We posted the season recap for the GCL Pirates yesterday, where we mentioned 22 players of note. Today we look at the top ten prospects in more detail. Usually we use a limit of 20 innings pitched/10 relief appearances and 70 plate appearances to qualify for the short-season top ten lists, but this team played a shorter schedule this year, so we lowered the standards a little bit to match the schedule. The only players of note who didn’t qualify were 17th round pick Ryan Harbin and 18-year-old right-hander Wilkin Ramos, who both made just four pitching appearances.
GCL Pirates Top Ten
- Quinn Priester, RHP – Priester was drafted 18th overall by the Pirates this year and that was in line with his rankings throughout the draft coverage. The scouting report said that his fastball could get up to 97 MPH and he had one of the best curves in the prep draft class. He also featured a two-seam fastball that sat low-90s and had a lot of movement. Scouts also liked his athleticism and the fact that he was showing all of this skill on the mound despite pitching in a cold weather state and also playing football. Priester had a solid debut, which isn’t over yet. He has a second NYPL start scheduled for Morgantown on Monday. Before being promoted, he put up a 3.03 ERA in 32.2 innings, with a 1.19 WHIP, a .238 BAA and 37 strikeouts.
- Sammy Siani, OF – Siani was drafted 37th overall this year as a high school player out of Pennsylvania, who showed an impressive hit tool for his age. He’s a lefty hitter who made consistent solid contact, with solid bat speed and patience at the plate. All of his other tools graded out as average and there is some question as to whether he will develop home run power or just be a high OBP doubles hitter. There were also questions about whether he would stick in center field or be a strong corner outfield defensively. Siani showed that ability to get on base, with a .372 OBP. He didn’t show much power though, with no homers and six extra-base hits in 133 at-bats. The 41 strikeouts in 39 games is also a bit concerning for someone who received praise for ability to make contact. Overall it was an average showing for the 18-year-old, but the bat gives him solid upside.
- Jasiah Dixon, OF – Dixon wasn’t drafted until the 23rd round, but that wasn’t due to talent. Baseball America rated him as the 177th best player in the draft. He fell due to his college commitment to USC. Dixon was one of the younger high school picks in the draft class, turning 18 on August 31st (the day this article is being posted). He was also one of the fastest players in the entire draft class and he had a plus arm, along with strong defense. There were some questions about the bat, but he still got high marks for his bat speed and raw power. He at least answered the question about whether he could handle the GCL, batting .329/.417/.425 in 22 games, with only 11 strikeouts in 84 plate appearances. The Pirates signed him for $225,000, which could look like a steal down the line.
- Jase Bowen, 2B/OF – Bowen is a very athletic player, who the Pirates drafted in the 11th round and signed away from Michigan State, where he was going to play both football and baseball. He was announced as an outfielder, but by mid-season he was taking grounders at both second base and shortstop. Bowen finished the year playing regularly at second base. He hit .223/.301/.315 in 36 games, showing a little pop in his bat, some speed and a solid walk rate. Nothing spectacular overall, but the 18-year-old is a toolsy player, whose athleticism allows him to play almost anywhere on the field. With most two-way HS players, especially from a cold weather state, you should have a little more patience for them to put everything together.
- Juan Pie, OF – Pie was the top DSL prospect from 2018 and he moved up to the U.S. this year, where he turned 18 at the end of Spring Training. He had a solid debut in 2018, showing some power and patience. He’s a 6’2″ left-handed bat, who projects as a corner outfielder due to average speed. He was signed to a $500,000 bonus for the potential in his bat and his debut numbers were a good sign. That didn’t carry over to 2019 in the GCL. Pie made a nice impression early in the year at Morgantown when he was a temporary filler while they waited for draft picks to sign, but he hit just .231/.314/.347 in 38 GCL games, and that included a strong August to finish the season. We saw some late power and his strikeout rate was solid, so there is still upside here and his August numbers (.752 OPS) might be a better indication of the talent level.
- Deion Walker, OF – Walker is much like Dixon in that he was an outfielder drafted late, but rated much higher than his draft spot. Both were also young for the draft class, with Walker turning 18 last week. Both also had solid debuts too, with Walker posting a .789 OPS in 22 games. The difference here is that Walker had more power potential in his 6’4″ frame and doesn’t have the speed of Dixon. We saw some of that power in his brief time, with five doubles, three triples and a home run. There is potential for more though, especially as he grows older and fills out that large frame. Walker did some pitching in high school, so between that and his age, there’s some rawness to his game, but his tools grade out well across the board. That gives him a high ceiling if everything clicks.
- Yoyner Fajardo, IF/OF – Fajardo was the best hitter in the DSL for the Pirates last year and he was the best hitter for the GCL Pirates early this year. That led to him being promoted to Bristol. The reason that he isn’t rated higher is that he is 20 years old and he’s a singles hitter. His ability to put the ball in play consistently, along with his above average speed, makes him a player worth watching. In his first 123 games as a pro, he has a .321/.396/.417 slash line and 33 stolen bases. Fajardo has bounced all around the infield and outfield, playing six different spots. If he continues to hit for a high average and use his speed well, then that versatility will help him progress up the system. Showing a little more pop in his bat without sacrificing his on base skills would help that progress.
- Angel Basabe, OF – Basabe was rated as the second best prospect in the DSL last year. He’s a lefty bat with some pop and decent speed, who projected to stay in center field. As a rookie in 2018, he posted a .756 OPS in the pitcher-friendly DSL. The 18-year-old Basabe didn’t carry over those stats to the GCL this year, hitting .202/.273/.290 in 36 games. He mostly played both corner outfield spots, but that was due more to a crowded outfield situation, rather than him not being able to handle center field. There’s still plenty of upside here, but if we are going to see him reach that potential, it’s going to take a little bit longer. The silver lining is that the Pirates are loaded with lower level outfielders, so they have the chance to be patient with some if needed.
- Norkis Marcos, SS – Marcos is a projection player. A very athletic middle infielder who projects to stay at shortstop. He has above average speed and he can drive the ball well. At 18 years old and 6’0″ tall, he has time to fill out some and add power. His biggest issue is his ability to make contact, which led to him landing this far down the list. Marcos struck out 50 times last year in the DSL, which is a somewhat high number for the league. It came with 45 walks though, which put him among the league leads in that category. This year he struck out 50 times again, but he had just 156 plate appearances, compared to 265 last year. It also came with just 11 walks. The tools are definitely here, and he will still be 18 at the start of the 2020 season, but Marcos will need to show a better ability to make contact going forward.
- Domingo Gonzalez, RHP – Gonzalez makes this list despite not starting or finishing the year with the GCL Pirates. He’s a 19-year-old right-hander, who began the year back in the Dominican Summer League for a second season as a reliever. He was dominating the level, racking up strikeouts and shutout innings, which led to him being promoted to the U.S. in July. He was pushed into a starting spot for the GCL club and he posted a 3.58 ERA in 37.2 innings, with 43 strikeouts. That led to him being promoted to Morgantown to finish the season. At 6’0″ and already filling out his frame, he doesn’t have much projection. What you do have here is someone who throws low-90s with a solid curve and knows how to pitch, showing better command than you see from most teenagers. It’s not high upside, but he’s more advanced than most young pitchers in the GCL, so that should help carry him through the system.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.