Dilson Herrera, a 5' 10" switch-hitting SS from Cartagena, Columbia, was one the Pirates’ bigger Latino signings in 2010, inking a $220K deal after being scouted by Orlando Covo.
The deal was miles behind RHP Luis Heredia's $2.6M bonus, but in the ballpark of Dominican outfielder Willy Garcia's $280K enticement and ended up the third largest contract of the international signing period for the Bucs. The bonus was no surprise; Pittsburgh had its eye on the 16 year old for quite a while.
"Dilson is a player we have been scouting since he was 13-years-old," said Rene Gayo. "He has well above average bat potential, above average run potential, a solid average arm, above average defensive
potential and a natural ability to steal bases."
Herrera was assigned to the Venezuelan Summer League in 2011 as a 17 year old, and hit .308 with 16 stolen bases and a .413 OBP. His eye was plenty good, drawing 32 walks in 260 PA. The only red flag was that he played the hot corner for the VSL Pirates, with just a couple of games at second, and made a boatload of boots at third.
The teen spent the fall in the Pirate City instructional camp, and impressed the staff enough to be assigned to the GCL in 2012 at the age of 18, still a little on the peach-fuzz side for a Latin player but a good indication of how well the decision makers perceived his baseball toolkit and maturity.
He didn't disappoint. Herrera was moved to second, where his play was solid and the position better suited to his arm. His bat also played well, as he hit .281 with a .341 OBP and even showed a little pop, banging out seven long balls. The Colombian stole 11 sacks in 15 attempts and his walk rate was still OK at 8%, with an acceptable K rate of 18%, which is a bit high for a projected top-of-the-order guy. He also gave up switch hitting, and now bats from just the right side.
Herrera led the team in seven different offensive categories and was named the GCL's Player of the Year by Topps while Baseball America ranked him as the seventh best prospect in the league.
On August 30th, he was assigned to State College during the Pirates usual end-of-the-year personnel shuffle. Herrera got 29 PA and banged the ball at a .321 clip in his cup of coffee stop, though he did commit three errors in five games at second, somewhat offset by being part of five DPs during that span.
He's drawn comparisons to OF Gregory Polanco and especially SS Alen Hanson, both a year ahead of him in the Pirate system, as a young, rising-with-a-bullet Latino prospect. And if he follows their template, Herrera should begin 2013 at West Virginia in the Sally League, which would be his first full season assignment.
Herrera is another testimonial to the Pirate FO giving Rene Gayo the resources to do his job. He and his Latin American scouts have identified youngsters with potential and tools, and gotten them stateside early enough to develop. Now comes the hard part - getting them through the system and into the show, a road that's not easily traveled.