Pirates Hitters Highlights on Extended Spring Training Roster – Pirates Prospects
Last week, we took a look at the notable players on the pitching side in Pirate City who were taking part in Extended Spring Training. This week we move to the batting side, which has 33 names, including a player we reviewed last week. This week will mainly focus on a large group of players signed as international free agents in the past 2-3 years. Every player here is in the 18-20 range, so they’re both far from the majors and they have time to reach their upside potential.
We start with the same player we did last week because he is the high bonus player in this group, receiving $3 million for opting out of a Clemson commitment. Bouba Chandler will have work both ways this year, seeing the mound, as well as time at shortstop/DH. His shot seems to be behind the throw at this point, but he’s an extremely athletic player with raw power potential. He was only used as a position player after signing last year and struggled a bit at FCL in limited work, with a .167/.324/.300 slant line and 16 outs at bat in 37 plate appearances.
Lonnie White Jr.. received a $1,500,000 bonus for signing him away from Penn State. He played nine games after signing last year, with a strikeout problem similar to Chandler’s, but he did it with a .258/.303/.516 slash. Much like Chandler, there’s a lot of athleticism here and high potential from the tooled outfielder.
Bishop of Braylon signed last year for a late overrun bonus that was essentially all the Pirates had left him ($268,700) from their bonus pool, but far less than most people expected from his total bonus. He was highly rated out of high school, looking more like a 4th-5th round pick than a 14th round pick. He has elite batting speed, as well as being very athletic and quick on the bases and in the outfield. If it seems like I’m repeating the same thing for these three players, it’s because the Pirates targeted these types of multi-sport athletic players. He hit .192/.250/.192 in eight games last year.
Deion Walker was essentially the 2019 Draft Braylon Bishop, late draft pick and signing for a similar bonus, possessing athleticism, raw power and speed. Walker is a little taller at 6’4″, and he hits from the right side (Bishop is left-handed). He was fighting for a job at Low-A Bradenton this year, so he could be there before the FCL season starts. Walker hit .200/.340/.300 in 33 games last year in the FCL.
On the international side, Shalin Polanco received the highest bonus for a Pirates international amateur position player, earning $2.3 million last January. He had a rough start in DSL last year, but still made the jump to the United States, and he’ll be one of the best players to watch this FCL season for the Pirates. He hit .204/.284/.338 last year, finishing better than he started. I note that this group already has four listed flyers and that there are more to come.
Javier Rivas had a rocky start at plate in 2021, posting numbers that put him among the worst hitters in all of DSL. However, he was a player the Pirates were very keen to sign, and was said to have a huge advantage. Defensively, things were going well last year in the infield, but in the spring he showed signs of attack that we didn’t see last year. I’ve been told he’s a player to watch this year
Seeker Omar Alfonso was another highly regarded player when he signed on his 16th birthday. He’s got a bat in front of his defense behind the plate, but he’s got room to grow in both areas, as his power was more raw than game-ready, while the defense was good enough that you’d think he would be able to stay behind the plate. He hit .232/.429/.333 in his first season working in the DSL last year.
Ewry Espinal is a corner fielder with more raw power. The 19-year-old didn’t do well in his DSL debut last year, hitting .155 in 45 games, with 60 strikeouts. However, it’s going to have a chance to grow as the power is a more legit tool, ranking among the best in the system. Obviously, he needs to make more contacts to take advantage of it, but we’re talking about someone with less than 200 home plate appearances in pro ball.
Solomon Maguire was a big signing for the Pirates at the end of the 2019-20 signing period. They actually had to acquire more bonus space in the Starling Marte trade to be able to sign him. He is a well-equipped center fielder, considered one of the best prospects to ever come out of Australia. Sadly, his 2020 season was wiped out due to the stoppage, and his 2021 season was sidetracked by injury. He was basically in rehab twice last year, but doing it at the level he was supposed to play because there was no other option. Despite a $594,000 bonus, which was all the Pirates had in their bonus pool at the time, his name got lost among other prospects.
outfielder Gustav Armas was a highly regarded prospect, who was signed as part of the 2020-21 international signing class. He proposed an advanced approach to the plate, with the potential for more than four tools. His lowest mark was running, which was still average/50. He hit 0.231/0.378/0.265 in 51 games last year. Only one player saw more games for either of the two DSL Pirates 2021 teams last year.
