The hidden gem. The diamond in the rough. However it's phrased, the appeal is the same. It's not necessarily the gem or the diamond that's exciting, (although it is), it's the fact it's unexpected. It's buried, it's hidden and when it appears, it feels like a bonus.
In the Pirates farm system Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Tony Sanchez, Luis Heredia, and Starling Marte are the obvious gems. Even if they aren't as big or sparkly, guys like Matt Curry, Rudy Owens, Bryan Morris, and Jeff Locke also qualify as well-known "gems."
Still, in every farm system are the guys, in this case, buried under the mass of the other, more recognized "gems." Inevitably, one of these guys will pop onto the radar, but for now they are hidden, flying under the radar. WIthout further ado (and more bad introduction writing), I present to you 5 Pirates farmhands really flying under the radar.
Dilson Herrera (Link)
According to this page over at piratesprospects.com, Herrera was signed for $220,000 dollars this past August. Herrera, a shortstop listed at 5'10", 150lb, turned 17 this past March. After signing for a sizeable amount, (the 3rd highest international bonus amount last year, behind both Heredia and Willy Garcia) Herrera has impressed so far this year in the VSL.
In 31 games (113 AB), Herrera has put up a triple-slash of .310/.389/.478. That's an ISO of .168, which is solid considering Herrera's position and size. Herrera also has showed adequate plate discipline with 13 walks to only 19 strikeouts so far this year. In addition, he has stolen 10 bases, getting caught only 2 times, showing at least reasonable speed. Unfortunately, the downside is he has committed 13 errors so far this year, double all but one of his teammates (2nd "place" has 8 errors). Herrera is certainly an exciting guy to keep our eye on.
Alen Hanson (Link)
Of the 5 guys I've listed on here, Hanson might be the most well-known. He signed in July of 2009 for an unspecified bonus amount. Last year, in 2010, Hanson managed to gain significant helium as a prospect, posting a .324/.383/.447 triple-slash in the DSL. While in the DSL, Hanson mainly played 3B, mixed with a little 2B.
Hanson, a switch-hitter listed at only 5'11", 152, has started off hot so far this year. In 7 AB's over 2 games, Hanson has 4 hits, 1 for a double and 1 for a homerun. He hasn't struck out and has walked once. That computes out to a 1.768 OPS so far. Obviously he can't maintain that pace and the sample size is so small words can't begin to describe it, but it's nice to see him start fast and seemingly adjust well state-side as opposed to simply looking lost. Despite those great numbers, the most exciting development has to be Hanson's position played in those same 2 games. In both contests, he has played SS, over other international bonus babies such as Jodaneli Carvajal and Yhonathan Barrios. If he continues to hit like this and has a legit shot to stick at SS, he should quickly fly up prospect lists.
Dovydas Neverauskas (Link)
I will be honest, I have an absolute mancrush on Dovydas Neverauskas. It may be because his name simply rolls of the tongue. It may be because Dovydas held his own in the GCL last year despite not even being 17.5 years old and having to deal with (presumably) intense culture shock. It may also be because that, according to this, Dovy (can that be his nickname?) was sitting in the low 90's and reached 94 this spring, mere months after turning 18 (Jaunary 2011).
The most plausible answer is yes, as in yes, it's a combination of all three. What I do know for sure is that you should be rooting for Davy to be the first Lithuanian to make the Major Leagues (as far as I could tell). I know I will.
Edwin Espinal (Link)
I could find very little about Edwin Espinal. I couldn't find a scouting report or a bonus amount. All that does is increase the intrigue about a guy hitting .350/.460/.500 in 40 AB (12G). In those same 40 AB's he has walked 8 times and only struckout 2 times. That plate discipline, while over a very small sample size, is tremendous.
What is even better about him: his size and age. He's listed as a 3B at 6'3", 210 pounds. Considering he's only 17 (back in January), I'd venture that him being 210 pounds versus 180 pounds may be as much fat as muscle (okay I'm guessing and being optimistic) so he may still have "room" to add muscle to his tall frame (room if he can eliminate any fat). At least that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.
Kawika Emsley-Pai (Link)
Kawika is the only player on this list playing above short-season ball. Generally that is because players who could seemingly be legit prospects are known if they playing in low-A ball or above. However, Kawika took an interesting path to the Pirates, which explains his status as a relative unknown. This interview describes how Kawika was a 10th round pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010 before being cut after a one-year trial in short-season ball. The Pirates signed him to a minor league deal this past December.
Now that you know more about Kawika, the question is why is he on this list. Well so far this year he's posted a .840 OPS by way of a .301/.442/.398 triple-slash, despite having a terrible June. His plate discipline is phenomenal, with 23 walks to only 15 strikeouts in 98 at-bats. He's a long-shot, but because Kawika's essentially a "free" 10th round pick, he's an interesting prospect.