Ben Badler from Baseball America released the Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 international signing recap on Wednesday. On Tuesday, BA announced that the Pirates spent approximately $1.94M in 2014 on international players. That money actually covers two separate signing periods, as the international signing period begins on July 2nd each year and ends on June 15th the following year. Badler’s post covers only players that signed during the 2014 calendar year and I’ve included notes from him below. You can view last year’s recap here.
Most of the players of note that were signed in 2014, were signed on July 2nd or the 3rd. The Pirates signed eight players over those two days, with each of them getting a six-figure bonus. There were three other players of note signed before July 2nd, outfielder Victor Fernandez and pitchers Alex Martinez and Mister Luciano(pictured up top). Each of those three players signed by February and all three have already made the move to the United States, where they are currently in minor league Spring Training camp.
You can read a report on all three of those players in our DSL season recap. The short version is Victor Fernandez is one of the fastest players in baseball, with game-changing speed on the bases and in center field. Alex Martinez is a hard-throwing reliever with some control issues and Mister Luciano has the best name in baseball, plus a pretty good arm too.
For the players signed on July 2nd, five of them are pitchers, one shortstop, one catcher and one outfielder. The one outfielder is Yondry Contreras, and his $400,000 bonus was twice as much as the second highest bonus they handed out. He has a strong arm, good speed and a quick bat, but lacks plate patience. The Pirates were said to be higher on him than most teams. While they still have until June 15th to sign more players, plusroom in their bonus pool to add a significant player, Contreras will likely end up as the gem of this current signing period.
One of the more interesting players they signed is right-handed pitcher Brian Sousa. The Pirates signed him for $160,000 and they were said to be very interested in him prior to the start of the signing period. Sousa was called the best pitcher out of Panama in this signing class. He is 6’4″, has a nice sinker/slider combo and throws on a downhill plane. If you follow the winter ball articles, you know his name already, because the 16-year-old competed in the Panama winter league and did well against the older competition.
Right-hander Adonis Pichardo was 18 already when he signed on July 2nd, but still got a six-figure bonus. He was a little behind others because he switched from outfield to the mound in 2013 and showed a 92 MPH fastball. He is a raw pitcher with big potential, as you can see in the notes below from Badler. The Pirates signed pitcher Luis Escobar in 2013 and he was under the same situation, a little older and moving from third base to the mound, while hitting 94 MPH. Escobar has already made the jump to the U.S., so the Pirates hope they have the same success with Pichardo.
Catcher Gabriel Brito received the second highest bonus the Pirates handed out this signing period, getting $200,000 on July 2nd. He is small for a catcher(listed at 5’10”, 160 pounds), though he is only 16, so he could grow and fill out. He was the first of three catchers they signed since July 2nd, with 17-year-old Roberto Noguera and 18-year-old Raul Hernandez signing a short time later.
We covered all 13 signings since July 2nd in our international signing tracker. Vince Deyzel, a pitcher out of South Africa, is also mentioned in that link, but he signed this February, so he wasn’t covered by Badler. The Pirates will need to sign some more players before the start the 2015 DSL season, because of players making the jump to the U.S., players being released and Johan De Jesus suspended for the entire season, they currently only have 31 players signed and they have 35 man rosters in the DSL.
Notes From Badler’s Recap
Badler notes that Domingo Robles had made a huge leap since he signed for $175,000 on July 2nd. He went from throwing 87 MPH to hitting 92 MPH, with good sink and downhill angle.
He also mentions that Brian Sousa has seen the same type of jump, going from 85-88 MPH, to hitting 93 already.
Adonis Pichardo has hit 96 MPH, giving the Pirates three pitchers that have taken huge leaps in velocity over a short period of time.
He mentions that they signed 20 players total, though doesn’t talk about any that we haven’t covered, so the four unknown could have been roster fillers that didn’t make the team last year, or are signed for the upcoming season.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
I wouldn’t mind if the Pirates traded some of their pitching depth in order to sign the next Sano or Heredia. Losing Sano stings since the Pirates would have likely paid what it took to sign him. But…
Sadly, the Yankees are now dumping their money in Latin America. But…
Yankees won’t be spending much money over the next two years in Latin America, they are severely handicapped by the rules during the next two July 2nd signing periods. They will definitely be under $4M total between the two
You have stated one reason for the Pirates to ‘go for it’ with a prospect or two.
I don’t like the method the Yankees and a few other teams used. You’re banking on one year being loaded with talent and giving up the next two years and with kids as young as they sign in Latin America,ou can’t predict how much one player can change from 14 to 16. That’s what some teams did and they paid double what a player normally signs for this year as well. The Yankees can waste money and they don’t need to rely on Latin American talent, but for the Pirates, that makes zero sense
I wasn’t advocating the adoption of the Yanks method. Only the spending of more money.
The only way you can spend more money on Int’l players is by going all in one season and paying heavy fines in the process. Team are limited to how much they can trade for in cap room as well, so you can’t just acquire as much cap room as possible and spend. You either pay the huge penalties, or you stick to the year-by-year cap space they give you. The Pirates have been too good the last two years and will likely be good again, so it’s tough to spend a lot when you are good. The Astros(or whoever finishes last in 2015) on the other hand could go nuts signing players and not reach their cap. Pirates haven’t left much on the table in the international market and they dealt Ike Davis for extra room this year
Thanks for clarifying this for me.
In one year, the Yankees loaded up on more high-end talent than the Pirates have signed under Huntington.
If you have the money, and they most certainly do, this is easily the way to load up with the most talent.
That’s probably true, but they also spent a lot in a down year just to get all the players they wanted. We won’t know for at least 5-6 years if it is worth it, or if it’s better to just go year-by-year. If you have money like the Yankees, it is worth the gamble.. All we know for sure now is that the Pirates have five or six less teams to compete with for the best players the next two years because a bunch of teams decided to go over their cap, so that could help the Pirates in the long run.
Relative to the successes around the league, it has to be viewed as a disappointment for the organization’s only Top 50 Latin American pitching prospect be the massively underachieving Luis Heredia.
Gotta be a better way to mine talent out of such an enormous pool.
They really concentrate on bats for international players and no explanation has ever been given. Of their top 20 bonuses for international amateur players, Heredia is the only one in the top 20. The only others they paid more than $200,000 for were Cesar Lopez and Yoslan Herrera, and both of them hardly qualify as “amateur” players with their experience in Cuba.
They seem to be looking for more big arms now and not caring if they are a little older or have no control. Definitely a lot more hard-throwers now than in the recent past
Yeah, the trend in bats seems too strong to be coincidence. I just can’t think of any logical reason why.
Possibly believe it’s just too much of a crap shoot trying to project a 16 yo arm?
I wonder if Vin(ce) Deyzel is fast and furious?