Monday, April 2, 2012
Under the Radar Breakout Candidates
This year, there are the more obvious candidates to fill that roll. Tony Sanchez could bounce back in a Robbie Grossman type fashion. Stetson Allie could have a season that makes him part Grossman, part Freeman. However, predicting that is somewhat boring and easy. Instead, it's more fun to look for guys like Kyle McPherson, lesser names who don't pop up as a bright and obvious blimp on a radar. These three guys - outfielder Willy Garcia, pitcher Victor Black, and shortstop Dilson Herrera - might be those names for this year.
Measurables: 6'3, 177
Acquired: Intl FA, 2010
Garcia was actually the Pirates second most expensive international free agent signing in 2010, but he was largely overshadowed by the kid who topped that list, Luis Heredia. Signed prior to the season for $280,000, Garcia spent his first year in the DSL. There he had a poor year, highlighted by a tripleslash of .250/.333/.333, displaying very little power. On the positive side, Garcia did display decent plate discipline, posting a walk rate of 7.1% and strikeout rate of 17.3%.
Ignoring the immediate surface, the Pirates must have liked what they saw from Garcia. He was promoted stateside and placed on the GCL Pirates roster still 6 months shy of his 19th birthday. Garcia responded well, posting a .266/.323/.446. While he did struggle a bit with his plate discipline - 27.7 K% and 5.5 BB% - it wasn't out of control, especially for a young Latin American prospect playing at a somewhat challenging level for his age. Furthermore, Garcia showed impressive power, tying for the team lead with 5 homeruns. The young outfielder also added nine doubles and four triples for a total ISO of .180. Garcia also got a 3 game taste of State College in 2011 to end the year and should start the 2012 season as a Spike while still only 19 years old.
Thus far, Garcia has produced solid results. However, what's truly exciting about the young kid is that those results suggest that Garcia is already converting his considerable tools and impressive frame into a complete ballplayer. On that note, Garcia is a true five-tool player. His frame - Garcia stands at 6'3 but only weighs 177 pounds at the moment - suggests that he may have to eventually move to a corner outfield spot. That will most likely be right field; Garcia has a strong arm that projects as an above-average to plus tool in the future. Even if he does move to right field, Garcia's has enough athleticism to be an above-average runner. Offensively, Garcia has good bat speed. That bat speed suggests that Garcia could end up with a solid hit tool one day. However, More exciting is his power potential. That bat speed, along with Garcia's lanky, athletic frame suggests he could add plenty of muscle and plenty of power. The fact that he managed to hit 5 homeruns last year just adds to that excitement. Make sure to watch Willy this year. A strong start to the season and he could shoot up the ladder to West Virginia and as a result he could also shoot up prospect lists.
Measurables: 6'3, 185
Acquired: 1 (49) 2009
In 2008, the Pirates selected pitcher Tanner Scheppers in the second round. He didn't sign and as a result the Pirates got a compensatory pick in the 2009 draft. With that pick, the Pirates selected pitcher Victor Black out of Dallas Baptist University. At the time of the draft, Black's strengths included a projectable 6'4, 204 pound frame and a fastball that sat in the 92-94 mph range and touched as high as 96 mph. His weaknesses included being generally raw, especially in the area of command and secondaries.
Production hasn't really been an issue thus far for Black. That's because production of any kind hasn't really occurred; Black's major issue has been staying healthy and appearing on the mound at all. In 3 years, Black has barely pitched 70 innings. When he has pitched, Black has posted strong strikeout numbers, but has also struggled with his command, posting bloated walk numbers.
Black will turn 24 this May. He's quickly becoming old and will need to rise fast to establish any type of a prospect status. The Pirates have seemingly realized the same and have assigned Black to AA. What makes Black intriguing is reports have him hitting 98 mph, premium velocity, in the fall. If he's able to maintain that velocity and perhaps sit in the mid 90's, while improving his changeup and slider, Black could quickly become one of the Pirates top pitching prospects. Make sure to watch him this year.
Measurables: 5'10, 150
Acquired: Intl FA, 2010
Herrera was actually right behind Garcia in terms of international bonuses in 2010, signing for $220,000. That winter Herrera managed to hit .304 in the Venezuelan winter league in 112 at-bats. For the 2011 season, Herrera was assigned to the VSL. There he put together a very impressive season with a tripleslash of .308/.413/.472. Herrera's .308 average displayed his strong hit tool and his isolated patience of .105 - fueled by a 12.3% BB rate compared to a 18.7% K rate - was indicative of advanced plate discipline. The young shortstop also displayed promising power, especially considering his small stature, hitting 2 homeruns, 5 triples, and 19 doubles.
Herrera was signed as a switch-hitter, but has since moved to hitting as a right-handed hitter full time. The young prospect also spent much of the year playing third base, but Herrera has enough athleticism, especially when combined with his exceptional instincts, to have the range for shortstop. His arm is another question - it's fringy - and he might have to move to second base in the future. As mentioned earlier, Herrera is small, and that might ultimately mean his power will never be even average. Despite that, all of his other tools should be at least average, and as a finished product, Herrera may have a plus hit tool, plus glove, above-average speed, and an above-average arm. Considering Herrera is already fairly polished, the chances of him developing well are higher than the average player his age. That development might also happen quickly, so make sure to watch Dilson Herrera next year as he most likely moves stateside.