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Pirates MiL Preview: GCL Pirates

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The GCL Pirates won't be fielding a lot of top prospects, apart from maybe the left side of the infield, but they will have interesting players at most positions and at least a handful on the pitching staff.  The lineup should feature a lot of players with the potential at least to hit for average, although there probably won't be much power.  There's also a lot of speed, at least in the outfield, and some strong defensive players.  The Pirates didn't draft many prep arms this year, but the pitching staff will have some raw arms from the Dominican Summer League and a few interesting junior college draftees.

This year's draft rounds are in parentheses.

Catcher

The primary catcher for the second straight year will be Yoel Gonzalez.  He was signed for $300K out of the Dominican on the strength of a strong defensive game.  He didn't hit much in the GCL last year, but at least wasn't overwhelmed based on a decent BB:K rate.  Organizational catcher Reggie Cerda will also be with the team, as will non-drafted free agent Garrett Russini, who signed after his senior year at Stetson.  Eventually, Paul Brands, an 18-year-old from The Netherlands, is expected to join the team.  He's had visa issues.

Infield

In 2007, this was the GCL Pirates' infield:

1B:  John Fitzpatrick.  Age 23, signed as a non-drafted free agent out of college, 2007 was his only year in pro ball.

2B:  Caleb Fields.  Age 22, drafted as a college senior, his pro career ended after 15 games in 2008 in low A.

3B:  Danny Bomback.  Age 22, drafted as a college senior, he lasted until 2009 and played briefly in high A.

SS:  Chad Rice.  Age 22, drafted as a college senior, he was out of pro ball after 2008 and didn't get out of short season ball.

That's one of my favorite examples when I think about how things have changed for the organization since the days of The GM Who Shall Not Be Named.  You don't expect four Miguel Cabreras in one rookie league infield, but it'd be nice at least to have some guys with some non-zero chance of becoming prospects.  Here's this year's GCL Pirates' infield:

1B:  Jhoan Herrera.  Age 20, signed to a $350K bonus out of the Dominican as a third baseman.  Herrera was slated to go to Bristol last year, but he hurt his ankle, then went back to the DSL and hit pretty well, with good plate discipline but only a little power.  He apparently lost out to Julio De La Cruz at Bristol this year and has been forced to first by Ke'Bryan Hayes.

2B:  Raul Siri.  Age 20, signed out of the Dominican slightly on the late side at 18.  Siri had a big year in the DSL, even showing good power although he's only 5'9".

3B:  Ke'Bryan Hayes (1S).  Age 18, supplemental first round draft pick this year.

SS:  Adrian Valerio.  Age 18, signed for $400K out of the Dominican.  Valerio is potentially a premium defender whose bat was suspect.  He held his own at the plate in the DSL, with decent gap power and plate discipline.

If Herrera and Valerio hit, this could be an outstanding infield for the level.  The team is also likely to look for playing time for Luis Perez, who hit .302 with a huge walk total in his debut season in the DSL last year.  He was, however, a little old for the level at 20.  Signed as a shortstop, Perez will have to play everywhere due to the other players in the infield.  The team also has Sam Kennelly and Nelson Jorge.  An Australian, Kennelly hit .282 with just one more strikeout than walks in the GCL last year.  He's still only 19.  Also originally a shortstop, Kennelly will probably spend more time at the infield corners.  Jorge was a 7th round draft pick last year and struggled severely in the GCL.  He's also nominally a shortstop.

Outfield

The outfield should have a great deal of speed, but the hitting may be a question mark.  The two most prominent outfielders will be Michael De La Cruz and Edison Lantigua.  De La Cruz signed for $700K in 2012 and looked like a top prospect going into last year, but had a miserable season in the GCL, hampered by injuries and trouble adjusting to life in a new country.  He has great speed and is potentially a strong defender in center.  Lantigua is a line drive hitter who had a good debut in the DSL last year.  He's strictly a corner outfielder.  The other three outfielders -- Luis Benitez, Victor Fernandez and Eric Thomas -- are all very speedy.  Benitez and Thomas didn't hit much in the GCL last year.  Fernandez signed a little later than the norm in Latin America and played his debut season last year in the DSL at age 19.  He posted an OPS of .867.

Pitching

The GCL Bucs have over 20 pitchers on their roster.  I'm going to limit myself to discussing the more prominent pitchers.  The team has only a limited number of innings to divide among these pitchers and will probably more or less let the pitchers themselves dictate who gets regular work.  There isn't much distinction between starting and relieving, as nobody is likely to go beyond 3-4 innings very often.

The most interesting pitchers will be the 2015 draftees, especially Jacob Taylor (4), Nathan Trevillian (22) and Seth McGarry (8).  A JuCo signee, Taylor has hit 97 and probably has the highest ceiling of any pitcher the Pirates drafted, but is still somewhat raw.  He only became a full-time pitcher in 2015.  Trevillian came the closest in the team's draft to fitting its standard mold of projectable prep right-hander, although he's "only" 6'2".  McGarry can get his fastball up to 97, but he has some health concerns and may be limited to relief.  The Pirates assigned him to the GCL even though he was drafted out of a four-year college, but he has only limited experience on the mound.

Other 2015 draftees are Chris Plitt (14) and Nicholas Economos (21).  Plitt had a good, two-year JuCo career and fits the projectable pitcher mold well at 6'4", 170.  Economos is also a JuCo draftee and can hit 94, but has control issues.

Most of the remaining pitchers on the roster moved up either last year or this year from the DSL.  There probably aren't any top prospects in the bunch, but quite a few have shown enough to move forward at least as relievers.  Some names to look for:

Jose Batista:  A lefty, Batista signed in the low six figures and pitched mostly well in relief in the GCL last year, sometimes reaching the low-90s.

Cristian Mota:  Mota is a small lefty (5'10", 150), but throws reaches the mid-90s, which was enough to get him an unusual mid-season promotion from the DSL to the GCL last year.  He'll be 24 in September, yet last year was his pro debut.

Richard Mitchell:  Considered a solid prospect when signed, Mitchell throws in the low-90s, but spent three years in the DSL.  He mostly pitched well last year, but with a K/9 of only 3.3.

Luis Escobar:  The opening day starter in the GCL (of course, that doesn't mean anything and he failed to get out of the 1st inning), Escobar has reached 94, although he's not a big guy.

Mister Luciano (yes, that's his name):  Luciano isn't big, but throws in the low-90s with a good curve.

Alex Martinez:  Already 20 in his second pro year, Martinez doesn't have much experience but can reach the mid-90s.

Yoan Montero:  Plagued by ID issues (just verification; he was not caught cheating on his age) that kept him from pitching for three years, apart from one game, Montero has good size at 6'4" and can reach 94.  He's returning to the GCL.

Vince Deyzel:  The Pirates signed Deyzel out of South Africa.  He has very limited experience on the mound, but he's only 17 and reaches the upper-80s.

Regulars

C: Gonzalez

1B: Herrera

2B: Siri

3B: Hayes

SS: Valerio

OF: Lantigua, De La Cruz, Fernandez/Benitez

Key Pitchers: Taylor, Trevillian, McGarry, Mitchell, Batista, Escobar

Top Prospects: Ke'Bryan Hayes, Adrian Valerio, Jacob Taylor, Raul Siri, Michael De La Cruz, Edison Lantigua