In the first two articles of this series, we looked at the value the Pittsburgh Pirates got from players who went through their Dominican Summer League teams since 2006, then compared that value to the rest of the National League Central.
Last week we switched things up a bit, while sticking to the DSL theme. That article is a look at the best hitters in the league from 2006 through 2016, to see how many of those players made the majors. I used the 2016 season as a cut-off because the players from the more recent years could still be coming up through the system at this point. This week I’ll look at the pitching side.
I decided to use the top 20 pitchers each year according to three separate stats because I wasn’t sure that any of them would be sufficient on their own. I’m going to look at ERA, WHIP and strikeout rates for each season through 2015, giving us a ten-year sample size of the DSL. Next to each name is their finish in each category.
I started with 2006 because that’s the first year of full stats from the DSL listed on Baseball-Reference. I decided to use 25 innings as a minimum, which gave us a good sample size each year and wouldn’t eliminate any relievers, but it’s also enough that no one could dominate a few starts and get on the list.
Next to each year in parenthesis, I listed the number of big league players and the amount of qualified pitchers.
2006 (nine out of 97)
ERA: Alexi Ogando (2nd), Fernando Abad (18th), Luis Marte (tied 19th), Luis Perez (tied 19th)
WHIP: Angel Castro (5th), Ogando (9th), Perez (12th) Marte (16th)
Strikeout Rate: Ogando (6th), Marte (7th), Perez (13th), Castro (16th)
Summary: You basically have four of the best 20 pitchers in the league making it to the majors, not including Abad, who barely made it onto the one list. Ogando put up 9.3 WAR and made an All-Star team. Castro pitched five big league games in relief and had 0.1 WAR. Perez had 0.5 WAR in three seasons. Marte had 0.7 WAR in two years. If you want to throw in Abad too, he had 3.1 WAR and he’s still active.
2007 (nine out of 99)
ERA: Kelvin Herrera (3rd), Alexi Ogando (4th), Kelvin Marte (16th)
WHIP: Marte (4th)
Strikeout Rate: Marte (3rd), Ogando (6th), Herrera (11th)
Summary: I’ll count this as three out of the 20 best making it. Ogando goes against everything we know about the DSL. Usually when someone repeats the level after success, it’s because they don’t throw hard and get by with control and off-speed pitches. Plus he was 23 years old! Marte had -0.2 WAR, while as a member of the Pirates. Herrera put up 10.2 WAR in ten seasons, last playing in 2020.
2008 (eight out of 99)
ERA: Edwar Cabrera (3rd), Andre Rienzo (8th), Gonzalez Germen (9th), Pedro Hernandez (14th)
WHIP: Germen (3rd), Hernandez (8th), Cabrera (11th)
Strikeout Rate: Cabrera (1st), Hernandez (16th), Ariel Pena (20th)
Summary: I’m counting this as four, with Rienzo only making one category, but he had a high finish. Cabrera put up -0.4 WAR. Hernandez had -1.1 WAR. Germen 0.2 WAR. Rienzo had -1.6 WAR. None of the successful pitchers ended up as successful big league pitchers, but they count none the less for this test.
2009 (eight out of 98)
ERA: Lisalverto Bonilla (12th)
WHIP: Gonzalez Germen (4th), Bonilla (13th)
Strikeout Rate: Germen (2nd), Bonilla (11th)
Summary: Germen makes it here again, repeating the level at 21 years old. Bonilla put up -0.4 WAR in two seasons. So far, this is the weakest year, especially with one of the players repeating.
2010 (five out of 98)
ERA: Jayson Aquino (6th)
WHIP: Aquino (3rd)
Strikeout Rate: None
Summary: Our first category with a zero. Aquino, who was once a member of the Pirates system, finished 25th in strikeouts. He had -0.3 WAR. The 2009 season was weak, but 2010 was awful.
2011 (seven out of 95)
ERA: Jayson Aquino (tied 6th), Adalberto Mejia (10th)
WHIP: Aquino (6th), Mejia (7th)
Strikeout Rate: Frank Garces (1st), Cesar Vargas (8th)
Summary: I’m counting this as four because Garces and Vargas both put up solid ERA/WHIP stats, even though they didn’t make the top 20 in either category. We already met Aquino, while the 21-year-old Garces put up 0.0 WAR in his 55 big league games. Vargas had 0.0 WAR in seven big league starts. Mejia accumulated 1.3 WAR.
