BRADENTON, Fl. – During the offseason, many players travel south to play winter ball; however, not as many discover the amount of success that Jose Osuna did in the Venezuela Winter League this past year. Osuna finished towards the top of the league in almost every category, leading to him being named the league’s Rookie of the Year. His numbers in Venezuela are as follows:
1st in Total Bases: 110
2nd in Home Runs: 9 HR
4th in Slugging: .519
5th in OPS: .914
6th in Doubles: 13
9th in Batting Average: .330
These results in Venezuela all came after having a strong 2015 campaign between Bradenton and Altoona, where he hit .286 with a .764 OPS. Almost more important, Osuna produced an ISO of .149 last season, which would grade as slightly above average. His 2015 season followed up a very strong 2014 in Bradenton, giving him two seasons in a row with compelling offensive numbers.
Osuna reported to minor league camp this past week, and he says that the last year and robust offseason in Venezuela has given him much more confidence going into camp this year.
“Right now, I just feel so happy because of all of the hard work I’ve done and what I accomplished this winter,” Osuna said after his first workout of the year at Pirate City. “Every day you want to be greater, and that helped me as I came here. Hopefully, I will play good baseball here, too.”
Throughout this offseason, our own John Dreker provided exceptional coverage on Osuna’s development in Venezuela (links at the bottom of the article). Currently, some of the biggest issues that Osuna face are out of his own personal control, as the Pirates try to find a position and place for him to get regular playing time. He will most likely begin the year in Altoona to get regular at-bats between first base and the outfield, due to Josh Bell’s presence at first base in Indianapolis.
Osuna gave an interview earlier in the year that the Pirates wanted him to play outfield full-time, but it does not seem like that is the case right now. If it were up to Osuna, he would play outfield; however, the Pirates seem to have communicated with him that they will take a one day at a time approach for now. He’s been practicing at first base every day so far in the early days of minor league camp.
“I want to play in the outfield, but I have to practice at both,” Osuna said about his ability to play first base or outfield. “I have to take ground balls and fly balls. I will be in the outfield one day and in the infield the next day in camp. If it were up to me, I would play in the outfield, though.”
Either way, Osuna says that he is “ready to play either position”, as long as he gets on the field. His confidence is also sky-high after an exceptional winter in Venezuela, saying that he believes he can perform no matter what level he is sent to.
“I feel my play in the winter can only help me, whatever league I play in — Double-A, Triple-A, or hopefully someday the big leagues,” said Osuna. “I saw very good pitching over there, from big league pitchers to Triple-A pitchers. Now I know I have the ability to hit at those levels, too.”
As for the here and now, Osuna did not hit the first day of minor league camp, because he was being evaluated after a wrist injury in late December after making a diving catch in winter ball. He said that the wrist has been feeling much better, though, and that was clear as he was taking swings on both Wednesday and Thursday at Pirate City.
Osuna also took fielding practice with the infielders on Thursday at Pirate City, taking grounders and throws at first base. One thing that you notice right away from him in the field is his extremely strong arm. He made a myriad of extremely strong and accurate throws to second and third base during practice. He has a large frame and may not be the most swift; however, he fields the position well. His arm would be on display in the outfield, as he showed many times in Altoona last year from left field, but his mobility hurts his chances to stick in the outfield.
As for the logjam in the system, Osuna keeps a level head about doing just what he needs to do to improve.
“I can’t do anything about it,” Osuna said of the other players above him in the system. “I know we have a lot of good outfielders, but I have to put my time in. I have to continue to play good baseball and make my team good. I’ll just have to wait. They will make the decision when I am ready to move up and eventually play in the big leagues.”
Osuna is only 23 years old, so he still has time to continue to develop and get better. If he can continue to hit at a high level, he profiles to have an upside as a major leaguer. As we noted in the 2016 Prospect Guide, Osuna’s opportunity may not come with the Pirates, though, due to all of the first base and outfield prospects in the upper levels who are rated higher than him.
To look back at some of John Dreker’s coverage of Osuna from this past winter, feel free to check out some of the following articles: