Five Pirates Prospects Selected in the Dominican Winter League Draft

The Dominican winter league held its annual draft on Wednesday night, with seven players from the Pittsburgh Pirates eligible to be selected.

The Dominican draft is for players who debuted in full-season ball in 2019. It also includes some other players who debuted in 2018, but they were not drafted last winter. Once selected, these players belong to their winter team in the Dominican. If they decide to play winter ball, they will play for the team that selected them today. The team can trade players at any point and can release them at any time. It’s basically like the majors, except they don’t reach free agency and don’t need to play to remain with the team.

Part of the intrigue with following the draft is to see where your prospects stand up against other prospects from the Dominican. That works well with position players only, because pitching prospects rarely play in the league as they are coming up the system, so even the best ones tend to drop in the draft. A player from a team more willing to let pitchers play winter ball, might get selected over a better pitching prospect.

That makes this season a little less interesting than previous years. For example, the 2018 draft included Lolo Sanchez and Rodolfo Castro as two of the top twenty picks in the draft. Oneil Cruz, Adrian Valerio and Stephen Alemais were high picks in the 2017 draft. You can find prior drafts here:

2016

2015

2014

The list of players eligible this season included some of the better international prospects in the system, but they are all pitchers. It’s led by Osvaldo Bido (pictured above), who split his season between Greensboro and Bradenton, posting a 3.32 ERA in 135.2 innings, with 107 strikeouts, a 1.11 WHIP and a .224 BAA. He’s followed closely by 20-year-old Noe Toribio, who looked strong at Morgantown and Greensboro this year. Toribio posted a 3.18 ERA in 68 innings, with 66 strikeouts, a 1.06 WHIP, a .206 BAA and a 2.14 GO/AO ratio.

You also have Yerry De Los Santos, who established himself as a prospect this year after dealing with injuries in the past. The 21-year-old right-hander posted a 1.44 ERA in 50 innings with Greensboro. He had a .183 BAA, an 0.88 WHIP, 73 strikeouts and he went 13-for-13 in saves. Relievers are more likely to play winter ball, so they could be favored by teams selecting players, making someone like De Los Santos a bit more intriguing in the draft than Bido or Toribio.

Winston Nicacio put up strong stats this year, though at 22 years old and pitching at Low-A with prior experience at the level, he had a leg up on the others. I’ll note that Osvaldo Bido is older than Nicacio, but he’s an extreme case due to signing late and he was very skinny/weak when he signed. The Pirates were filling him out and teaching him to pitch years after most players take those first steps. Nicacio was rated as the best pitcher in this draft (among Pirates) by a Dominican draft expert, so his age/experience probably factored into that ranking. As far as our prospect rankings go, he’s still a fringe top 50 prospect, placing him behind these other three players, who all have better stuff at this point. Nicacio had a 2.80 ERA in 61 innings, with a 1.05 WHIP, a .225 BAA and 55 strikeouts.

Cristofer Melendez was picked up by the Pirates in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft this year, after he spent four seasons in the DSL. He went to Greensboro in early May and put up some unusual numbers. Despite a 5.13 ERA in 47.1 innings over 28 appearances, he struck out 76 batters and held opponents to a .203 BAA. He allowed over half of his runs in just 3.2 innings. In his other 43.2 innings, he had a 2.47 ERA.

The final pitcher is Luis Nova, who is rehabbing down at Pirate City currently. He had a 4.39 ERA in nine starts with Greensboro this season. Nova also made two appearances with Bradenton, though they were just as a filler over from Pirate City early in the season. He doesn’t quite rank up with the other players. He can hit 94 MPH with his fastball in relief, but he’s a smaller pitcher, who works off-speed heavy. That works well in the lower levels as a starter, but not above High-A unless you have plus pitches.

The only position player is Raul Siri, who didn’t get picked last year. He’s more experienced now and closer to being ready for the league, but his limited upside might keep him from ever contributing in the Dominican league.

Here are the results from the draft:

The first player picked here was De Los Santos, who went 25th overall to Gigantes del Cibao.

Bido was the second Pirates player picked, going 32nd to Aguilas Cibaenas.

Toribio joined Yerry De Los Santos on Gigantes del Cibao. He was selected 55th overall with the first pick in the tenth round.

Melendez was picked 70th overall by Tigres del Licey, who then took Nicacio with the very next pick (71st overall).

Nova and Siri went undrafted. A total of 159 players were eligible and the teams made 96 selections.

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