Yesterday, we posted the season recap for the 2018 Dominican Summer League Pirates. We noted that they used a total of 75 players during the season and by the end of the year cuts, 68 of those players were still in the system. That’s a lot of players to sort through for a top ten list. This is also the toughest team to put together a top prospects list for because so many of the players are still high school age.
If you’ve followed our draft coverage over the years, you know that a lot can change on the high school side just during the spring leading up to the draft. Now imagine two full teams worth of players who could fall into that category. A great example this year is pitcher Julio Rosario. He was the worst pitcher on last year’s team. A year later, two people who I talked to for these rankings mentioned him as one of the best pitchers this season.
With the help of a few people who saw them play daily, we put together a top ten list. The order of the list is all done by us because once we get reports, we then factor in things that they don’t such as age, position value and most importantly, the scouting reports for pitchers.
Stats are great to look at, but we have seen many pitchers over the years get by with just control in this league, or by going heavy with breaking balls. Even being a lefty who throws strikes, is a decided advantage in this league. Basically, non-prospects can put up the best stats in this league and never make it to the U.S. So if you look at this list below and wonder why a certain pitcher who did well isn’t on it, there’s your answer.
2018 DSL Pirates Top Ten Prospects
At other levels, we use minimum playing time for ranking players and the final rankings are based off of our mid-season updated top 50 rankings. We don’t include players in our top 50 rankings until they have made it to the U.S., so none of these players were considered for that list. We also don’t use these minimum playing time here, although none of the players below would have been eliminated if we did.
1. Juan Pie, OF – Pie was the top international signing for the Pirates in their 2017-18 signing class among players in the DSL. Ji-Hwan Bae got a bigger bonus this March, but he played in the GCL. Pie received a $500,000 due to the potential in his lefty bat. He’s strictly a corner outfield who lacks the speed and defensive instincts for center field. That won’t matter though if the bat reaches its potential. Pie hit .258/.382/.421 in 58 games this season. Those numbers were put up by someone who turned 17 in April, and they came in a league that favors pitchers. He showed the ability to drive the ball well, with 12 doubles, eight triples and two homers. The eight triples really shows the power because he is a slightly below average runner, but the big fields and younger fielders in the DSL allow you to shoot the gap and run for days. Pie still has room to fill out his 6’2″ frame, so some of those doubles and triples will turn to homers as he gets older.
2. Angel Basabe, CF – Basabe received the second highest bonus among DSL Pirates this year, getting $450,000 to sign on July 2nd. He’s also a 17-year-old lefty bat, lefty thrower like Pie, but they don’t have a lot of similarities after that. Basabe is an athletic center fielder, with a solid arm and some range, along with some defensive instincts. He should be able to stick out there in center, although he has a 6’0″ that has a lot of room to fill out still, so we could be talking about a totally different player down the line. That’s especially true if his bat plays up. Basabe hit .260/.341/.414 this year in 50 games. He missed some time due to a minor shoulder injury early. He also finished poorly, posting a .537 OPS in August with a high strikeout total and only three walks in 19 games. He got more impatient at the plate once he began to slump. That’s something that can improve just with age and maturity.
3. Daniel Rivero, CF – Rivero’s bonus wasn’t announced because he was from Venezuela and the industry is trying to protect players from that country. The Pirates mentioned to us that they were really excited about him when he signed and others I talked to grouped him in as one of the big bonus players, so he likely received a sizable deal. He looked like a big bonus player by hitting .317/.380/.370 in 61 games, with more walks (20) than strikeouts (17). Rivero played on a different team from Basabe so both of them could see regular playing time in center field. He committed just one error out there in 47 games, although one assist in a league full of aggressive runners is a very low total. Rivero turned 17 in January and he’s a 6’1″, 191 pound right-handed hitter. He has decent size already and runs well, but the power isn’t there yet. He shows a strong approach at the plate for his age and has a great ability to make contact.
4. Yoyner Fajardo, IF/OF – If we broke these players into tiers like we do for our top 50 prospects, Fajardo would be in the second tier all by himself. He’s not quite up there in potential with those top three players, but he’s clearly ahead of the rest of the pack at this point. Fajardo had the best season of any DSL Pirates, hitting .311/.402/.455 in 62 games, while going 17-for-20 in steals. He’s a lefty bat, with decent size at 6’0″, 179 pounds (he’s probably a little heavier than that listed weight because he has filled out some already). He turned 19 back in April, so he was two years older than the group of outfielders ahead of him. Fajardo played everywhere in the field except first base, catcher and pitcher. That type of versatility in what you like to see from players as they get closer to the majors, but in the DSL, solid defensive players usually don’t move around a lot. That is especially true if they are the best hitter on the team. If he continues to hit well at higher levels, then they will find a spot for him.
