Pirates Aren’t Linked to Any of the Top International Prospects

Tuesday is July 2nd, which means it is the start of the 2013-14 international signing period. To get you prepared, Ben Badler of Baseball America has released his top 30 prospects, along with scouting reports for subscribers. The scouting reports include input on where each player could end up.

The Pirates aren’t linked to any player in the top 30. When Badler released his top 10 prospects earlier in the year, the Pirates weren’t mentioned on the list. That’s not a big surprise, as the Pirates usually aren’t in on the top international free agents. However, they’re usually linked to someone in the top 30, and usually that someone is a Harold Ramirez/Elvis Escobar/Michael De La Cruz type outfielder who the Pirates like more than most teams.

Is it a problem that the Pirates aren’t linked to a top 30 prospect? Absolutely not. The rankings are an industry consensus, but at this point I think we can say that Rene Gayo and his team of scouts have earned the leeway to break away from the industry rankings and go with their own guys. If you look at their history, that’s what they do best.

Here is the list of the projected top 25 international bonuses from 2009. One guy you won’t see on there is Alen Hanson, who only signed for $150,000. Now there are some top prospects on that list, but Hanson is also a top prospect and wasn’t on the radar like these guys.

Then there’s Gregory Polanco, who signed for $75,000 in the 2008-09 period. Polanco didn’t sign until April of 2009, and signed at the age of 17, so clearly he wasn’t a highly coveted player. Starling Marte was in a similar situation. He signed for $85,000 in the 2006-07 signing period.

Even when the Pirates spend a little bit more, they tend to do it on guys who aren’t rated as high in the pre-season rankings. One example is Dilson Herrera, who received $220,000 and is doing well in West Virginia this year.

It’s not like the Pirates never spend big money on prospects. Harold Ramirez received $1.05 M and Elvis Escobar received $570,000 in 2011. Julio De La Cruz and Michael De La Cruz each received $700,000 last year. Then there was Luis Heredia, who received $3 M. It’s possible that the Pirates could end up signing one of the top 30 guys, as they’ve obviously taken that approach in the past. However, that approach isn’t a necessity, since they’ve also had success finding international players for much less money than the top 30 prospects in Badler’s list will receive.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • BostonsCommon

    Aside from Marte, have there been any other latin players to move through the system and make it to the big club? I know Polanco is on the way, and Heredia’s down there with Dilson ect… But a lot of people give a lot of credit to Gayo, and I’m just wondering if the results are in line?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Gayo has had success with other teams in the past. I’m not sure if he’s had enough time to produce a lot of major leaguers for the Pirates. When Huntington came in, he increased the international budget to around $3 M a year. Previously there was no emphasis at all on international signings, so this was a massive increase. But this process takes time. Polanco was from the first class under Huntington. Hanson was from the second class. They’re just now making it to high-A/Double-A, both at young ages.

      • http://www.facebook.com/fred.langford.9 Fred Langford

        It blows me away that they left the Latin scouting director position vacant while the mlb was becoming what? 30% Latin or more? GENIOUS!

    • BostonsCommon

      From Baseball-Reference.com
      …”In 1989, Cam Bonifay hired Gayo as a part-time scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates in Texas and Louisiana. He later scouted for the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians, signing Brian Tallet. After the Indians fell in 1998 to the New York Yankees and Orlando Hernandez, John Hart decided to reorganize the team’s Latin American operations, eventually settling on Gayo, despite his never having been to the Caribbean before.

      Gayo became scouting director for the Indians in Latin America in 1999. He helped sign Fausto Carmona, Jhonny Peralta, Danys Baez, Willy Taveras and Rafael Perez. In 2004, the Pirates hired Gayo to lead their Latin American scouting system, filling a position inexplicably left vacant for five years under Bonifay and Dave Littlefield.”

      • BostonsCommon

        First thought… how was the position left empty for 5 years?!? What were those two knuckleheads thinking?

        I think you’re about right about in that we can just now start to expect to see these guys moving up through the system. I was just curious because he is lauded almost industry wide, but he seems to have earned it. I’m glad he’s with the Bucs, and Nutting would do well to make sure he never leaves (the Dominican Academy immediately comes to mind).

