Minor league free agency began on Friday, with any player who has seven minor league season or more, becoming a free agent. Some players were able to declare for free agency earlier, with Chris Volstad, Gorkys Hernandez, Wilfredo Boscan, Josh Wall, Steve Lombardozzi, Deolis Guerra, Travis Snider, Travis Ishikawa and Hunter Morris going that route. Volstad and Lombardozzi have already signed with new teams.
The players added Friday include Jeremy Bleich, John Bowker, Wilkin Castillo, Francisco Diaz, Zack Dodson, Felipe Gonzalez, Frank Herrmann, Jeff Inman, Charlie Leesman, Brad Lincoln, Adam Miller, A.J. Morris, Gustavo Nunez, Clario Perez, Junior Sosa, Robert Stock, Sebastian Valle, Andy Vasquez and Blake Wood.
The 28-year-old Bleich signed as a free agent last off-season. He pitched mostly for Altoona, finishing the year with Indianapolis. He had a 2.88 ERA in 56.1 innings
Bowker was picked up in a minor league trade in June, returning to the Pirates after playing in the organization in 2010-11. He hit .219/.237/.353 in 55 games for Indianapolis.
Castillo was used as the third-string catcher for Indianapolis this season, so he saw very little playing time, posting a .680 OPS in 17 games. He was an off-season signing last winter.
Francisco Diaz caught for West Virginia this season for the fourth year in a row. He reached minor league free agency last year, re-signing with the Pirates late in the off-season. He played just 26 games, but he’s valuable due to his work with young catchers.
Dodson was a fourth round draft pick of the Pirates in 2009 when they stocked up on HS arms. He led the Pirates’ farm system in innings pitched in 2015, spending the entire year in the Altoona rotation. He was called up to Indianapolis for the playoffs, but never pitched. He is currently pitching winter ball in Venezuela. Dodson had a 4.23 ERA in 650.2 innings while with the Pirates.
Felipe Gonzalez played for Bradenton during the regular season and moved to Altoona for the playoffs. He has been in the system since 2014, but he was actually re-signed as a minor league free agent last year. He had a 3.28 ERA in 107 innings in 2015, making 14 starts and 24 relief appearances.
Herrmann was signed in August after being released by the Angels. He pitched six innings for Indianapolis and made four relief appearances during the playoffs.
Jeff Inman split the year between Altoona and Indianapolis and pitched well, posting a 2.87 ERA in 37.2 innings, with 33 strikeouts and a high ground ball rate. Unfortunately, he got injured again in August and that ended his season. In his seven seasons with the Pirates, since signing an over-slot deal in the 2009 draft, he threw a total of 189.1 innings, spending more time on the disabled list than on the active roster.
Charlie Leesman looked like he could be good lefty depth for the Pirates, but he was injured most of the season. He threw a total of 21.2 innings and last pitched at the end of May. He was signed as a minor league free agent last winter.
Brad Lincoln returned to the team that drafted him back in 2006 and had a tough season in Indianapolis, missing the beginning of the year and struggling with his control. He had a 4.18 ERA in 60.1 innings, with 41 walks, a 1.67 WHIP and a high fly ball rate.
Adam Miller was a first round draft pick in 2003 and he has been plugging away in the minors, looking for that first MLB shot. He’s been injured a lot and this season was no different. He pitched a total of 27 innings between Indianapolis and two rehab stops.
A.J. Morris was taken in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft prior to 2014 and put in two seasons, including a strong 2015 with Indianapolis. He was pitching well last year before getting hurt. He didn’t miss much time, but struggled at AAA when he came back. This year with Indianapolis, he made three starts and 41 relief appearances, posting a 2.44 ERA in 84.2 innings.
The Pirates seem to like Gustavo Nunez, taking him in the Rule 5 draft in 2012 and signing him as a free agent this past off-season. He saw regular action during the season and started every playoff game, providing Indianapolis with a solid middle infielder. He’s 27 now(28 on Opening Day), so there isn’t a lot of upside, plus the AAA infielder for 2016 already looks crowded.
Clario Perez was signed by the Pirates in March 2009 and put in seven seasons in the organization. It looked like he could possibly be on his way to getting added to the 40-man roster after dominating out of the Bradenton bullpen with a fastball that hit 93-94 consistently, but he did not finish well with Altoona. At 23 years old, he is a player they probably would like to re-sign.
Rinku Singh reached minor league free agency this season, but he is not on the free agent list, so he must have been re-signed. That wouldn’t be surprising since the Pirates stuck with him through three years of rehab from multiple surgeries.
Junior Sosa put in his seven seasons with the Pirates, then re-signed as a free agent last winter. He saw very little playing time in 2015, getting into 24 games between Altoona and Bradenton.
Robert Stock was purchased from an independent team and spent most of his time in the system in Extended Spring Training. In 16.1 innings, he walked 19 batters. He has a great arm, but control has always been an issue and it was worse this season than before. He was originally drafted in the second round in 2009 as a catcher, switching to the mound in 2012.
Sebastian Valle signed as a minor league free agent early last winter and split the catching duties at Altoona with Jacob Stallings. He actually had a solid season, with strong defense and a .754 OPS. He was once a big time prospect in the Phillies’ organization.
Andy Vasquez signed as a minor league free agent last winter after spending his first seven seasons with the Pirates. He saw limited time, shuffling between Indianapolis and Altoona.
Blake Wood was an All-Star closer this year for Indianapolis, posting a 3.53 ERA in 58.2 innings, with 70 strikeouts and 29 saves in 34 opportunities. He was signed as a minor league free agent last winter.
When the official list is released, it will also include Adam Godwin, Kieran Mattison and Miguel Perez, though they were all coaches. The Pirates will sign coaches as players and place them on the disabled list to allow more coaches to be in uniform on the bench. Jason Erickson and Drew Rossi would also fall into this category, though I don’t believe either will be classified as free agents due to minor league service time.
The Pirates also released four players, Jordan Steranka, David Andriese, Jerry Mulderig and Marek Minarik.
Steranka was a 21st round pick in 2012 out of Penn State. He saw limited time at Bradenton this season, his second year at the level. He posted a .548 OPS and he’s just short of his 26th birthday, so his time in the organization seemed over going into the off-season.
Andriese was a 30th round pick in 2014, spending two seasons in the NYPL. He saw very little playing time this season and did not hit well, so he was in the same boat as Steranka. Both play first base and provided very little offense as older players in the league.
Mulderig was a 28th round pick in 2013, topping out at West Virginia for a short time last season. He spent this year in Morgantown’s bullpen, where he started off poorly, but finished strong, albeit with a low strikeout rate for a reliever.
Minarik might be the only mild surprise, just because the Pirates seemed to like him and he saw time as a starter each of the last two seasons in short-season ball. He’s also 6’7″ and turned 22 during the season, but he had poor stats during both seasons in the organization. He was originally signed by the Phillies, who released him after two seasons.
New DSL Players
The Pirates signed four new players for their DSL team last week. We don’t currently have any information on them other than their positions, but we will give an update when we do. They are right-handed pitchers Joel Cesar and Oliver Garcia, lefty Angel Martinez and shortstop Rodolfo Castro.