers though, none after the All-Star break. He moved all around the field too, seeing time at every spot except pitcher and catcher. He wasn’t on the initial Fall Instructional League roster but I still predict he should see plenty of time in the GCL next year.
Adrian de Aza didn’t have the breakout year projected for him. He was signed in 2010 for $150,000 out of the Dominican Prospect League. He saw the playing time I predicted for him, but for a five tool player in his second DSL season, the results were poor. Adrian spent most of his time in left field this year and showed more power than he did during his 29 games in the DSL last year. His walk rate went down and he is supposed to have well above average speed, but he went just 4-for-8 on the basepaths. The numbers would suggest that he won’t be moved up next year, but due to his age/bonus/tools, he could be in the GCL in 2013, though like Rivera, he wasn’t an Instructs invite.
Carlos Ozuna signed last year for $115,000 and made his debut this season, seeing plenty of playing time. All of his playing time was spent at shortstop, where he can field well and has a strong arm. The book on him is that he makes strong contact, doesn’t hit for any power, and he has good speed. The numbers seemed to indicate the scouting report was right on with him. He was an invite to the Instruction League and with the aggressive promotions to Pirates have had the last couple years, he could move up to the GCL next year and play shortstop every day.
Danny Arribas was easily the most used Pirates player in the DSL, leading the team with 64 games played and 271 plate appearances. He signed last year for $110,000 and struggled in his first season. This year he broke out, raising his average .108 points. He is a valuable player, who saw plenty of time at both corner infield spots and behind the plate, where he threw out 40% of attempted base stealers. He should be a regular in the GCL next season.
The Pirates made Dennis Hurtarte the first player they ever signed out of Guatemala last year. He made his debut this season in the DSL and saw plenty of time at first base. He started off slow with the bat, then picked up a little as the season went along. He is a switch-hitter, though he was much better from the left side. Dennis has decent size, but didn’t show much power with eight doubles and no triples or homers.
Pablo Reyes was the other regular shortstop for the Pirates in the DSL. He had a very similar rookie year to Ozuna (Reyes is two months younger), with the one big difference being the strikeouts. Ozuna had 47 strikeouts, while Reyes has just 12 all year. The excellent contact skills, plus 18 doubles, shows a good bat, with plus base running, to go along with the ability to play shortstop everyday.
Ramses Pena signed in 2009 for $150,000 and has yet to show why he received so much. He hasn’t hit in any of his three years and was moved from shortstop to outfield this year. His one bright spot all three years has been his base running, but for now, he looks like he will be back for a fourth and final shot at proving his worth in the DSL.
Rodney Polonia was a name signing two years ago, with his dad being former major leaguer Luis Polonia. Rodney attended his dad’s academy, and along with Edwin Espinal, the Pirates signed both young players. Espinal spent this season in the GCL at 18 years of age, while Polonia struggled in his second season in the DSL, 16 months older than Edwin. His defense at second base was much better than last year, but the bat is still lacking. He is one of the few position players (non-catchers) that only plays one position, now doing that two years in a row.
Carlos Esqueda seems to have had his career derailed by an ankle injury that ended his season early last year. He was 18 games into his second season in the VSL showing improvements over his strong rookie, when a home plate collision caused the injury. This year in the DSL, his stats were well off last year (OPS down .251) and he is now too old for the league. He seemed like a longshot to start, due to his size, but his hitting was hard to overlook before this year.
Angelo Del Castillo was the fifth of five players signed out of Colombia in March. The oldest of the group played left field this year, and while he was good defensively, the bat didn’t play well due to a lack of plate patience. His decent average was offset by just eight walks and 33 strikeouts. The bright spot was his strong finish in August with a .905 OPS.
Edgardo Munoz hit .360 in the VSL last year, showing good contact skills and plate patience. The move to the DSL was not kind, seeing his average drop .121 and his OPS was down 279 points. He is quick and can play centerfield, but he is also getting up there in age and the huge drop-off is a bad sign.
