Kang, Launch Angles and Jose Osuna

We finally have some clarity on Jung Ho Kang‘s situation. Kang’s hearing for his DUI arrest took place Friday in a South Korea court and the following sentence was given out:

There was some initial confusion over the word “suspended,” but as we quickly found out it’s more of a two-year probation period for Kang. The Pirates infielder can most likely avoid any jail time if he stays out of trouble throughout that time.

This is about the best news that Kang and the Pirates could have received. Kang will now work to get his visa taken care of so he can join his teammates in Florida. A couple unknowns still remain in this situation. First, how long will it take for Kang to get his visa reinstated? And second, will the Pirates or MLB hand out their own suspension for the season? Back in 2011 spring training, Tigers star Miguel Cabrera ran two cars off the road, crashed and tried to take a drink from a bottle of scotch as cops arrested him. Cabrera never received a suspension for this arrest, so there’s not really an MLB precedent for this situation.

Let’s hope Jung Ho gets his affairs in order, joins the team in Bradenton and the Pirates can get him some help for his obvious drinking problem.

Number 7 System

The Pirates window looks to be wide open and that was confirmed once again when MLB Pipeline ranked the Pirates farm system No. 7 in MLB.

The top five Bucco prospects can be found in MLB’s Top 100 list with Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows breaking the Top 10. Glasnow is battling for a spot in the Pirates rotation this spring and has made two appearances so far, one striking out six batters in two scoreless innings and one struggling with command for a run allowed on three hits this afternoon.

Josh Bell, ranked the No. 27 MLB prospect, is set to take over first base duties in 2017 for the Pirates. He’s been sidelined after having loose bodies removed from his knee, but is set to make his spring debut early next week.

Lauch Angles

In the past couple seasons, exit velocity and launch angles are two words discussed heavily around baseball. And Clint Hurdle has made it a point to discuss launch angles with his team, stating:

Your OPS is in the air.

Gone are the days of coaches telling you to hit the ball on the ground as everyone around baseball is realizing that your slugging percentage is linked to driving the ball and getting it in the air. But how do you get the players to think about getting the ball in the air without popping it up more often? Adam Berry talked to Hurdle and a lot of players on this in a great article you can read here. It’ll be interesting to see if the Pirates can work on this approach to hit more line drives and see if we notice a difference in the season.

So Who is this Jose Osuna?

One Pirates first baseman prospect is garnering a lot of attention this spring…and it’s not Josh Bell. Instead, Jose Osuna has been leading the Bucs in Grapefruit League action early with his hot bat. Osuna is 6-for-11 with two home runs, one double and four runs scored in five games this spring.

So who is Osuna exactly? The Pirates signed Osuna out of Venezuela as an international free agent for $275,000 in December 2009. Here’s his scouting report from Baseball America in 2011:

“Osuna was considered one of the top young pitching prospects in Venezuela as a 15- year-old but his velocity took a mysterious dip in 2009, so many teams decided against bidding on him. The Pirates saw potential in Osuna’s bat, however, and signed him for $275,000. It seems like a prudent decision, as he has shown plus power in his limited pro experience. Osuna has loft to his swing and the type of bat speed and leverage that should allow him to hit plenty of balls out of the park once he body matures. Unlike most young power hitters, he understands the strike zone and doesn’t chase many bad pitches. Osuna is not overly athletic, though, and his lack of speed and range will limit him to either first base or left field. His arm is fringy, too. Pittsburgh has a dearth of power-hitting prospects, so he’ll get the opportunity to hit his way to the big leagues. He’s polished enough at the plate to be able to handle low Class A as a teenager in 2012.”

He made his professional debut in 2010 at the age of just 17 years old. You may not have heard of him before this spring because with a lot of international free agents signed at such a young age, it’s a long grind for them to fight their way through the ladders of the minors and a lot of them don’t make it.

While Osuna (6’2, 213 lbs) has come a long way as a first baseman according to reports, he’s not going to swipe 20+ bases in the Majors or provide you gold glove defense, but his bat definitely plays. And it will have to for Osuna to make it. Osuna posted a .482 SLG mark in 63 games at Triple-A Indy in his first stint at Triple-A. The 23-year-old hit seven homers and 19 doubles in what is considered a pitcher’s park in Triple-A. Between Double-A and Triple-A in 2016, Osuna blasted 37 doubles, four triples and 13 home runs. Osuna’s game is the plus power in his bat and discipline of the strike zone where he only struck out 15.5% of the time last year in the minors. The righthanded bat also could provide a solid platoon versus lefties in the Majors. Last season, Osuna blistered southpaws with a .352/.404/.528/.932 line over 136 plate appearances between Altoona and Indianapolis.

After leaving Osuna unprotected for the Rule 5 draft following the 2015 season, the Pirates were not about to roll the dice again and added him to the 40-man roster prior to the Winter Meetings last December. They obviously feel he can contribute in the future, and he may get that shot as soon as this season if need be. At the very least, it looks like the Pirates have their backup/platoon 1B after John Jaso‘s contract is up after the 2017 season.

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