Minor League look: GCL Pirates
Seeds sown for prospects to rise through system
Here is Part 6 in a seven-part series taking an in-depth look at how each of the Pirates' Minor League affiliates fared during the 2009 season. Previously, we examined Triple-A Indianapolis, Double-A Altoona, high Class A Lynchburg, and Class A West Virginia and short-season State College. Up sixth is the Gulf Coast League Pirates:
Record: 29-31; fifth in GCL North division
What went right?
-- After starting the season in the Venezuelan Summer League, catcher Ramon Cabrera was promoted to the GCL, where he got his first taste of professional baseball in the U.S. Cabrera responded better than expected. In 37 games with the GCL Pirates, he hit .291 and drove in 16. The switch-hitter also showed impressive plate discipline all season for being just 19 years old.
-- Shortstop Benji Gonzalez, a seventh-round Draft pick in 2008, did well enough in his second taste of the GCL that he earned a summer promotion to low-A West Virginia. With the GCL Pirates, Gonzalez hit .289 in 49 games. He scored 23 runs and swiped seven bases in 12 attempts.
-- Outfielder Rogelios Noris also stood out on the GCL team. Though his .250 average in 41 games wasn't overly impressive, Noris did show some power and finished with more extra-base hits than anyone else on the club.
What went wrong?
-- The club, quite younger than recent Bucs GCL clubs, finished under .500 facing more seasoned players from the Yankees, Braves and Phillies in their new division.
-- The Pirates had hoped to see more offensively out of outfielder Wesley Freeman (16th-round pick in 2008) than he ended up showing in 2009. Playing in his first full season at the GCL level, Freeman struggled to make the necessary adjustments at the plate, and his offensive totals at the end of the year reflected that. He hit just .210 in 50 games and drove in only 12. Freeman also finished the season with 59 strikeouts in 158 at-bats.
-- The GCL Pirates finished in the bottom half of the league's team totals in most offensive categories, including batting average (.237), runs scored (206) and home runs (nine).
On the rise
-- Though it came through just a brief look, the Pirates were certainly pleased with what they saw from three of their more promising 2009 Draft selections: pitchers Zackry Dodson (fourth round), Brooks Pounders (second round) and Zachary Von Rosenberg (sixth round). Because he signed quickly, Pounders was able to make nine appearances (four starts) in the GCL. He finished with a 3.04 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings. Von Rosenberg and Dodson each made just one appearance, but keep your eye on both in '10 and beyond.
Batting average: Cabrera, .291
Doubles: Gerlis Rodriguez, 12
Triples: Noris and Elevys Gonzalez, 2
Home runs: Noris, 6
RBIs: Rodriguez, 28
Stolen bases: Gift Ngoepe, 13
Wins: Jhonatan Ramos, 5
ERA (starter, minimum 30 IP): Ramos, 1.82 ERA
ERA (reliever, minimum 15 IP): Trent Stevenson, 1.20 ERA
Saves: Diomedes Garcia, 7
Strikeouts: Brent Klinger, 36
The three most asked about players with the GCL Pirates -- Rinku Singh, Dinesh Patel and Ngoepe -- will likely be back playing in Bradenton next season, though Ngoepe does have a chance to break in with the low-A West Virginia club, director of player development Kyle Stark confirmed. This past year was the first that each of the three have spent playing organized baseball in the U.S. Stark reported that both Indian pitchers performed better than expected, with Singh progressing a bit further than Patel. Stark also characterized Ngoepe's first season as a solid one, particularly on the defensive end.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.