Winter Leagues: Big Game From Edwin Espinal, Brian Sousa Makes His Debut

In the Dominican on Thursday night, Edwin Espinal made his first start of the season count. He went 3-for-4 with a double, a run scored and he drove in two runs. Espinal spent this season in Low-A ball, so the lack of playing time isn’t surprising considering the difference in play between Low-A and winter ball in the Dominican. He has been playing in their version of the minor leagues(called the Parallel League), so he has likely shown enough improvements to get some time with the big club. During the regular season, the 20-year-old first baseman hit .283/.327/.385 in 122 games for West Virginia.

Gustavo Nunez went 1-for-3 with two strikeouts. He is hitting .281 through 37 games despite a 4:33 BB/SO ratio.

Mel Rojas Jr. grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the tenth inning and played an inning in left field.

Carlos Paulino went 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his first home run of the season. He is hitting .260 through 27 games.

In Venezuela, Elias Diaz went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. He is hitting .167 through 11 games. In 15 games in the Arizona Fall League, Diaz had a 10:7 BB/SO ratio. In Venezuela so far, he has three walks and eight strikeouts.

Junior Sosa went 1-for-4 with a single and two strikeouts. He batted lead-off and played center field.

Matt Nevarez faced four batters, allowing one run on a double and a walk. The run scored after he left the game and the pitcher that allowed it was Jhonathan Ramos. He gave up one hit before recording the last two outs of eighth inning. Nevarez has pitched 24 innings over 26 appearances, striking out 25 batters while holding the opposition to a .155 BAA. Ramos has pitched 20 times, allowing one earned run in 14.1 innings. He is still a free agent.

Julio Vivas threw two shutout innings. He walked one and didn’t allow a hit or record a strikeout. In 13.1 innings over 14 appearances, Vivas has allowed just seven hit(.156 BAA) and the walk he issued on Thursday was his first of the season. The 21-year-old righty spent the 2014 season in the GCL so he is pitching well this winter against much tougher competition.

In Australia, Sam Kennelly singled as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and remained in the game at shortstop. He is 2-for-4 in three games this season.

In Colombia, Tito Polo scored a run in his team’s 6-2 win. Andy Vasquez scored one of the two runs for the opposition, but also made an error that led to two unearned runs. Polo hasn’t played in a couple weeks, while Vasquez has been in Colombia for a couple weeks after moving over from the Dominican league. He is currently a minor league free agent after spending eight seasons in the Pirates’ system.

In Panama, Brian Sousa made his winter debut and threw 1.2 scoreless innings, allowing one hit, while striking out two batters. He is one of the youngest Pirates players you’ll see in winter ball, turning 17 in August. Sousa signed for $160,000 on July 2nd, the first day of the international signing period. Prior to joining the Panama league, he was in the Dominican Summer League version of the Instructional League, where scouting reports had his fastball at 90-91 MPH, with good movement on his curve, but lacking control on both pitches.

Edgar Munoz went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two runs scored. In four games, he is 6-for-15 with four doubles.

Ashley Ponce went 2-for-4 with two singles, two runs scored and a walk.

  • Off the subject, but what the hell are the Padres doing? Holy Christ!

    • One thing their fans won’t be able to do is fault them for trying.

    • Y2: New sheriff in town and wants to make a name for himself. Myers is excellent, but struggled last year; one year of Justin Upton (he’ll be traded mid-summer for prospects), and taking a $15 mil/yr gamble on Kemp is a bit more than most teams would want. He has emptied much of the minor league talent pool – I think it was 13 of the Top 20 Prospects, but he has made a splash.

  • Diaz looks like he is running out of gas, wonder if the Pirates have any control over these minor league players as to them playing winter ball and how much they are playing. I know they can’t make the major league players play winter ball, but can they stop them?

    • Yes they can stop them. Diaz has been playing for awhile, but his playing time has been sporadic. He’s played 26 games total since Sept 1st when the minor league season ended. He’s basically been in winter ball for a month(first game on Nov 21) so 11 games isn’t much. I think he might be on a limited schedule and the Pirates may have something to do with it

      • Thanks, I was just thinking he played fall ball and winter ball, but did not realize that he had not played much winter ball.

  • Just to add a couple notes to this. Except for the Australian League, Sousa is the first player I can remember that played winter ball in one of the eight major leagues the same year he signed. He was called the best pitcher from Panama that was available this July 2nd signing period and he actually pitched a couple games last year in Panama winter ball. He is definitely a prospect to watch, but he is obviously far away.

    Edwin Espinal is a major sleeper prospect. Has huge untapped power, doesn’t strikeout a lot for someone with a big swing, sort of fits in the Jose Osuna mold. Osuna had a real nice second half this year and he just turned 22, so he could also break out, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Espinal have a big season. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see him not break out because he isn’t in the best shape. Hopefully playing winter ball this year helped him in that regard.

    • I have been following the Pirates’ system like a stalker for 15 years John and I can’t remember anyone doing this either. It is a monumental thing. I don’t even think former mega-prospect Michael Ynoa did this for the A’s but I am not certain.