Up next on the top 50 prospects list is another shortstop, but one that came via international free agency and is more familiar to Jays fans…
No. 45: Gustavo Antonio Pierre
Shortstop / 20 years old / 6’2″ 183 lbs
Born: December 28, 1991 in La Romana, Dominican Republic
Bats Right Throws Right
High School Team: N/A
Signed: As an international free agent for $700,000 in July 2008 by Miguel Bernard and Hilario Soriano
Jersey Number: 17 for the Bluefield Blue Jays
Pre-2011 Rank: 35
- Had Tommy John surgery after signing with the Jays in 2008
- Favorite player growing up was Sammy Sosa and his favorite team was the Yankees
- The Rangers and Phillies were other teams interested in signing him
- Started playing baseball when he was seven years old
- Matt Eddy of Baseball America (BA) noted in the 2009 handbook (where Pierre ranked 18th amongst Jays prospects) that the ball came off of his bat very well, but that “international scouts dinged him for inconsistent hitting mechanics”
- In the 2010 version of the BA handbook, Nathan Rode ranked him 29th and noted his “long and lean with fast-twitch muscles” build that should allow him to add power to his stroke as adds a little girth to his build
Bluefield Blue Jays Team Stats Ranking (min. 11 GP):
- T-1st in at-bats (250)
- 2nd in runs (47), strikeouts (73), stolen bases (9) and caught stealings (5)
- 3rd in hits (63) and walks (26)
- T-3rd in triples (3) and errors (8)
- 4th in home runs (6)
- 5th in doubles (12) and total bases (99)
- 6th in RBIs (23)
- 7th in batting average (.252)
- 8th in slugging percentage (.396)
With Lansing Lugnuts broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler:
Extra Information and previous experience:
When we ranked Gustavo Pierre at No. 35 on last year’s list, we were quick to note that his overall stats didn’t exactly tell the whole story, especially when looking at his numbers before and after the All-Star break:
Improving in almost every aspect offensively in the season’s second half, Pierre seemed set to tackle the rigors of full-season ball with Lansing in 2011 as a 19-year-old. Unfortunately, he found things in Lansing far more difficult than he had initially thought.
Defensively, the number that really stood out for Pierre was the 36 errors that he made in only 53 games with Lansing this past season. Playing games in Lansing, Michigan in April and May exposed him to not only colder temperatures but also rain, which were two things, as a native of the Dominican Republic, that he wasn’t used to.
Having previously played in the Gulf Coast League in Florida and with short-season Auburn, Pierre had never played baseball in the colder temperatures of the Midwest League’s earlier months, and they negatively affected his ability to transfer the ball out of his glove and his throws to first base.
Considered extremely raw with the glove, Pierre has a great arm and soft hands with solid range given his athletic frame, but he’s still learning how to put it all together. His main issue defensively is that he over-thinks even the most routine plays and tries to do too much as a result, so it’s definitely something that he can improve on in the coming years with more reps at the position. In 2012, he’ll look to work on keeping his eye on the ball, seeing it into his glove, and controlling his throws across the diamond.
Offensively with Lansing, a combination of colder temperatures and facing tougher competition was the main reason that Pierre went just 35-for-187 (.187) at the plate with eight extra-base hits and a dismal .506 OPS. There, he continued his trend of averaging almost one strikeout per game played over his minor league career, largely because of his inability to hold back on off-speed pitches. His free-swinging, aggressive approach also contributed to his strikeout total, but it was the leading reason that he drew just 13 walks in 202 plate appearances as well.
With his confidence nosediving, Pierre was shipped down to Virginia to play for the Bluefield Blue Jays when they opened their season near the end of June. It represented a change of scenery and a fresh start for him where he could just work on the fundamentals.
With Bluefield, Pierre spent a lot of time as their DH, playing the field in just 22 of his 63 games. The reason for this was because when he was DHing, the organization wanted him to focus solely on hitting. When he was playing the field, they wanted him to focus entirely on his defensive game.
This isolated offensive focus seemed to work for Pierre, as he went 63-for-250 at the plate (.252) with 21 extra-hits — 12 doubles, three triples, and six home runs — and finally displayed some of the power potential that he possesses. Sure, a .252 average and .720 OPS aren’t jaw-dropping, especially since he was facing rookie ball pitchers with Bluefield, but he worked meticulously on seeing more pitches per at-bat, laying off of off-speed pitches in the dirt, and waiting for the right pitch to hit while with Bluefield. More importantly, he got his confidence back and will look to do some damage with his sweet swing in 2012.
Defensively with Bluefield, Pierre still made eight errors in 22 games, but that was a far better rate than what he managed with Lansing earlier in the year. On top of benefiting from the warmer summer weather that he has been used to, Pierre paid more attention to the intricacies of playing shortstop and worked on his throwing accuracy.
While scouts have voiced concerns over Pierre’s long-term future at short, suggesting that he’ll eventually shift to third base or even the outfield, it appears as though the 20-year-old will continue to hone his craft at shortstop in 2012.
Expected 2012 Team: Lansing Lugnuts
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: Starting 3B, 1B, or LF
Given the kind of year that Pierre had in 2011, it’s somewhat tricky to predict which club he’ll open the 2012 season with. It’s unlikely that he’d be kept in extended spring training and be shipped off to a short-season club in June now that he has logged full-season at-bats, so he could very well open the year once again with Lansing. The Blue Jays could, however, decide to have him avoid the colder weather altogether and think of a different plan for him.
Regardless of where Pierre ends up next season, he’ll still be just 20 years old and will have learned a lot from laboring through his 2011 campaign. He still has the upside of an everyday big league player, but he’ll have to be more attentive to what he’s doing on the field and be more patient at the plate. It will also be interesting to keep an eye on Pierre’s extra-base hit totals next year and whether or not he adds any weight to his frame over the off-season. Remember, he’s very raw and is still considered a work in progress that requires patience.
Given all of the shortstops that the Jays’ have in their lower levels right now, 2012 will be an important year for him. If he manages a solid year, he could very well mosey his way back up our charts, but he could also risk falling behind other new additions to the farm system with a lackluster showing.