Friday, February 23, 2007

Cuban Linx


Today I'd like to take a more in-depth look at the two Cuban pitchers signed by the Pirates in the offseason, Yoslan Herrera, 26, and Serguey Linares, 23.

Littlefield and his crew decided to get involved in the international players market. The signing of Yoslan Herrera, Serguey Linares, and Masumi Kuwata(Japan), shows that the Pirates are willing to get into the foreign market, even if this is merely for show. I am hopeful that the signings of these two Cubans is a herald of good news for fans. The Pirates seriously lag behind other teams in scouting in Latin America and other parts of the world. If they are finally going to commit to signing some young Latinos, the Pirates will be able to replensish a depleted minor league system.

Lets look at Yoslan Herrera. Despite having not pitched for almost three years, Herrera is a very intriguing pitcher. He played in the 2004 Olympics and won a Gold Medal with the Cuban team. He is 6 foot 2, 200 pounds and throws a fastball(88-92), a plus split-finger, a changeup, a curveball, and a slider. Scouts say his velocity could jump to 90-94 once he gets into a consistent training and throwing program. Here are some quotes about Herrera.

"Herrera was nowhere near as hyped as Linares, but seemed to handle himself just fine in the tryout. His fastball was sitting between 90 and 92, and the DSL Devil Rays, who served as the whipping boys for this exhibition, were helpless against his breaking ball" - jhelfgott

"He throws strikes. That's the big thing. He has a lot of good pitches, but he knows how to locate them." Rene Gayo, scout who signed Herrera

Yoslan Herrera has the talent to play at the pro level, and will start the season, most likely, in AAA Indianapolis. He could be called up, however, if any starter or reliver goes down with an injury in the first part of the season. I expect him to be making an impact around August.

Next we will look at Serguey Linares. Linares, also a Cuban, is 23 and has been reported to throw his fastball from 97-98 miles per hour. He is six-foot-three 225 pounds, and also has sat out for sometime, a year, without pitching competitively. He will probably start the season at AA Altoona. Linares' numbers, 7-10 5.59 ERA in 37 games, with an 86/111 BB/K ratio in 162 2/3 innings. Not much else is know about this guy other than that he throws the ball very hard and very aggressively, and was the best and most highly touted Cuban pitcher at a workout in the Dominican Republic for Cuban defectors, also attended by Yoslan Herrera. Despite throwing bullets, he has little control of his pitches, unlike Herrera. However with a regular throwing schedule and Major League caliber coaches, he may be able to learn to harness his power and throw strikes.

To sum it all up, these two pitchers are low-risk, high-reward type players, and it is good to see the Pirates finally deposting money somewhere other than Nuttings bank account. I look forward to seeing how these guys progress, and I'm hopeful, to see them pitch in Pittsburgh sometime in the next few years. Linares is looked at with more reward since he is 3 years younger than Herrera, so look for him to break into the Majors in either 2008 or 2009. I would guess that Yoslan Herrera will start in AAA and could be up as soon as this season if he is successful and one of our starters goes down. But he will probably make his debut in either September, as a call-up, or in April of 2008.

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