Back in 2012, I got to see the West Virginia Power play two series in Lakewood, giving me a first chance to see Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson. I also got a chance to see a 19-year-old first baseman with a sweet line drive stroke from the right side. Jose Osuna had some strong games during the seven games he played in Lakewood, collecting hits in six of those games. He hit a homer and three doubles, showing some pop in his bat. Those in-person looks, plus strong season stats at a young age, had Osuna ranked fairly high in the system. Jose Osuna

The next season, he moved up to Bradenton and the results didn’t carry over. While Hanson and Polanco continued their ascent towards the Majors, Osuna stalled at High-A ball and was forced to repeat the level this year. His season got off to a nice start, but an oblique strain shut him down for exactly one month. At the time of the injury, he had a .282/.326/.400 slash line.

When Osuna returned to action, there was obviously some rust and a slump had his stats down to .250/.296/.360 on June 21st. From that point on, he turned his season around and put himself back on the prospect track. With a strong finish in August, Osuna’s final numbers were .296/.347/.458 in 97 games. He batted .323 with an .893 OPS over his last 61 games.

If you compare just that stretch to Josh Bell’s breakout season, you’ll see that Osuna had the higher OPS, thanks to a higher slugging percentage and similar OBP. Osuna actually had the highest slugging percentage in the FSL among all qualified hitters, even with the slump after he returned from injury. As a side note, Bell won the slugging crown despite falling 15 plate appearances short to qualify. When an 0-for-15 was added into his stats, he still had the highest slugging percentage, so his .502 mark led the league.

Osuna also compares well to Bell in one other area, he is four months younger. That is important to note, despite repeating the FSL, he was still a year and seven months younger than the average player in the league. Proof of how young he is for the league can be seen by his splits against pitchers that were older and younger than him. Just 27 of his 410 plate appearances came against pitchers that were at least one day younger than him. That means 93.4% of the time, he was facing an older pitcher on the mound. Another note on his age is the fact he was a pitcher growing up and has a tremendous arm(he hit 90 MPH at 16), but that took away some development time with his bat.

The downside to Osuna is the fact he plays first base, which means he is at a position with a huge demand on offense. He also has some poor walk rates during his career. The good news for the second part might be his August results, which hid this gem mixed in with the high average and OPS. He drew 14 walks in the month. That was the highest monthly total of his five-year career, even dating back to his days in the Venezuelan Summer League. He even picked up two walks in Bradenton’s first playoff game on Tuesday.

All signs point to Osuna going to Altoona next year and splitting first base with Josh Bell, while also getting time in the DH spot and possibly corner outfield time. He has played 74 games in the outfielder during his career, and while it’s not his strong suit, the arm plays well out there. If Bell progresses like you would expect, he will be gone some time around mid-season, which would open up first base full-time for Osuna. Assuming he hits like he did in August, Osuna might find himself much higher up the prospect charts this time next year.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

Pittsburgh: The Pirates are five games behind St. Louis for the NL Central lead and two games behind Milwaukee for the second Wild Card spot. They are 4.5 games behind San Francisco for the first spot.

Bradenton: The Marauders lost their best-of-three series against Fort Myers on Wednesday night.

Today’s Schedule

Minor League Starter of the Day:  The Pirates are off today. They begin a three game series against the Cubs on Friday. The minor league season is over. Bradenton was the only affiliate to make the playoffs. They lost their series last night. The game recap can be read here. You can read the DSL season recap here complete with scouting reports for each player and the top ten players to watch list can be found here. We will post other season recaps soon.

MLB: Pittsburgh (71-68) @ Cubs (64-76) 2:20 PM  9/5
Probable starter: Vance Worley (3.01 ERA, 60:16 K/BB, 86.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (73-71)

AA: Altoona (61-81)

High-A: Bradenton (78-61)

Low-A: West Virginia (54-81)

Short-Season A: Jamestown (35-40)

RK: Bristol (22-46)

GCL: Pirates (20-40)

DSL: Pirates (34-36)

Highlights

With the minor league season over, it’s time to take a look back at some recent video from the GCL, which we will continue to do over the next few days. All videos are courtesy of the GCL Pirates fan page. Below is a video of Nelson Jorge, the Pirates seventh round pick from this season, who really struggled in his first year as a pro. He hit .150, with a .474 OPS and 61 strikeouts, which was the second highest strikeout total in the league. Out of the 72 players that had enough plate appearances to qualify in the league, Jorge had the lowest average, lowest OPS, lowest slugging and was next to last in OBP. It might be hard to believe, but he finished with the same .150 BA batting with runners on base and with the bases empty. Perhaps most disappointing is the fact he was drafted as a shortstop, but he played second base almost every game. That mostly was due to Cole Tucker being there, but he played just four of the 18 games that Tucker didn’t play at shortstop.

