In today’s latest Pittsburgh Pirates prospect profile we will delve into a sleeper prospect in 20-year-old Dominican pitching prospect Noe Toribio
During these crazy times not just in the world but in my personal life as well, I’m going back to what makes me happy and what I love to do, and that’s talk about Pittsburgh Pirates prospects. The Pittsburgh Pirates prospect I’m going to highlight today is young Dominican pitcher Noe Toribio.
Toribio is a 20-year-old prospect and was signed in international free agency by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016. When he signed with the Bucs, he received $100,000. The youngster would make his professional debut in 2017 pitching in the Dominican Summer League, which had to be fun for Toribio staying in his homeland. At the age of 17, Toribio pitched 56.2 innings, where he struggled a bit with a high ERA in June and July, with a 5.64 ERA being the high mark in July.
Towards the tail end of the season, Toribio appeared to start to put it all together. In four August starts, opposing batters slashed a .241/.352/.276. During those four starts, he had back-to-back games of 5.0 innings pitched while striking out 12 and only giving up one run. Another good sign was his 66.1% ground ball rate, which shows batters have a hard time squaring up to the ball despite the seven home runs he gave up.
In 2018, Toribio was promoted to the Gulf Coast League, where he showed some erratic tendencies, which is not uncommon for an 18-year-old to show. One of the glaring issues Toribio had was his left on base rate which was 58.7%, as well as a career-high batting average on balls in ball of .371 and a spike in his fly ball rate to 30%. Unlike his previous year, Toribio struggled during the latter half of the season with opponents hitting .319 and a .794 OPS in August.
Although he struggled, there were some bright spots in his game. Lefties had a hard time with him slashing .219/.316/.297 as well as a below-average OPS of .613. In his 12 starts, there were two occasions where he pitched 6 innings, only giving up one run, striking out nine, and allowing just seven hits. Although his ERA for that season ballooned to a 5.68, his xFIP showed he pitched better with a 4.40 not great but not terrible as well.
Following suit with the previous years, the young pitcher got promoted to the West Virginia Black Bears in 2019. Toribio would appear in seven games for the Black Bears, four of which were starts. In those starts, he had a minimum of 5 innings pitched for a total of 21 innings. We saw a multitude of stats improve, including a .240 BAbip, 2.84 xFIP, a career-high 74.5 strand rate, and a K/9 of 9.30.
Towards the end of July, he would get the call-up to Low-A to play with Greensboro, where he was a starter from there on out. Some stats took a bit of a hit, but not significantly. His xFIP went up to 3.53, he posted a 71.8% strand rate and a 8.29 K/9. In his seven starts, he went deep into the ball game four times, one of which was a masterful 7 innings with three hits and only one earned run.
As a starter for the entire year, opponents had a hard time hitting with a .206/.281/.320 the curious thing about his 2019 campaign was his severe splits. Right-handed batters batted a pitiful .163/.240/.253 whereas lefties fared much better with a .286/.359/.429 and a .819 OPS. Despite this odd stat, Toribio had a good year showcasing his swing and miss ability with 179 swinging strikes and limiting hard-hit balls with only 29 line drives and five home runs.
Toribio is a compelling case, he is only 20 years old with significant upside and a good three-pitch repertoire, he seems to keep hard-hit balls to a minimum, and pitches deep enough for a decision most of the time. If and when the season gets underway, I’m curious to see how he fares with Bradenton and an upgrade in competition.