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Monday, November 28, 2022

GCL Pirates Season Recap: A First Round Pick and Young Position Players

The GCL Pirates finished their season on Wednesday with an 18-36 record, losing their final two games from the schedule due to the hurricane headed towards Florida. The GCL season was already cut back from a 60-game schedule to 56 games. The Pirates had a team filled with high school draft picks and players over from the 2018 Dominican Summer League, with many talented position players in that group. It was a very young team, ranking as the third youngest among the 18 teams in the league. Here’s a look at the players of note from this year. The top ten list will likely be posted tomorrow.

Quinn Priester (pictured up top) was the obvious big name here, getting drafted 18th overall this year and signing quickly. He made eight appearances for the Pirates and looked the part of a first round pick before moving up to Morgantown to finish the season. He had a 3.03 ERA in 32.2 innings, with a 1.19 WHIP, a .238 BAA and 37 strikeouts.

The Pirates used a total of 26 pitches, but many of them were there for a short time. Their stats actually say 27 pitchers, but the one appearance credited to outfielder Carlos Canache was actually Wilger Camacho, a DSL pitcher who saw minimal time due to a spring injury. Camacho struggled with control, which would look even worse if he was credited with three walks in 0.2 IP that Canache has on his pitching line. Three of the limited time pitchers were noteworthy.

Ryan Harbin received a $397,500 bonus in the 17th round. He signed a little late and didn’t get a chance to make his final start due to the hurricane, so his time was limited. It didn’t help either that he struggled. In four outings, he went 9.2 innings, allowing ten earned runs on 11 hits, eight walks and seven strikeouts. He was considered more of a projectable pick, so while the stats might be disappointing, they weren’t unexpected at this stage.

Wilkin Ramos was acquired from the Oakland A’s in exchange for Tanner Anderson. His season was disappointing in two ways. One is that he missed time in the middle and end of the year, so he only made four appearances. The other is that he showed solid control last year in the DSL, but walked ten batters in 12.2 innings this season. He also had a .292 BAA, so not much went right. Purely by coincidence, all four of his appearances came against the Orioles.

Michael Flynn was a sixth round pick last year. This year he missed a lot of time due to an elbow injury and a setback during his rehab. He made just three short appearances in the GCL, but he appears to be healthy now and he’s joining Morgantown today to continue to get in some innings.

As for the other regulars, there are no big name prospects to watch, mostly just young international pitchers and others with potential. Arlinthon De Dios led the team in innings pitched with 40.2 and he posted a decent 3.54 ERA, but his 1.57 WHIP leaves something to be desired. He’s just 19 years old, so the fact that he had a full-time starting spot means that they see some potential. Bryan Torres was the top international signing in the 2017-18 signing period for the Pirates, but he really struggled in the jump to the GCL. It’s a pitcher-friendly league, so his 6.35 ERA and 1.58 WHIP really stand out. He turned 18 in April, so there is plenty of time here for improvements.

Domingo Gonzalez jumped from the DSL to the GCL mid-season and posted a 3.58 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP, with 43 strikeouts in 37.2 innings. He turns 20 years old in a month and has filled out his 6’0″ frame already, so there isn’t much projection here, but he had a solid season and is now currently in Morgantown to finish the season.

Four other pitchers of note all struggled with control, but they all have big arms. Estalin Ortiz was used as a starter, while Willy Basil, Starlyn Reynoso and 36th round pick Jake Sweeney were all relievers. All walked around one batter per inning and picked up their share of strikeouts. Basil sits 95-96 MPH and along with Reynoso, hits 97 MPH. Sweeney and Ortiz are big lefties with velocity, though Sweeney had better velo numbers in college than in the GCL. Despite being drafted out of college, he didn’t turn 19 until after the draft. There’s potential here in this group, but they all need work.

The offensive side has much more potential and it came from both the 2018 DSL class and the 2019 draft. The DSL provided a group of five top players to watch in Juan Pie, Angel Basabe, Norkis Marcos, Emilson Rosado and Yoyner Fajardo. The draft brought in Sammy Siani (37th overall pick), Jase Bowen (11th round), Jasiah Dixon (23rd) and Deion Walker (35th).

Fajardo was the oldest of the group and played his way out of the league with a .337 average and 16 steals in 28 games. He’s currently in Bristol. Walker and Dixon both hit well in limited time. Dixon led the team with an .841 OPS in 22 games, while Walker was second at .789, also in 22 games. The limited time was partially due to a crowded outfield, but both signed late and needed time to get back into game shape after longer layoffs.

Siani was the big name due to his draft stature. He posted a .680 OPS, driven by 26 walks, but he also struck out 41 times in 39 games. He didn’t show much power with three doubles, three triples and no homers, but the walk total easily led the team, and he went 5-for-5 in steals. For reference, the average OPS in the GCL this year was .679, so he was right in the middle of the league.

Bowen showed a little more power than Siani and not as many walks, but they had similar seasons. He hit four doubles and four triples in 35 games and also stole five bases. The average was low at .223, but he wasn’t over-matched. The key here with Bowen is that he cleared up some of the outfield congestion by playing second base in the second half of the season. He also took some turns at shortstop.

Pie was the top international prospect, but we didn’t see much of that in his GCL time. He posted a .661 OPS in 38 games and showed one of the better strikeout rates. Pie had two doubles, three triples and two homers. The team didn’t hit their first home run until well into the season, but they finished with ten homers on the year, which is far from the worst this league has seen. Pie provided a little excitement early in the year by going 5-for-14 with three doubles for Morgantown. He was in a small group of players that served as fillers while they waited for draft picks to sign and the GCL season to start.

Basabe was the second best prospect from the DSL, but had the worst stats in this group. In 36 games, he had a .210/.278/.303 slash line, hitting five doubles and three triples. He went 0-for-5 with a walk with Morgantown as part of that filler group. The 18-year-old Basabe put up solid stats in the DSL last year, so this was a disappointing debut in the U.S.

Marcos and Rosado are both 18 years old from the Dominican, but the comparisons stop there. Marcos is an athletic middle infielder, while Rosado is a non-athletic power hitter at third base. Rosado had a .746 OPS last year in the DSL. This year he showed similar power numbers, yet his OBP dropped 71 points. His .665 OPS was close to league average, though the value here is all in the bat, so you want to see more. Marcos had a .630 OPS, 12 stolen bases, showed increased power and defensive skills. The problem here was that his 45:50 BB/SO ratio in 265 plate appearances last year, turned into an 11:50 BB/SO ratio in just 156 plate appearances this year. The walks took a huge hit and the strikeout rate jumped.

One final player and it’s the outfielder who didn’t actually pitch. Carlos Canache was signed as an international free agent in August of 2018 and did so well this spring that the Pirates decided to skip him over the DSL. He was part of that crowded outfield situation, which led to limited time. He hit just .209/.311/.297 in 34 games. When you factor in him skipping a league, then the stats don’t look as bad. It may have been better for him to play in the DSL after all, though he had a lot of playing time in Spring Training and Extended ST that didn’t show up on paper.

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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.


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