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Pirates Add Five Minor League Players

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.

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John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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  • leefoo

    Liao is the only potential interesting one. There’s a Lei Liao on Facebook…:)

    Good luck with that search. :).

    • John Dreker

      I’ve asked around, so hopefully I get something from someone. Searches came up with literally nothing except those two videos. We will see.

    • padraig

      Liao looks like he throws all arm and no lower body. If he learns to use his legs, the velocity should significantly increase. Wonder why there aren’t any pitchers that copy Tom Seaver and get dirt on their knee from driving off of their back leg

  • leefoo

    John…I didn’t even find those videos….lol

  • pburns11

    Is anybody watching the #4 game in mlb history? I’m going to be sick all over again.

    • John Dreker

      I saw the Twitter preview that mentioned the game was coming on so I blocked MLB Network on my TV

  • freddylang

    This kid in the video doesn’t look 260+ pounds to me so maybe he has filled out since the video. (Although he is not scrawny by any means) You can never have enough big raw prospects around so hopefully he is another kid that will be throwing 95+ in another year.

    • John Dreker

      The video posted here is from 2010, possibly when he was just 16, depending on when it was shot, so he has had time to fill out. He apparently made a trip to the US, not sure why. If you check the video in the link, you’ll see he is definitely bigger

      • clementeninjamonk

        It’s looks as though his warmup jersey in the video has an “Angels” logo on it. Perhaps he was brought over to show the brass in Anaheim his stuff? Anyway, if he can turn into the Taiwanese Heredia it’d be interesting for sure.

        • John Dreker

          The funny thing about the Heredia comp, and I thought about it when I heard his size, is that Heredia is a year younger than him. Seems like he’s been around for awhile, but he will still be 19 until late in this upcoming season. Heredia has also slimmed down already to 240 lbs, which isn’t bad for his height/frame


      Hopefully he’s cleaned up his mechanics a bit since that video was shot. He’s all loosey goosey with glacially slow arm action.

  • Mike C.

    The Buccos should sign Tracy McGrady and let Searage work his magic.
    He’s Exactly the tall big pitcher they seem to love so much!

    • jon6er

      I hope that’s a joke.

  • imadushbag

    any idea about the kid we lost to the brewers in the rule 5 draft, wei wang? think he will stick?

    • John Dreker

      I’d be shocked if he stuck with them. He has only pitched one year in the GCL, which is a huge difference from Spring Training, where you add actual crowds at the game, plus the obvious huge jump in talent. It just seems like too much of a jump in one year. They may want to work out a trade to keep him, so he still could be gone, but the Pirates would get something worthwhile in return. Maybe if he was older, or had more experience, or overpowering stuff, then you could see it happening

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