The Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system is rebuilding. Who are some of the prospects in the lower levels that are moving into the prospect radar going forward? Domingo Robles is one to keep an eye on.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are not known for developing left-handed starting pitchers. Over recent memory, the only lefties they have really brought through the system are Jeff Locke and Steven Brault. Furthermore, both those players were brought in through trades. However, there is one lefty in the lower levels that could buck this trend.
Domingo Robles is a young left-handed pitcher who has recently started to appear on top 30 prospect lists for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Currently, MLB Pipeline has Robles ranked as the Pittsburgh Pirates 27th best prospect. He snuck onto the list in the midseason update this past season. He is just 19 years of age and has pitched three seasons in the organization. The first two years were at the Gulf Coast level, and this past season he was at Short-A Bristol.
The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Domingo Robles back in 2014 when the International Market officially opened. He received a bonus of $175,000, which was one of the bigger bonuses they gave out that season. He stands at 6’2” and weighs 170 pounds, so he still has plenty of room to fill out. Robles was scouted as have plus pitches, but very raw. It was expected that he would need to work on developing his pitches, but his mechanics were advanced.
Currently, his fastball sits in the 91-92 miles per hour range. The belief is that as he fills out he will add more to his fastball’s velocity, so the expectation is for it to reach 93-94 mph. The big thing with his fastball is that it has good sink to it. Last season, he produced a ground ball rate of 57 percent. Anything over 50 percent is considered good, but up over 55 percent is excellent. So this is definitely a really positive to see. His second best pitch is his curveball. It is a traditional curveball with an 11-to-5 break. Like most young pitchers his changeup needs the most work. Still, for his age and minor league level, he is showing good command with it. Scouting reports suggest that he has a good three-pitch mix that should play at the big league level.
With all this being said, Robles’ regular stats were not overly impressive last season. He made 14 starts and went 4-8. In his 69 innings pitched, Robles had an ERA of 4.83, though his FIP was 4.03 suggesting that he was pitching better than his results. Also, as mentioned earlier, he got a lot of ground ball outs. On the other hand, he did not strike out hitters, only sitting down 6.65 per nine innings pitched. Of course, this was a career high for him and he hardly walked anyone, just a 2.09 BB/9 innings pitched. He also kept the ball in the park, giving up just 0.65 home runs per nine innings.
2018 Could be a Breakout Year
There are multiple reasons why scouts are high on Robles. First, he has proven that he can produce ground ball outs. Second, he has strong command of his three pitches and he is just 19 years of age, which is rare. Lastly, he has kept the ball in the ballpark which shows a combination of the first two reasons. He locates his pitches and keeps the ball on the ground. If Robles can add some miles per hour to his fastball and continue to improve his secondary pitches without sacrificing his command in 2018, he very well could develop into one of the better pitching prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
*All stats are courtesy of FanGraphs