5. Bryan Torres, RHP – Torres received a $185,000 bonus to sign on July 2, 2017. Among international bonuses by the Pirates over the years, it’s a decent size, but far from putting him among the top 20 handed out over the last ten years. However, when you factor in pitchers only, it was the highest bonus since Luis Heredia. Torres was also a rare signing from Nicaragua, a country that hasn’t been represented in the Pirates system for about five years prior to his signing. The 6’2″, right-hander turned 17 in April. He has already filled out a little more than most players his age. Torres has a four-pitch mix, throwing a fastball that sits 90 MPH, a sinker, a changeup and a curve. The velocity doesn’t impress, but he has projection left in his arm and should add to that number as he gets older. He posted a 2.61 ERA in 51.2 innings, with a 1.08 WHIP and a .230 BAA. The highlight of his season was back-to-back outings of six shutout innings. Prior to 2017, the Pirates didn’t even let DSL pitchers go six innings, so that’s not something we have seen before at this level.
6. Denny Roman, LHP – The Pirates promoted 11 players to the U.S. during the season this year. A few of them were considered for this list, but Roman was the only one who ended making the top ten. When he got promoted, he went right to Bristol as a starting pitcher, where he made four appearances and showed some potential with 17 strikeouts in 14.2 innings. Before leaving the DSL, the 19-year-old lefty from Mexico was blowing away hitters with his 94 MPH fastball and excellent control. He also works quick and has an above average breaking ball. In 23.2 innings, he had three walks, 44 strikeouts and an 0.85 WHIP. Roman was only in the Dominican due to needing a visa to get into the U.S. He had experience against better hitters than what he faced in the DSL while in Mexico before he signed, so it’s no surprise that he did well there, although he was dominating hitters in that league. The scouting report is what got him on this list, while his 5’9″, 180 pound frame keeps him from ranking higher.
7. Emilson Rosado, 3B – Rosado is a big strong kid with raw power potential. He turned 17 back in February and stands 6’3″, 229 pounds. He has a strong lower half, and while you wouldn’t say he has room to fill out still, he does have room to get into better shape. If you remember Edwin Espinal when he was in the system, there are a lot of similarities at the same age. Rosado hit .287/.377/.368 in 51 games, not showing a lot of in game power, with 11 doubles and one homer. He’s not a threat on the bases, which led to zero triples or stolen bases. As you saw above with Juan Pie, you don’t need to be fast to hit triples in the DSL, but it’s tougher to do the slower the player. Rosado is already a decent defender at the hot corner, so there is potential for him to stay there. Once the power translates to games, then he could be a decent prospect, but conditioning will be important to watch here.
8. Norkis Marcos, SS – Marcos had a somewhat disappointing season, which stems from his approach at the plate. He’s a patient hitter to a fault, which often led to the desired walks (45), but he’s also a top of the order singles hitter, who struck out 50 times in 57 games. Marcos turned 17 right before the DSL season started. He hit .230/.373/.263 in 209 at-bats, with three doubles and two triples. He’s not a small shortstop at 6’0″ tall, and once he fills out and gets a little more aggressive at the plate, we should see more power. The defensive reports were solid and it’s always a good sign (on defense) when a player gets the majority of the playing time at shortstop. That’s because teams usually sign numerous shortstops and only keep the best ones there. He already has strong instincts on the bases, which along with above average speed, led to him going 14-for-15 in steals.
9. Estalin Ortiz, LHP – Ortiz is a 19-year-old southpaw, who stands 6’4″, 213 pounds and throws hard. He is not your typical late signing who was a late bloomer. He’s been a known commodity since before he was eligible to sign. Ortiz had a high price tag back in 2015 when he was first eligible to sign that July 2nd. When no one met his demands and he continued to get better, his price tag went up even higher. I heard from an inside source that he wanted a seven-figure deal at one point. He was content to wait for someone to meet his price until around 2017 when he started to get offers from teams after a showcase event. He still turned down three substantial offers before he was finally talked into taking the Pirates offer after his 19th birthday. Ortiz has great size and hits mid-90s consistently as a starter. His overall stats weren’t great this year, but he put together a strong month of July, then allowed just one run in his final two starts combined. We should see better results as he gets more consistent mound time.
10. Jesus Valles, RHP – I asked numerous people, including other players, who they thought was the best pitcher for the DSL Pirates this year. Every one of them said it was Valles. So that begs the question, why is he not higher on this list? The simple answer is that he turns 21 in December, so he was old for the level. He also didn’t dominate hitters. The other part was a slow finish to his season, where he went to a relief role and wasn’t pitching as well. That was to decrease his workload at the end of his first year of pro ball. Valles finished with a 3.86 ERA in 51.1 innings, with a 40:8 SO/BB ratio. Despite being older, he still has room to fill out his 6’3″ frame. Valles throws his four-seam fastball 90-92 MPH and it’s his best pitch. He also has a sinker (88-90), an above average changeup (80-84) and a curve (76-78).