The Dominican winter league held their 2016 draft on Thursday night and seven players from the Pirates were eligible to be drafted among a pool of 149 players. That list of Pirates includes shortstop Alfredo Reyes and six pitchers, Delvin Hiciano, Julio Eusebio, Cesilio Pimentel, Edgar Santana, Yunior Montero and Pedro Vasquez.
Reyes, Eusebio, Montero and Pimentel played for West Virginia this season. Hiciano was in the GCL, where he made two appearances after returning from Tommy John surgery. Edgar Santana is the big prospect among this group, as he went from Bradenton to Indianapolis and pitched well in long relief at each level. Vasquez was acquired in the Arquimedes Caminero trade and never appeared in a regular season game after the trade.
Santana was the first Pirate selected, taken with the first pick of the fourth round (19th overall) by Gigantes del Cibao. Over three levels, Santana had a 2.71 ERA in 79.2 innings, with 71 strikeouts and a 1.08 WHIP. He will be attending the Arizona Fall League in October.
Pedro Vasquez was selected 39th overall by Toros del Este, a team that also has Alen Hanson. Vasquez made eight starts in Low-A for Seattle before the trade. He pitched yesterday in the Fall Instructional League, where Tim Williams had a brief report of his day.
Cesilio Pimentel was taken 74th overall by Aguilas Cibaenas. I previously said he wasn’t picked, not realizing that Aguilas stopped announcing their picks after the tenth round, while everyone else kept going. Pimentel had a 2.65 ERA in 51 innings for West Virginia, posting a .210 BAA, 1.04 WHIP, 1.33 GO/AO ratio and 48 strikeouts. He is just one year away from reaching minor league free agency, making his debut with the Pirates back in 2011. Willy Garcia plays for Aguilas.
Alfredo Reyes was taken with the 102nd pick. He played shortstop this season for West Virginia after the Pirates took him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft last December. Reyes hit .199/.262/.263 in 97 games, though he played excellent defense and went 28-for-30 in stolen base attempts.
Yunior Montero was the next Pirate picked at 106th overall, taken by Leones del Escogido. That’s a team that holds the rights to both Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco. Montero had a 3.65 ERA in 44.1 innings this season, splitting his time between West Virginia and Morgantown. He made three starts and 14 relief appearances. Montero had 52 strikeouts, a 1.11 WHIP and a 1.86 GO/AO ratio.
Julio Eusebio was taken two picks after Montero. Eusebio had a 1.62 ERA for the Power, throwing 50 innings over 40 relief appearances. He had a .165 BAA. He was taken by Estrellas de Oriente. Exactly seven rounds later, Estrellas took Delvin Hiciano, who made two appearances this season, both for one inning of work. Due to a suspension and Tommy John surgery, he has thrown just 24.2 innings since signing prior to the 2013 season.
Back in 2012, the Pirates had three players taken within the first 12 picks, with Alen Hanson, Gregory Polanco and Willy Garcia all being selected. The quality of players selected since then has dropped. Back in 2014, Edwin Espinal was the highest pick from the Pirates, going 53rd overall. He was followed by Isaac Sanchez, Maximo Rivera and Chris Diaz, giving them four picks that season. Sanchez and Rivera are no longer in the organization, while Diaz hasn’t played in the Dominican yet.
Last year, five players from the Pirates were selected. Yeudy Garcia was the best prospect taken, though Pablo Reyes was taken before him. That’s probably due to the fact the Pirates are more willing to allow position players to play winter ball than they are for pitchers, so a team wouldn’t use a high pick on a player who might not play for them. Junior Lopez, Miguel Rosario and Jose Regalado were also selected. None of those five played in the Dominican last year, though the league does have a minor league as well, so it’s possible for a player to play months of winter ball without showing up in the boxscore.
It usually takes two seasons before we see these players show up in winter ball, and possibly a third season before they play regularly. Most players taken in the draft are in High-A or lower, and the level of play in the Dominican is the highest for any winter ball league. It’s about the same as what you see in Triple-A for most of the year, but by January, some teams will have numerous Major League players in their lineup, so you’re talking about a weak MLB team (weaker than Pirates this season..I know you were thinking it)