This article is part one of a five-part series, that could expand to more articles possibly as we dive deeper into the subject. We start it off today with a look at the top recent Pittsburgh Pirates from the Dominican Summer League who have made the majors.
I’m using Baseball-Reference, and their year-by-year stats of the DSL go back to 2006, so it basically covers the last 16 years, though no one has made it all the way from the DSL to the majors over the last few years for obvious reasons. Part one of this series looks at every player for the Pittsburgh Pirates who played in the DSL since 2006 and made it to the majors. We will expand into other teams and other ways of looking at these results as the series continues.
This is the entire list of Pirates from 2006-now who have made it to the majors, sorted by career WAR, with a brief summary of their big league career.
Starling Marte (34.8 WAR)
Marte had a rough 2007 season and a solid 2008 season in the DSL. He was highly thought of as a prospect at the time and improved that stock as he went along. He has probably exceeded expectations a little, or at the very least he has reached his ceiling, which we all know doesn’t happen as often with prospects as we would like to see. He’s been an All-Star, a two-time Gold Glove winner and he led the majors in steals in 2021. His WAR far exceeds anyone else on this list, and the total of the other players as a group as well.
Gregory Polanco (3.9 WAR)
Polanco has fallen well short of expectations, with injuries playing some part in that equation. That part of the equation is impossible to figure out, but we saw glimpses of his potential with three seasons of 30+ doubles, two years of 20+ homers, solid stolen bases numbers, decent walk rates and an arm that was once above average. His 6.7 WAR through 2018 looks a lot better than his current eight-year total.
Edgar Santana (1.6 WAR)
Santana had a solid 2021 season with Atlanta after TJ surgery and a suspension cost him two full seasons. He was a low-profile signing, but we got rave reviews after his first inning in the DSL, then he shot through the minor league system like no one else for the Pirates. Another player who looked like they could be a piece for the Pirates, but missed time ruined that shot.
Dario Agrazal (0.7 WAR)
If ever a player was side-tracked by injuries, it was Agrazal. He was putting everything together in 2017, and then he got hit with one major injury after another, which didn’t stop after he left Pittsburgh. Pirates fans in 2019 didn’t see the same pitcher he was in mid-2017, and that’s a shame.
Luis Santos (0.3 WAR)
He played in the majors with the 2017-18 Toronto Blue Jays and he’s still active, playing summer and winter ball in 2021. The Pirates traded him away five years before he scratched his way to the majors. He wasn’t with the team long enough to really establish any prospect status.
Pablo Reyes (0.0 WAR)
He was never a top ten prospect for the Pirates, but the scouting reports always made him out to be a player with big league potential, so he’s basically become what we expected. Just like Edgar Santana, Reyes was suspended for the entire 2020 season, costing him time with the Pirates. He was a decent utility player for the 2021 Milwaukee Brewers, which is his likely role.
Luis Escobar (-0.1 WAR)
He fell short of expectations, though the Pirates also seemed to give up on him a bit too quick. There were some behind the scenes things that I won’t get into, which cost him more chances. Him missing the mark definitely wasn’t all talent related. He’s still only 25 and playing pro ball, so he might not be done.
Willy Garcia (-0.3 WAR)
If there was ever a player who did exactly what I expected, it was Garcia. His awful walk and strikeout rates led me to believe he would barely play in the majors. I thought a little bit higher of him before he lost some speed between Low-A and Triple-A, which took away possible tools (steals and defense) that would have helped him get more big league coffee.
Rodolfo Castro (-0.4 WAR)
With the expanded international bonus pool space over the last few years, this statement is bound to change soon, but Castro is the only current big league player for the Pirates who came up through their DSL academy. He was even rushed to the majors to make that statement true, which showed in everything about his game except the unreal home run barrage at the start of his big league time.
Sherten Apostel (-0.5 WAR)
He had a rough time with the 2020 Texas Rangers that was very brief, then had some real issues in Triple-A this year after an average run in Double-A. He’s just about to turn 23, and he was rushed to the majors in 2020, so there’s still plenty of time for him to get on the right side of the replacement level line.
Joely Rodriguez (-0.6 WAR)
This is a tough one to call, because to me he exceeded expectations, but there are definitely people who think he fell short. I talked to scouts who loved him, but I never saw it, so the fact that he has pitched parts of four seasons in the majors, even with below average results, surprises me.
Alen Hanson (-0.9 WAR)
Hanson was majorly mishandled by the Pirates, though it may not have mattered in the long run. It definitely didn’t help, but it was fairly annoying following him day-by-day and watching what they were doing with one of their top prospects at the time. He only had 92 plate appearances with the Pirates before they moved on. The Giants got good value out of his skills in 2018, but he has played just 18 big league games since, and he hasn’t played well recently in either winter or summer ball.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
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The Pirates Are Giving Bubba Chandler Work as a Two-Way Player
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The Best Pittsburgh Pirates from the Dominican Summer League
Demographics of the Pirates’ Prospects Over the Years: How They Were Acquired
Brennan Malone is Showing a Confidence Surge
Bear Bellomy: Matchup Oriented Approach Brings Positive Results
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.