The upside with Jorge? He turns 19 in December, so he’s young. He went 5-for-6 in steals. His defense was pretty good at second base. Right now he is definitely a project and it’s hard to find someone that started off that poorly and went on to great success. Unless something really clicks, I’d expect him back in the GCL next year and probably at second base again with the anticipated arrival of Adrian Valerio(see the DSL players to watch list linked above if you don’t know who he is). Below is one of the three doubles Jorge hit this year.

Recent Transactions

9/2: Pirates recall Gregory Polanco, Jeff Locke, John Holdzkom, Casey Sadler and Bobby LaFromboise.

9/2: Chase d’Arnaud added to 40-man roster and promoted to Pittsburgh. Michael Martinez designated for assignment.

9/1: Pirates recall Gerrit Cole and Tony Sanchez. Stolmy Pimentel activated from the disabled list

9/1: Pirates designate Chris McGuiness for assignment. John Holdzkom added to 40-man roster.

8/30: Brent Morel promoted to Pittsburgh. Jeff Locke sent to Indianapolis.

8/30: Blake Davis activated from disabled list.

8/29: Stolmy Pimentel assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

8/29: Tommy Field sent outright to Indianapolis.

8/29: Andrew Lambo promoted to Pirates. Gerrit Cole sent to Bristol.

8/28: Jayson Nix claimed by Kansas City Royals.

8/28: JaCoby Jones activated from disabled list. Adam Landecker placed on disabled list.

8/28: Brett McKinney promoted to Bradenton. John Kuchno placed on disabled list.

8/28: Charlie Morton sent to Altoona on rehab.

This Date in Pirates History

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, both played with the team over 100 years ago. One of them, Elmer Horton, pitched for the Pirates in 1896 and was part of a trade that saw Pittsburgh send away their all-time leader in batting. Also on this date in 1982, the Pirates called on a 22-year-old pitcher to make his Major League debut against Fernando Valenzuela and they came away with a 1-0 victory. You can read more about that game, as well as the two bios and a trade of note, all in the link here.

On this date in 1890, the Alleghenys(Pirates) beat the Cleveland Spiders 6-2, snapping a 23 game losing streak. The game was their first home game since the first loss in the streak back on August 12th. The Alleghenys went right back out on the road and lost their next seven games on the way to a 3-20 finish to the season.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Well, unless Bell makes the successful switch to first base and blossoms there, our next line of prospects for that position appear to be Osuna and Espinal. Both pretty big guys and both had strong 2014 seasons. However, neither hits a lot of HRs given their size.

    For anyone familiar with these two as prospects, how would you compare them in terms of strengths and weaknesses?

    • Can’t help you on those two guys, but I’d think some combination of Stetson Allie and Andrew Lambo would factor in before getting to Osuna/Espinal.

      • Yes, other than Bell, Lambo and Allie are potential options for first base. I hope the Pirates let go of Ike Davis after this season, and give Bell, Lambo, and Allie all shots in the Spring. Bell is probably still too raw and not ready, but Lambo and Allie should be ready.

    • Osuna is a better athlete, Espinal seems like he could be the better power hitter once he improves his plate patience and pitch selection. He needs to get in better shape. Neither is a great defensive option, both have great arms, but Osuna can play a serviceable corner outfield, definitely won’t win any Gold Gloves though. Right now Osuna is the better prospect now due to athleticism, but Espinal has huge bat potential. Both are young for their level

      • Thanks John…sounds like Espinal is more of a DH type, unless he addresses his weight? Is he another Walter Young??

        • You could say he fits better as a DH, but at age 20, he has plenty of time to get better and improve his build. He’s 6’3″ with a big frame, so he is always going to be big, but losing 20 lbs sure would help him on the bases and around the bag. His glove isn’t that bad because he played 3B for awhile, it’s more quickness and range.

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