After a quick trip back to the states to profile right handed pitching prospect Colin Selby, my attention was drawn back to the Dominican Summer League and the Pirates1 squad. I understand that it is very hard to project the abilities of a 16 or 17 year old kid, but what are you supposed to react when a young man is already exhibiting the traits of a MLB player of the future at such a young age? It is hard not to get excited when this potential is wrapped up inside of raw talent. This is how I felt when I first saw the now 18 year old Juan Jerez with a bat in his hand. As always I temper my expectations because a lot can happen between the DSL and PNC Park, but it is fun to imagine the possibilities.
Juan Jerez was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates for $380,000 as an International Free Agent from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic on July 2, 2018. The 6’ 160 lb infielder went into training for a year before being assigned to the DSL Pirates1 to begin the 2019 season. Many were not sure what to expect from him considering his size and overall build, but once he took the field, he impressed even the most conservative scouts.
Jerez’s first year in professional baseball was an overwhelming success for the the 17 year old, suiting up against players who were almost a year older than him on average. He slashed .272/.324/.469, with 7 home runs and a total of 25 extra base hits. Looking a little bit deeper into the numbers his BABIP was a solid .309, his wOBA was .371 and he posted an above average 114 wRC+. His walk rate of 5.5% leaves a little bit to be desired. However, keeping his Strike Our Rate below 20% (18.9% to be exact) is fairly impressive for a player of his age and experience.
No matter the circumstances Jerez would obviously have been starting back in the DSL to begin the 2020 season. His hit tool and game power still need to be developed further, with the hopes of them meeting their future values of 55 and 45 respectively. His defense could also use a little bit of polishing as he currently projects to be a 2nd Basemen with the potential to play shortstop long term. It could be as many as 4 or 5 years before we see Jerez walking on to the field in Pittsburgh, but as this young man has already shown us, he is full of surprises.