By Jason Shetler
Six years ago, the Pirates inked Luis Heredia out of Mexico as a 16-year-old amateur for a signing bonus of $2.6 million. His ability to throw a mid-90’s fastball as a teenager got him recognized, particularly by Baseball America, who listed him as a Top 100 prospect in 2013. However, command issues with his fastball took over, and his curveball became so inconsistent, that he changed to a slurve in 2014. Heredia had his worst season last year, as he posted a 5.44 ERA and a WHIP of 1.73 in 21 starts for the Bradenton Marauders.
During Spring Training, Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects reported that Heredia was heading back to Bradenton for 2016, but that he would be pitching in a relief role. So far, that decision is paying dividends, posting an ERA of 0.52 while holding opponents to a .172 average in 12 appearances. Perhaps even more impressive is that he’s significantly improved his control with a 1.5 BB/9, which was at 4.3 the five seasons prior. I spoke recently with John Dreker, also of Pirates Prospects, and he mentioned that Heredia’s fastball velocity this season has been better at 93-94 mph consistently compared to 90-93 mph as a starter in 2015. The fact that Heredia has increased his velocity, and now has good command of it, is obviously very encouraging. With the Pirates having a deep surplus of talented pitching prospects in the system, the decision to move Heredia to the bullpen was likely to happen at some point. Given how effective he’s been in that role thus far in 2016, it’s a way for him to reach the big leagues faster.