Baseball America announced the amateur draft bonus pools last night, which had the Pittsburgh Pirates receiving the 11th highest bonus pool. The international bonus pool was announced as well and the Pirates have $2,111,900 to spend, which ranks them 22nd in baseball. The pool is set by reverse order in the standings from the previous season. The Pirates had just under $2M to spend during this current signing period, though they picked up extra slot money in the Ike Davis trade to the Athletics. The pool money announced late last night covers the signing period from July 2,2015 until June 15,2016.
The difference in where they fall among Major League teams comes from the Pirates picking up an extra draft pick as compensation for Russell Martin signing with the Blue Jays. The Pirates also moved up to 19th with their first pick in the amateur draft when four teams ahead of them with unprotected picks signed players that received qualifying offers. They started with the 23rd pick due to the Houston Astros receiving an extra pick for not signing first overall pick Brady Aiken last year. In the international bonus pool, the order is set by reverse order as well, although teams don’t lose any spots for signing protected free agents or exceeding their bonus pool. Five teams that have already exceeded their bonus pool by more than 5%(Yankees, Rays, Angels, Diamondbacks and Red Sox) are excluded from signing anyone next year for more than $300,000, so while they keep their pool money, the ability to sign any top players has been taken away.
Pirates Scouting Mexico
The Pirates have been busy in Mexico this month and it looks like they have a big pitcher on their radar. The recent scouting trip included a showcase in Tijuana last Saturday, where the Pirates were one of ten teams there scouting 25 of the best young players from around the country. There were multiple scouts from the organization on hand. That could obviously net them some interesting leads for the upcoming signing period, but it was the trip they made earlier this month that is the most intriguing, though the player they saw is sure to get a lot of attention.
During the first week of February, the Pirates were at the Gonzalez Academy, which is run by the father of All-Star Adrian Gonzalez and his brother, who played alongside him with the Padres. There, they were one of two teams that watched right-handed pitcher Oscar Arzaga hit 93 MPH with his fastball. Arzaga is a well-built, 6’5″ kid, who is just 15 years old. His exact age wasn’t given, but an article from last July said that he was already 15, so he should be able to sign during the upcoming signing period.
Arzaga has been on the baseball radar for quite sometime, so it is no surprise the Pirates had multiple scouts in attendance, including one of their top international scouts, Chino Valdez. Arzaga has been scouted by Perfect Game in the past, and you can view his page here. He has filled out some since being listed at 205 pounds and he has obviously stepped up his velocity a tick since those reports were filed.
During the showcase for Arzaga, the Pirates also saw another right-handed pitcher named Javier Eduardo Assad. He doesn’t have the size of Arzaga and is already 17, so he has been eligible to sign with teams since July. Assad had better command and secondary stuff than Arzaga showed during the showcase, and he was hitting 92 MPH. His curve had a big break and was called a strikeout pitch. He is an interesting player, and one of the best at the Gonzalez Academy, but Arzaga is the pitcher with the higher upside.