Pirates Release Nine Minor League Players

The Pittsburgh Pirates have released nine minor league players, including seven pitchers. A brief write-up on each player is below.

The big name here is Billy Roth, who signed for $190,000 after being selected in the 16th round of the 2013 draft. He was called one of the best late round draft picks that year by Baseball America. Roth was a projectable high school pitcher when he signed and he added velocity, going from topping out at 92 MPH during his first season, to sitting 93-96 MPH last year. He even improved his curveball, but he had a lot of trouble once runners got on base. This season, he looked strong in Extended Spring Training and got promoted to the West Virginia Power in early May. Unfortunately for the 21-year-old righty, he never got things going this season and finished up in Morgantown, where he struggled. While the stats weren’t there, you’re still taking about a young pitcher who can hit mid-90s, so it is a bit surprising they gave up on him this quick.

The next biggest name would be infielder Sam Kennelly, who signed for $225,000 as a 16-year-old amateur free agent in 2012. Kennelly started the season with Bristol and struggled, which led to a demotion to the GCL. He played all four infield positions during his time with the Pirates. He had a solid rookie season in the GCL in 2014, posting a .732 OPS in a pitcher-friendly league, but his stats dropped each year after that.

Ivan Cespedes and Delvin Hiciano were two players who saw very little time with the Pirates due to Tommy John surgery. Cespedes was around for three seasons before he made his debut in the GCL this year. Hiciano showed some nice stuff in the DSL in 2014, hitting 94 MPH and displaying improvements with all of his pitches. He missed time due to a PED suspension in 2013. This year he returned from his rehab in time for just two games. Cespedes signed in February 2013 and didn’t pitch his first game until this June. He threw seven games before being shutdown this year due to arm fatigue.

Catcher Deybi Garcia played six seasons with the Pirates, starting back in the DSL in 2011. He was a backup catcher the entire time and played just 138 games total. He was signed for his glove and provided solid defense, but his bat was very poor. He topped out at a .521 OPS over the last four seasons.

Luis Paula was signed out of North Carolina after being taken in the 31st round of the 2014 draft. In college, he hit 95 MPH and had a nice slider, though he saw limited use. He split three seasons with the Pirates between Bristol and Morgantown, throwing a total of 98.2 innings, mostly out of the bullpen. He had decent stats during his time, though they came from a college pitcher in short-season ball. He was injured during part of the 2016 season.

Cristian Mota is a hard-throwing lefty reliever, who hit 95-96 MPH in shorts stints. He signed as a 21-year-old in 2013, getting a late start because he didn’t have a typical pitcher’s frame, standing 5’7″, with a stocky build. He topped out at Morgantown this season.

Alex Martinez was an interesting arm, but control plagued him. He sat 94-95 MPH with spotty control, which led the Pirates to slow him down to help him throw more strikes. He posted a 1.90 ERA in the GCL this season at age 21, walking nine batters in 23.2 innings.

While the Pirates obviously got rid of some hard-throwers, they also got rid of a great name, releasing Mister Luciano. He had a tough season this year, posting an 8.66 ERA in 13 relief outings in the GCL. Luciano hit low-90s, with a hard curve and a changeup that was average at times.

Carl Anderson was also placed on the voluntarily retired list. That means he will still be reserved to the Pirates if he chooses to return to baseball. Anderson missed all of 2015 due to hernia surgery and didn’t return until this June, when he played nine rehab games in the GCL. He spent the rest of the year at Pirate City after a setback ended his rehab early. He was a 19th round draft pick in 2014.

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.

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joe s

Awhile back I asked if Kennelly was a prospect or suspect. I guess this answers that question. I would have held onto Roth for another year or two. They must have seen something that could not be fixed but they should have kept trying. I am sure keeping these guys would not cost much and they do not seem to be priming with top prospects, so why get rid of players that might have some potential in the future.


I’m not sure what John is going to do without Kennerly stats to update daily during Australian league…..


Sad to see the dream end for most of those kids. Hope they are successful in their next endeavors.


someone else will sign roth, kennerly can play in another country

Dale O

Clearly Mister isn’t Lucky.


No surprises there…the writing was on the wall for Roth and Kennelly – neither produced much since being signed….Roth was the bigger disappointment of the two. I would think that Heredia is on a pretty short leash as well….he’s running out of time and chances…

Dale O

Without digging into the numbers and going by going off memory, seems to me that Heredia turned a corner in a good way last season in the bullpen. I would have been surprised if he was cut.


Kinda surprised Heredia wasnt one of the ones released just by seeing the headline before reading the article.


Mr. Mister…take these broken wings…

Darren G

Cespesdes and Martinez are the only two of this group who seemed worthy of continuing with the organization next year. But both were obviously long shots at best anyhow.

Scott Harrington

Not Mister Luciano!
Wonder if NH will wake up with a horse head in his bed as a result.

William R. Maloni Sr

Some would say it’s not the horse’s head that stymies Neal, but the fact that he is far more the other end of the horse!

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