Winter Leagues: Winter Debut for a Recent International Signing

Two days of action from winter ball in this article. The Dominican league had off on Thursday and Jung-Ho Kang was a healthy scratch on Wednesday, so there isn’t much to report. Kang was replaced in the lineup by Diego Goris, who spent his first four seasons with the Pirates in pro ball, before being traded to the Kansas City Royals in the Yamaico Navarro deal that worked out for neither team.

In the Dominican on Wednesday, Edwin Espinal went 1-for-3 with a walk. He is 5-for-13, with four walks in five games.

In Venezuela on Wednesday, Elvis Escobar went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt. It was the first game this season in which he didn’t reach base. On Thursday, Escobar went 0-for-4,  giving him two games in a row without reaching base. He has a .304/.375/.357 slash line through 14 games this winter.

In Mexico on Wednesday, Christian Navarro struck out as a pinch-hitter in his first winter at-bat. He was used as a pinch-runner three days earlier, which was his winter debut. Navarro probably isn’t a familiar name to most. He was signed by the Pirates back in July as an international amateur free agent. He took part in the Fall Instructional League in Bradenton back in September/early October, but he still hasn’t made his pro debut. We mentioned back then that it’s rare that an international free agent sees time in instructs in Bradenton before he plays his first pro game. It’s also rare for someone to make their winter debut before their pro debut.

Last winter, we saw 16-year-old shortstop Francisco Acuna play regularly and do well in the Colombian league before he played his first pro game. While he is older than Acuna, I wouldn’t expect much from Navarro this winter. The league in Colombia doesn’t have the talent you see in Mexico, where you get a lot of veterans of Mexican ball, players in Double-A, Triple-A and even the occasional Major League player. It’s a great experience for Navarro, but anything we see from him as far as game time is just an added bonus.

  • dgarshaw@gmail.com
    October 27, 2017 10:10 am

    I just checked the website for the latest on Jose Osuna and found nothing about what he is doing this off-season about:
    1. Fielding at third base
    2. Getting some at bats to make up for the few he obtained in ’17

    How bad a fielder is he at third base not to be considered as a likely candidate for ’18? Can his weakness in the field be offset by what we hope he can do at the plate?

    BTW, love this site. Keep up the good work.

    • We mentioned Osuna a couple of times in earlier winter articles. Here’s the winter preview https://www.piratesprospects.com/2017/10/winter-leagues-preview-jung-ho-kang-highlights-this-years-winter-coverage.html

      The Pirates have him resting right now, then he is expected to see time at third base once he starts playing. Unless he plays first base, he’s likely going to be a below average player. He’s played a lot of outfield over the years, yet due to his defense mostly, he was -1.2 WAR this season according to Baseball-Reference (just -0.1 was due to offense).

      I don’t think there is a lot of potential left in the bat, so he’s fairly close to what you should expect from him. We often mention age as a factor. Osuna turns 25 soon, but in baseball terms, he’s an old 25. He has always been healthy and has always played winter ball, so he has a ton of experience for someone his age. He also filled out early, which is what got him to Low-A at age 19, where he had success. He’s also had six years of full-season ball mixed with winter ball though, so he didn’t exactly rocket to this point with all of that experience.

      That basically means that I don’t expect him to be able to off-set poor defense at a new position enough to even be a solid backup option. The Pirates weren’t even willing to put him in any meaningless games at 3B in September despite him taking grounders there occasionally from early Spring Training until the end of the season.

      • dgarshaw@gmail.com
        October 27, 2017 12:17 pm

        Thank you. Now I can put that baby to bed–I had such hopes….

        • We will track his winter progress once he starts playing. I haven’t heard a date yet. I’m sure third base will be a focus of the coverage with him

      • John: Neither Osuna or Luplow got time at 3B because this Manager decided it would be better to play Freese and Rodriguez down the stretch. A Manager looking at 2018 and beyond would probably have tried one of the two RH hitting 24 year olds rather than Freese 34 and Rodriguez 32. Some numbers

        Freese 426 AB 26 EBH 10 HR 739 OPS
        Osuna 215 AB 24 EBH 7 HR 697 OPS
        SRod 95 AB 4 EBH 3 HR 528 OPS
        Luplow 78 AB 7 EBH 3 HR 660 OPS

        Anybody in their right mind would look at these numbers, their ages, and how far behind we were in the standings, and come to the realization that there was almost nothing to lose by playing Osuna and/or Luplow at 3B during September.

        • We mentioned the lack of playing time often for younger players, this year and last, so you’re preaching to the choir. It’s extremely annoying to know we have to put Max Moroff in our 2018 prospect guide after he spent 114 days in the majors this season. The playing time for Hanson, or lack thereof over the last three years led to them giving him away at age 24 with just 92 plate appearances to his credit. That to me was completely unacceptable. Not bringing up Kingham, whether he gets an extra option or not, was wrong. They anchored rookies to the bench or didn’t call them up at all and have two losing seasons to show for it.

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