Jesus Castillo is another player who needs time to develop and fill in before he sees his true potential, but he has the advantage of being a strong midfielder with speed. Very athletic player with excellent instincts and good hand-eye coordination. Although he finished with a .613 OPS, he was not outmatched and the lower number came from low extra hit numbers, which should improve as he got stronger.
Deivis Nadal receives high marks for his shortstop defense and he’s still raw enough that there’s plenty of home plate advantage to make him a more complete player. On offense, he didn’t do well in the FCL last year, hitting .165, while failing to pick up an extra hit. He did much better in the DSL in 2019, achieving a .791 OPS in 54 games, so we’ll see if a second season in the FCL proves different.
Dioris Valdez can be summed up in three words. Power power power. He is essentially a DH with uncommon raw power. It’s so raw that he only homered once in 97 appearances last year, but he showed a solid approach at the plate, getting his share of walks, without hitting too often. Did I mention power?
Emmanuel Terrero signed for a $600,000 bonus, which was the highest awarded to a position player in the 2019–20 signing class. It came as advertised, with a solid approach on the plate and solid tools across the board. He put up a .707 OPS, with more walks (37) than strikeouts (24) in 174 plate appearances. He would have more value as a center back, where he has marginal defense, but most of his time in 2021 has come in left field.
Jeral Toledo was one of the standout signings in 2019-20. He’s an athletic, switch-hitter infielder who was a bit raw and had a lot of space to fill. He managed to put up a .731 OPS in 52 games (top among all DSL hackers), with more walks than strikeouts. He also played 42 games at shortstop, which is a lot when teams sign lots of shortstops and need to get them at all times.
Jauri Custodio put up some fine stats in the DSL in 2019 and then repeated the league last year, although he was held back by injury. When he played he had an .845 OPS. He was originally going to sign with the Colorado Rockies for $150,000, but he failed the physical and then signed with the Pirates shortly after when his medicals were clear. The injury was nothing more than a really bad bruise.
Esmerlyn Valdez is another bat with huge power potential, who showed it quite a bit in games last year, with eight doubles and five home runs in his somewhat limited DSL time. He still has room to fill more and with experience he should turn some of that raw power into game power. His bat is his tool of transportation, so he needs that power to grow at its peak.
Wesley Zapata is an interesting promotion in the United States. When he signed, reports said he was very raw so their expectations weren’t high for his season. That turned out to be true, as he had a .538 OPS that was powered by a solid march rate. He played at 5’10”, 150 pounds last year and he added weight to reach that figure. He still has a lot to do, but he has all the tools to stay at shortstop and he’s doing a great job at home plate in terms of his approach, his understanding of the strike zone and making contact. He was chosen to be a baseball rat. In other words, if the team had a doubleheader, he would be out early for practice and would want to play a third game afterwards.
This list features 11 outstanding outfielders and six guys who can play shortstop. At least with the infielders, you can play them at second or third base, but the Pirates are going to have plenty of time for all those outfielders to play. Believe it or not, there are four other outfielders there that I haven’t mentioned. There’s nothing like friendly competition for playing time.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PERSPECTIVES
Williams: What if there were no starting pitchers?
Prospect Roundtable: Which pitch prospects benefit from a long-term approach?
Yerry De Los Santos thrives in pressure situations
Pirates Hitters highlights on extended spring training roster
Mike Burrows: solved control issues on the way to the first win
Blake Sabol shows the first looks of a new approach
Hudson off to a good start, but needs consistency to keep his numbers up