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          Not sure why they went five years without filling the position, although it helps to explain why they have lost for so long. When you’re totally ignoring a key avenue for talent, you’re limiting your chances of adding players who can potentially help in the majors.

          Even after they filled the position, they didn’t do much to focus on Latin America. There was almost no money spent there, and the only big signing was Yoslan Herrera, who was more for publicity than for talent.

          • http://www.facebook.com/fred.langford.9 Fred Langford

            For what it’s worth, here is a list that Rene Gayo got direct credit in BA for guys that have appeared in the top 30 prospects for the Bucs and Indians:

            Rafael Perez
            Edward Mujica
            Jose Constanza
            Nelson Pereira
            Ramon Aguero
            Starling Marte
            Felix Heredia
            Diego Moreno
            Ramon Cabrera
            Hanson
            Jose Osuna
            Polanco
            Willy Garcia
            Dilson Hererra
            Harold Ramierez
            …I think he pretty much gets his nae on any guy they sign south of San Antonio.

            • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

              Gayo is involved with all of the signings. He oversees the Latin American scouting. Usually there’s another scout who is involved with the scouting of each individual player.

              • http://www.facebook.com/fred.langford.9 Fred Langford

                Thanks Tim. Yes, every player in the book says “Gayo/XXXX” …the guy would probably be a beast leading scouting in America but he is too important down there.

  • skliesen

    Tim, with so many current and projected MLB players being of Latin decent, should the Pirates put even more emphasis in this area than they currently do? Marte, Polanco, Hanson, Heredia, Herrera, et al comprise a significant part of the Pirates future success. Yet the International budget is roughly 1/3rd the domestic draft budget. Right? Are they hamstrung by MLB rules or just ownership spending guidelines?

    • John Dreker

      There is an Int’l cap and since the Pirates finished near the middle of the pack last year, their cap also falls in the middle, so it is hard for them to focus on any of the big names. Other teams with more money, 13 of them, can all throw bigger bonuses to the best guys

  • emjayinTN

    It may really be tough for other teams, but the Pirates have this thing lately for signing and developing low-priced talent from the International Draft:
    1. Starling Marte, DR – $80,000 bonus
    2. Gregory Polanco, DR – $75,000 bonus
    3. Alen Hanson, DR – $150,000 bonus
    Strangely, they have not had as much luck with guys that they signed for a lot more, but they have only been in the Intl Draft with purpose since the owner, Coonelly, and NH decided to invest in the infrastructure of the system such as state-of-the-Art facilitiesin the DR and at Pirate World Headquarters in Bradenton.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I think it’s also still early on those top bonuses. Eight of the top 11 international bonuses have come since 2010. Luis Heredia is just making the jump to West Virginia (after signing in 2010). Ramirez and Escobar are making the jump to Jamestown, after signing in 2011. The De La Cruz non-brothers are in the DSL this year.

      • BostonsCommon

        My view on these 16-18 year old projectable Latin kids is starting to take the shape of my view on big, tall, projectable prep pitchers. You almost can’t have enough of them. For the most part they are inexpensive compared to top draft pics. And if you get 1 or 2 to the majors, out of a group of 10 that you signed over a 3 year period, it’s like hitting the lottery.

        It’s really a good deal for the kids too, they get a little coin in their pockets to take care of their families, get formally educated by the pirates, and get to play baseball everyday at world class facilities.

        I’m excited to see them compete with the big draft bonus guys like Allie and Bell. Do they get along despite the fierce competition? Do they play with a chip on their shoulders?

        I can’t say it enough right now about how it’s such a good time to follow the pirates, really exciting stuff.

  • Monkshot

    Gayo is a scumbag, watch the movie “Ballplayer: Pelotero”. You will see first hand how horribly corrupt Rene Gayo and the international signing period can be.

    I’m sure the Pirates wouldn’t have had a chance of signing Sano had Gayo not been involved, but he cost that kid millions in the end.

    • emjayinTN

      Welcome to the world of International Baseball, especially in the countries where the kids for the most part are very poor and they are thrilled to get any type of help, even if there may be a little kickback or payoff along the line. Is it corrupt or just following the rules in place in Central America, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, etc.? And in that system, I want a guy like Gayo representing our interests. It is called “influence peddling” in the old world.