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Season In Review: Gulf Coast League Pirates

The Gulf Coast League Pirates finished their season on Saturday, going 29-30. One can generate onlly the vaguest impressions based on GCL statistics, and I haven't even seen video of a lot of these players, but here's what I can piece together about what happened and what it might mean for next year.

Among the hitters, the three who probably deserve the most attention are OF Exicardo Cayonez, 2B Jorge Bishop, and 3B Eric Avila, all Latin players who hit respectably in the GCL at league-appropriate ages. None hit spectacularly well, but competence in the GCL is definitely worth something, since it suggests that these three guys can safely be sent to West Virginia to start next season. Of the three, Cayonez is the youngest and has the strongest pedigree - the Pirates gave him a $400,000 bonus in 2008. Avila tied for the league lead with seven homers.

Another hitter who bears watching is Junior Sosa, who I don't think I've ever seen described as a great prospect, but who has put up good numbers two years in a row now. This year, he posted a .379 OBP and struck out about as often as he walked, which are good signs, but he's listed at 5-foot-10 and 150 pounds, and there are any number of players that size who can succeed at the lower levels of the minors but not at the higher ones.

The hitters also included a number of picks from the last two drafts. 2010 picks Dan Grovatt and Jared Lakind made late-season cameos; Grovatt could be at West Virginia next year, while Lakind will probably be on one of the short-season teams. 2010 24th-rounder and first baseman Justin Howard hit very well, which isn't a surprise, since he's 23 and was a college senior; he surely would have played capably at State College, but Matt Curry got most of the playing time there. We'll see if Howard starts at West Virginia next year.

2009 10th-rounder Joey Schoenfeld played pretty well, but very infrequently, which was mysterious, since Schoenfeld signed for a relatively large bonus and the GCL Bucs' other main catcher, Elias Diaz, didn't hit much at all. Diaz hit well in Venezuela last summer and is supposed to be pretty good defensively, so the Bucs might simply like him better. In any case, Schoenfeld didn't even turn 19 until June, so there's plenty of time for him to come along.

Several other hitters might have made themselves into prospects with a good season, but they really didn't hit at all. Pirates fans have long been fascinated with Wesley Freeman, but the Pirates have tried him at a variety of levels, and he's had no success so far. International players Dylan Child, Daan Cornelissen, Chih-Wei Hsu, and Ping-Hung Chi also hit very poorly; it's possible they need more time to get used to American baseball, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Outfielder Gregory Polanco made his stateside debut and played regularly, but likewise didn't hit - the Pirates like him a lot and he's only 18, so he'll probably be back at one of the short-season leagues next year.

The only other hitters who got much playing time were Luis Solano, Michaelangel Trinidad, and Kevin Mort, who all look like organizational players.

The GCL team had about a million pitchers, and it's just about impossible to draw conclusions since most of them pitched so little, so let's sort through these guys quickly. Joely Rodriguez and 2010 12th-rounder Vincent Payne soaked up a bunch of starts and have already made their way up to State College. Rodriguez walked 24 batters in 47 innings in Venezuela last year, and he took a big step forward by only walking seven in 47 frames in the GCL, so he might be worth watching, particularly since he's a lefty with good velocity.

Fraylin Campos struck out a batter an inning in the GCL after pitching brilliantly in the Dominican last summer, but WTM cautions that he's a small guy. As with hitters, small pitchers who put up good numbers in the low levels might struggle later on.

One pitcher who doesn't have that problem and might be worth watching, believe it or not, is Rinku Singh. The Bucs' other Indian pitcher, Dinesh Patel, probably isn't much of a prospect, but Singh is 6-foot-2 and left-handed, and he pitched very well in 20 relief innings. The Pirates will no doubt move him along very slowly, as he's still new to the game, but I'd say the chance that one of these two will make the majors increased dramatically this year (from maybe about 1-in-100 to, say, 1-in-30).

2010 27th-rounder Kevin Kleis wasn't highly regarded at the time of the draft, but he pitched fairly well in the GCL as an 18-year-old and is 6-foot-8, so he might be worth watching.

Barrett Phillips is pretty much a complete mystery, as the Pirates signed him as a non-drafted free agent in 2009, but he didn't turn 20 until June and was one of the GCL Bucs' better relievers.

After that, most of the other pitching prospects played so little that it's tough to say much about them. Quinton Miller, Trent Stevenson and Colton Cain all pitched a little, but are finishing the season at higher levels. 2010 draftees Nick Kingham, Ryan Hafner, Bryce Weidman, Bryton Trepagnier and Logan Pevny all made cameos after signing.

Finally, here are two more pitchers to watch out for next year: Emmanuel De Leon held his own this year in seven innings as a 19-year-old, and judging from his performance this year and in the Dominican, it looks like he'll strike out a bunch of batters but also walk a bunch. And Lithuanian Dovydas Neverauskas didn't completely fall apart as a 17-year-old this year, which is reasonably impressive.