Pittsburgh Pirates: Outfield Prospect To Watch in 2019

(Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
(Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates have done a good job of finding outfielders through the international market.  They may have another outfield prospect on the way.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have always been aggressive in finding outfielders on the international market.  The team currently has two outfielders coming from the Dominican Republic as amateur signings.  Both Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco are two of the best international signings the Pittsburgh Pirates have ever made.

In general, the Pittsburgh Pirates have done a better job of finding International Free Agent bats. Since Neal Huntington and company have taken the reigns, they have tried to be more aggressive in the international market, especially with bringing in a large quantity of hitters.  This is important because the team has not done a very good job of drafting hitters, so the team has needed to find offensive talent elsewhere.

The team very well may have another rising international outfield prospect.  When the international signing period opened up on July 2nd, 2017 the Pittsburgh Pirates handed out one of their biggest signings bonuses to outfielder Juan Pie.  Pie received a six-digit signings bonus of $450,000 dollars and was signed out of the Dominican Republic.  This was one of Rene Gayo’s final big signings as the head of the Pittsburgh Pirates international scouting departments.

Pie has a very projectable frame for an outfielder, however, he did not rank on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 International Prospect List.  He stands at 6’3” and weighs around 180 pounds, so he has plenty of room to grow in to.  He is a left-handed hitter who has projectable power and speed.

The now 17-year-old played all of last season for the Pittsburgh Pirates Dominican Summer League affiliate.  He played in all three outfield positions: playing 19 games in left, 11 in center, and 12 in right field.  Pie appeared in 58 total games making 255 plate appearances, slashing .258/.382/.421.  While his batting average was a little low, he did get on base at a very high rate and slugged rather well.

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This is because he showed very good plate discipline for a young hitter.  Pie only struck out 18 percent of the time and walked at a really impressive 14 percent clip.  In his 58 games, he only struck out 47 times and walked 36 times.  Also, he showed off the ability to hit for extra bases, pounding out a total of 22 extra base hits.  He had an impressive eight triples, 12 doubles, and two home runs.  With his projectable frame, it is easy to see why scouts believe he can turn into a 20 plus home run guy.

However, if one looks beyond the traditional statistics and looks at Pie’s sabermetrics, there is even more reason to believe that he could be on his way to becoming a very interesting prospect.  The three numbers that jump out of the most are his wRC+, his wOBA, and his ISO.  With wRC+ or weighted runs created plus, 100 is considered to be average with anything over 120 considered to be really good.  Pie finished last season with a wRC+ 134.

Then there is wOBA, which is weighted on-base average.  This stat is different than OBP because it gives different values for different types of hits a player gets.  An average wOBA is around .320, with a great one being at .370 and excellent at .400.  The Pittsburgh Pirates young outfielder had a wOBA of .394, which obviously falls just short of the top of the scale.

His ISO also came out to be pretty solid, although the least impressive of the numbers.  The stat ISO helps measure a batter’s raw power by measuring subtracting a player’s average from their slugging percentage.  An average ISO is considered to be around .140 while the top power hitters usually are around .200.  Pie’s ISO for the 2018 season was between the two, coming in at .163.  With his 6’3” frame there is plenty reason to believe that he will add more power down the road.

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Juan Pie is just 17 years of age and has a long way to go before he comes up with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Even though the DSL is one of the lowest levels of minor league baseball, it still was impressive to see Pie do so well.  He showed a lot of aspects to his game, such as plate discipline and raw power.  If there is a name to pay attention to in the lower minors this year, Juan Pie could be the team’s next big outfield prospect.