Winter Leagues: Two Pirates Players Make Their Winter Debut

In the Dominican on Wednesday night, Tony Sanchez caught his second game. He went 0-for-3 at the plate. In his debut on Tuesday, he drew two walks and threw out a runner attempting to steal.

Gustavo Nunez played his first game since signing with the Pirates. He went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts, though he drove in his 14th run. He is hitting .267 through 23 games, with nine doubles and two homers.

Edwin Espinal made his winter ball debut as a defensive replacement at first base late in his team’s 2-1 loss. He did not get a chance to bat. Espinal was drafted this year into winter ball, taken 53rd overall. He was the top pick among four Pittsburgh Pirates players picked this year.

Carlos Paulino went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He is hitting .316 through ten games. Paulino is still a minor league free agent.

In Venezuela, Jonathan Ramos and Matt Nevarez both pitched for Bravos de Margarita. Ramos got the first two outs of the sixth inning, but not before giving up a hit and a walk. Both runners were left stranded and his ERA dropped to 0.96 through 12 appearances. Nevarez threw 1.1 scoreless innings, walking one and striking out two batters. He has a 3.63 ERA in 16 appearances, with 17 strikeouts in 17.1 innings. Nevarez has held batters to a .150 BAA.

Elvis Escobar made his season debut tonight. He was a late-game defensive replacement, taking over in left field in the ninth inning for Cardenales de Lara. He didn’t get a chance to bat. Last year, Escobar played ten games for Lara, going 3-for-16 at the plate. He was one of the youngest players in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Ramon Cabrera struck out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. He remained in the game behind the plate and dropped down a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the ninth that helped his team erase a two-run deficit and win 12-11.

In Mexico, Felipe Gonzalez threw 1.1 scoreless innings, with no hits, one walk and one strikeout. He has now pitched 15 times, posting a 3.31 ERA in 16.1 innings.

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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Off topic question John since you are covering the Latin scene. Why do you think the Pirates have lost momentum in getting elite talent in the July 2nd period? It seems like we were doing quite well then things dried up. This year we didn’t get a single player in the top 30 available. Do you think it has been a failing or a concious choice to spread bonuses over more mid level guys? Its depressing to see the Yankees get 10 of the top 30 this year and we get none.


Good topic, looking forward to hearing John’s answer.

Is there actually a strong correlation between high dollar 7/2 guys and top prospects/successful big leaguers? Not sure I’ve seen anything more than anecdotal evidence, but I don’t believe there is. Pirates are seemingly getting better value out of making many deals in the Marte/Polanco/Hansen range vs one Heredia.


It would be hard to study this on a big enough scale. There are certainly many more low money guys so it would be expected that more make it as a whole, but percentages would be the data to get. Maybe the Bucs have this and they can use it to decide between Sano/Heredia’s and the lesser dollar guys. Still, more high end talent usually equals more return on investment.


Definitely right on regarding the percentages and need for greater study.

As for the comment on high end talent and ROI, we’ve developed this logic based traditional means of acquiring talent, which is the Rule 4 Draft. That’s typically dealing with 18 yo kids, as a minimum age.

Many of the premium July 2 guys these days have deals worked out as 15 year olds. That’s a major, major difference in age. So much so that I wonder how much “most talented” really even matters.

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