Jordan Galvez is another player who didn’t take well to the jump from the VSL to the DSL. In his first two years, he hit .309 and .308, showing more plate patience the second season. Not only did his average drop over 100 points, but his BB/K ratio was exactly the same as his first year of pro ball. He seems to have stalled out.
Manuel Moreno had a strong rookie season two years ago in the VSL, really struggled last year, then played just nine games this year. He didn’t play after mid-July and will likely be gone, if he isn’t already. It marks a sharp decline for a player that was invited to the Fall Instructional League in 2010.
Ulises Montilla has a great season last year in the VSL, hitting .364 with a .945 OPS. He showed power, some speed and excellent plate patience. His return to international ball in the DSL this year was a bit of a surprise and he proved he could have been moved up to the states this season. He started as an outfielder in 2010, played more second base his second year, then moved to third base this year. Montilla was a consistent hitter this year, hitting lefties and righties well, hitting at home and on the road, and he didn’t have any down months. He was invited to the Fall Instructional League and seems like a safe bet for a promotion, although I said that last year too.
Anthony Claudio didn’t hit well in limited VSL time last year and didn’t do well this season, especially in August, when he hit .125 with no walks. Edgardo Rangel was the starting catcher as a rookie in the VSL last year and had a decent season. This year he saw his playing time cut in half, he didn’t hit any better and he had a ton of trouble throwing out baserunners. Carlos Marquez played two years in the VSL and now one season in the DSL. His hitting improved and he threw out 33% of baserunners, but he has never seen regular playing time, so the Pirates likely aren’t too high on him. Henrry Rosario showed some pop in his bat and was used a lot in center field, both are good signs. The bad signs though are his average, poor stolen base skills, his size and the fact he didn’t start playing until he was nineteen.
Patrick Reyes, in his second season, had a horrible time at the plate. He finished on a 1-for-24 skid and struck out every three AB’s during the year. He has a strong arm, throwing out 40% of base stealers. In his second season in the DSL, Yomifer Polanco put up very similar numbers as his first year, just getting more playing time while doing it. Those numbers weren’t good last year. He spent most of his time in right field. Deybi Garcia is a twenty year old catcher, who hit much better in his limited time last year. He also had a higher caught stealing percentage last year, down to 22% this season. Francis Lopez is a twenty year old backup catcher, with limited experience and a high strikeout rate. He has a good arm and decent size, so there is a plus.
Ages 21 and Up
Julio Perez signed with the Pirates this March out of Mexico at twenty years old. He played in the Mexican League last year briefly, and did well. Perez got decent playing time this year, he has good size and showed some power, though he was playing against kids 2-3 years younger. His strikeout rate was poor, his fielding was below average and his stats dropped off as the season wound down.
Tomas Morales is slightly older than Perez. He caught briefly for the VSL team last year, then started this season hitting well for the Pirates2 team. He was moved to the other affiliate and was hitting good to start, then really dropped off to end the year. He threw out 33% of base stealers.
Yunelky Adames was the oldest player on either DSL club. He barely played after signing last year and did not do well when he did play. This season he showed some power, with 18 doubles and five triples, but he is well past the prospect age.
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.
“The DSL Pirates clubs were ranked sixth and 19th in the 35 team league in OPS. As a group, they have a decent amount of six figure bonus players. Some lived up to those numbers, while others did not. ”
John….you mean to tell me that some over slots aren’t working out in the Latin arena either? Go figger…..
I would expect more misses in this group than in the draft because these players are signed at a younger age. Also, as Rene Gayo has said, you can’t anticipate how a six figure bonus will change these kids. Some see it as a stepping stone towards a bigger future, while others see it as the ultimate payoff, and in some areas $150k is a monumental sum.
I think they do a great job in Latin America and it really disappointed me that they put in a new spending cap there and made it such a low number. The amateur draft is a whole different ballgame though, no one should be happy with the overall results when compared to the spending