The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed five minor league players according to Baseball America. We already heard about two of them, with the signing of catcher Mitch Slauter last week and shortstop Blake Davis was announced this week.
The new additions are RHP Jenn-Lei Liao, LHP Matt Ford and catcher Mike Spano.
Starting with Spano, the Pirates added an extra affiliate this year and along with that means more pitchers and the need for more catchers. It’s going to be crowded in Extended Spring Training now with three teams worth of players and extras, so there was a need for extra catchers. The Pirates signed Slauter last week and also added catcher Erick Fernandez late last week. Spano was a non-drafted free agent, who spent the 2013 season with Florida Atlantic. He caught four years of college and had a decent junior season in 2012, but really slumped last year at the plate, hitting .211/.309/.233 in 40 games. He made just two errors and threw out 20% of attempted stolen bases.
As a junior, Spano hit .293/.398/.377 and threw out 28% of base stealers, while committing just one error in 44 games. He was named as one of the top collegiate catchers during a mid-season poll this season despite the poor stats on offense.
Matt Ford is an interesting signing in that he has been out of baseball for awhile, so unless this is a comeback, he might just be a player/coach that doesn’t actually play. He pitched for the 2003 Milwaukee Brewers after being taken from the Blue Jays as a Rule V pick, then he spent the next five seasons bouncing around the minors. Ford was a third round draft pick in 1999 and possibly proof that there is always a spot for left-handed pitching in baseball.
Right-handed pitcher Jenn-Lei Liao(BA lists him as Jen-Lei) is a 20-year-old out of Taiwan. He is a big kid at 6’6″ 264 pounds and he is raw. Liao is signing his first pro contract, so he is an International signing. He throws high 80’s, topping out at 92 MPH. For more information on him and another video, check out this link from Twitter user @imokemp.