By Jim Brown
As I working on the breakdowns for the UTR pitchers named to the Florida State League All-Star roster, I was clipping along until I came to Pirates prospect Luis Heredia. He was the lone representative from HiA Bradenton and my thought process would be to type a few extra sentences in his blurb. I usually try to keep write-ups within a paragraph, but when I reached over 250 words on Heredia’s and eclipsed the 2,000 word threshold for the whole piece, I decided to devote a separate article exclusively to the young hurler. Now that I am recently retired and devoting much more time to the site….hopefully more of this will come.
With as much hype that Heredia created when the Pirates signed him for $2.6 million back in 2010, and hearing how advanced he was for a 16 year-old, I couldn’t wait to see this kid when he arrived at Short-Season State College. For sure, it was going to be later that year or the start of the 2011 New York-Penn League season. The Pirates cautiously handled the teenager and it wouldn’t be until the 2012 Short-Season before I personally watched him take the mound. I left Medlar Field that night feeling like the kid that I witnessed let-go of his balloon…disappointed. At that time, I should have known better….as a Pirate fan, they have been letting me down since the early 80’s. Right about the time when I saw Heredia in action, Marc and I were just gaining speed on our UTR work at MLBDepthCharts.com and I mentioned going home that night, it would be sometime before that kid arrives in Bradenton, let alone, if he ever makes it to Double-A Altoona. The latter proved true (4 years), and the jury is out on the former….but I believe he’s got a better chance with the move to the bullpen in 2015. Run a search on UTRMinors.com and you will find only three mentions of the now 21 year-old right-hander…..one for each season since the inception of the site. Again, disappointment since the kid was listed as a Top 100 prospect and ranked within the Pirates organization’s Top 10 for 3 years.
In hindsight, I can say this ….. if I would have been writing on this site at the time I saw Heredia, I could have express my thoughts after that outing. I am no scout, by any means, but Marc and I strongly feel that it all comes down to performance. Seeing Heredia in person, I had that gut feeling….as to why would the Pirates would spend so much on this kid. I mean, we’re talking money that usually portioned for a top of the rotation-type, that’s coming out of college or a high school phenom. Again, he was just a kid, a teenager, quite possibly in over his head…an overzealous assignment against seasoned collegiate athletes. As I stated, the Pirates disappointed me as fan, image what Heredia felt, if he was mishandled by the development staff. Maybe it wouldn’t been a good idea to punt Heredia at the time, because it ended-up that his time at State College was his best as a pro.
Any hitter would take a batting average of .333, and that’s the average the Pirates currently have in signing three teenager arms that year that are currently paying off. In addition to Heredia, they also signed Stetson Allie ($ 2.2 million) and Jameson Taillon ($6.5 million). The hard-throwing Allie struggled with control and was moved off the mound and currently is rostered at Double-A Altoona as an outfielder. Top prospect Taillon recently made his long awaited MLB debut, after missing time due to injury. After Heredia received his huge signing bonus, he was assigned to the Gulf Coast League for the 2011 season, where he put up pedestrian numbers and struggled with control 6.8 K9 and 5.6 BB9. That in itself should have raised the flag to leave the kid in the Instructional Leagues for more seasoning. The downfall for the Mexican native could have begun at the start of the 2013 season. He was to make his full season debut at LoA West Virginia, but showed up out shape, only pitched 65 innings, and the control issues continued in 37 walks with 55 strikeouts. The next season didn’t get off on the right foot, as Heredia made one April start (4/6) and went back on the DL, not to take the hill again until early June. He finished with a 4.15 ERA in 89 innings with a 33:43 BB:K. Last season was more of the same with 86 innings of work and his strikeout, and unfortunately the walks too, rose just over one batter per 9 innings (5.7 K9 / 4.6 BB9). He’s back at HiA Bradenton this season and reports state he was working on a new pitch. He also was moved to the bullpen where he saw time over the winter in the Mexican League. There has been a marked improvement for the 6’5″ 250 lbs right-hander, in that he posted a minuscule ERA of 0.70, along with a 3-0 record and three saves in 19 appearances, so far. His K:BB ratio also has improved from 1.23 in 2015 to 2.57.
With all this and the time that has elapsed, you would think that Heredia’s ceiling would be that of organizational filler being a 24-25 year old. Let’s not forget….he’s still only 21 years-old and will be for most of this season. Lofty expectations placed on a 16 year-old back in 2010, plus the money he had in hand…..placed alot pressure on the teenager. The Pirates have righted the ship, not only with the Big Club, but also their whole minor league system. Let’s hope that Luis Heredia will do the same. Let’s hope his goal of making to Double-A Altoona, though only a year off, will happen this season, so I can once again see his performance. If that occurs, instead of disappointment….then let excitement turn the tale into projecting Heredia to the Burgh over the next 2-3 years, to solidify a bullpen or a possible back-end type….in what could become the best staff in the MLB.