2012 (eight out of 98)
ERA: Antonio Senzatela (1st), Miguel Almonte (12th), Jayson Aquino (18th)
WHIP: Aquino (7th), Almonte (8th), Senzatela (11th)
Strikeout Rate: Luis Santos (5th), Aquino (7th), Victor Alcantara (10th)
Summary: I’m including Santos as a top 20 and making it four players, but not Alcantara, because he didn’t have a good WHIP. Aquino just won’t leave this league. Almonte has -0.5 WAR. Santos put up 0.3 WAR. He was with the Pirates at this time in 2012. Senzatela is still active and he has 6.3 WAR.
2013 (13 out of 94)
ERA: Pedro Araujo (5th), Elieser Hernandez (10th), Nabil Crismatt (13th), Miguel Castro (17th)
WHIP: Antonio Senzatela (2nd), Araujo (3rd), Crismatt (11th), Baez (18th)
Strikeout Rate: Castro (2nd), Araujo (7th), Raynel Espinal (10th), Crismatt (11th)
Summary: Clearly this is the best year for making it to the majors. I’m going with five players here, including Senzatela because he finished so high in WHIP and did well in the other two categories. Espinal didn’t do as well in the other two categories. Araujo has -0.5 WAR. Castro is active with 3.7 WAR. Hernandez is active with 0.9 WAR. Crismatt is active with 0.3 WAR.
2014 (eight out of 99)
ERA: Marcos Diplan (8th), Jhonathan Diaz (14th)
WHIP: Diaz (11th)
Strikeout Rate: Luis Madero (10th), Gregory Soto (11th)
Summary: I’m going with three here because Diplan did solid work in the other two categories, as did Madero. Soto falls short in ERA and WHIP. Madero debuted in 2021 at 24 years old and had -0.3 WAR. Both Diplan and Diaz turned 25 in September and debuted in 2021, posting 0.3 WAR. Those debuts show that it’s still early and we could see more eventually make it.
2015 (three out of 96)
ERA: Darwinzon Hernandez (5th)
WHIP: Christian Javier (11th)
Strikeout Rate: Pedro Avila (1st), Javier (6th)
Summary: Obviously the current results are bad from this group, but the three debuts from the 2014 group in 2021 shows that it is way too early here to pass judgement, other than saying it will be tough to get a star player from the guys who are still active without big league experience. I’m using all three big league players here. Hernandez didn’t have the best WHIP, but he had 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings and finished high in ERA. Avila had sold ERA/WHIP numbers. Hernandez has 1.4 WAR in 2+ seasons. Avila has made two strong big league starts, resulting in 0.3 WAR. Javier has pitched well in two season, accumulating 2.7 WAR.
What we see here is that 33 of the 200 top pitchers made it to the majors. That number counts players like Jayson Aquino three times because we are looking for the average number per year, not how many players total made it, but we can do it the other way too if you prefer that and you come up with 28 different players.
In comparison to the hitting list, we see 16.5% of the league’s top pitchers make it each year, while the hitters were down at 9% making it. If we go by positive value, the hitters had 5% of the top hitters add some value in the majors (anything over 0.0). The pitchers are at 16 players in ten years, or 8% of the top 20 pitchers each year.
Finally, with the hitters I looked at one year and noted that 20 out of 533 hitters (3.75%) made it to the majors. We can do that with pitchers as well. I used 2008 for this experiment because it seemed like the most average year above and it was long enough ago that no one new will make it. It also takes a while to come up with these numbers, which is why I did just one year. I found 21 out of 662 pitchers (that latter number could be off by a few due to position players and guys playing for two teams, but I think I found many of them and took them out of the count). What you get is 3.2% there.
If you combine both results, you get about a 3.5% chance of any DSL player making it to the majors. There’s a 13% chance if they were among the best in the league, and a 6.5% chance of one of those top players adding any positive value. The numbers say that position (hitter vs pitcher) doesn’t matter much for making it to the majors, but the top pitchers in the league are more likely to make it and have positive value.
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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.