The 2022 minor league season begins today with Indianapolis starting their season, but down at Pirate City, there will be an interesting group of prospects coming over from the Dominican Summer League. We recently wrapped up a series here that talked about how unlikely it is for a player from the DSL to make it to the majors, along with showing that success in the league really doesn’t make a lot of difference. So good or bad, you can take the stats here with a grain of salt, because the scouting reports hold a lot more weight at this point.
The fact that these players came to Spring Training early is a good sign. A large group of players don’t show up at Pirate City until the full-season minor league players leave for their teams. Those late arriving players are guaranteed to remain in the Florida Complex League. That’s probably also true for these players, though they are usually more advanced. The only exceptions in the early arrivals would be the catchers, who are necessary with all of the pitchers in minor league camp. That being said, there’s a catcher in the group of players listed below.
Let’s get into the names of players to keep an eye on in 2022.
Shalin Polanco would be the obvious first choice, but being their top signing from the 2020-21 international signing class with the biggest bonus the Pirates have handed out since Luis Heredia, he isn’t flying under the radar. He even got into Sunday’s Pirates game late as a reward for his hard work during Spring Training. There’s a group of other players who came over with him worth mentioning.
Javier Rivas (pictured above) had what can be considered an awful season in 2021 on offense (he was their worst hitter on either DSL team), which I would have been more worried about if stats in the DSL mattered more (I didn’t put a lot of weight in them before that article series), and the players didn’t miss an entire season of development in 2020. The fact that he played shortstop regularly says a lot, especially with the amount of shortstop they sign each year. He also came highly regarded when he signed, with huge potential upside on both sides of the ball and the potential to be the best player out of a strong looking 2019 signing class. Rivas actually got into Sunday’s big league game as well. If he only slightly improves over 2021 numbers in the FCL this year, then we will have a problem, but for now it’s best to look at the positives at this early stage.
Omar Alfonzo is the catcher here, and he didn’t just come to the U.S. as catching depth to help out with all of the pitchers. The Pirates were very high on his bat, as one of the youngest signings in the entire 2019 international signing class. He’s a lefty hitter with power potential. He showed a little bit of that in 2021 in the DSL, but the impressive part was his 32 walks in 133 plate appearances, which led to a .429 OBP. The scouting report when he signed said that the approach at the plate was advanced and the power was still more raw power than game, so we could see more from him this year. His dad caught for six seasons in the majors, so the position is in his blood.
Jeral Toledo feels like he switched places with Javier Rivas last year. Toledo put up a .713 OPS with more walks than strikeouts last year, as well as being the other regular shortstop for the DSL Pirates (different team than Rivas). He had a strong season on both sides of the ball, which wasn’t really expected of him right away. Toledo was considered to be very raw when he signed and he would take some time to develop, but the tools were all there to give him a high upside. He might just be developing quicker than they expected. He also played in Sunday’s game.
John Zorrilla is an interesting case because of a shoulder injury during Spring Training, he was basically rehabbing during the 2021 season, occasionally getting into games off of the bench. So there’s really no stats to go off of, even if they don’t matter much. What we do know is that he was considered to be the second best prospect signed by the Pirates in 2020-21 class behind Shalin Polanco. This was part of the initial scouting report I received: “He has HUGE potential upside, great athleticism, a big frame, the ability to stick at shortstop. There’s potential here for five average tools or better.” Zorrilla should be interesting to follow in 2022.
Jesus Castillo provided a strong defensive option with the ability to play above average defense at shortstop, though the Pirates had him moving around in 2021, but he did well wherever he played. The question marks with him are with the bat and whether he will hit enough to make it. He grew a lot right before signing with the Pirates, so once he fills out, that might help the power area, which was the real concern. His defense, speed and approach at the plate were all average or better.
There are more players of note, but this is an interesting group of names to remember this season.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Pittsburgh Pirates 2022 Top 30 Prospects
Williams: The Pirates Have a Nice Convergence of Prospects
WTM: An Embarrassment of Riches
Potential Sleeper Prospects From the Dominican Summer League
Despite Setbacks, Travis Swaggerty In Position To Validate Draft Status
Unique Skillset Gives Dariel Lopez Breakout Potential
Under the Radar: Sleepers Just Outside of the Pirates Top 30
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.