The Pittsburgh Pirates cut eight pitchers from minor league camp on Tuesday afternoon. There are also two retirement announcements from over the off-season, plus a recent retirement from minor league camp. All three retired players were signed in 2016, two as draft picks.
The two biggest names among the players cut today would be Jake Burnette and Neil Kozikowski, who both received significant bonuses to sign out of high school. Burnette received $550,000 in 2011 after being taken in the 11th round. He has been battling injuries from the start and ended up pitching just 117.1 innings in six seasons. Kozikowski got a $425,000 bonus in the eighth round in 2013 and his issue was that he never showed any progress with his pitches. His 6’4″ frame gave him a chance to add muscle and improve on a low-90s velocity, but he was never better than when he started in the system. This past season he served in a bullpen role in Morgantown and had his issues with a 4.19 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in a pitcher-friendly league.
Chris Plitt missed all of last season due to a UCL sprain. He showed some promise after being taken in the 14th round in 2015, but the combination of a missed year and injury cost him a chance to add on to his 86-88 MPH velocity.
Nick Hutchings was the last player from Australia still in the system. The 21-year-old showed an improved velocity last year, but he served as a bullpen arm in Bristol and didn’t have success. He planned to pitch this winter in Australia, then ended up throwing just one early season game.
Nick Neumann showed some solid results in A-ball the last two years, though he is just shy of his 26th birthday and was sitting 86-89 MPH during a minor league game earlier this week. He was a 28th round draft pick in 2014.
Henry Hirsch was a 22nd round pick in 2013, who put up better stats in 2015 in Bradenton than he did last year at the same level. He had decent velocity and a solid strikeout rate, but you don’t like to see a 24-year-old pitcher take a step back at the same level. He’s also a flyball pitcher, who didn’t have the same command as the previous year and that hurt his stats and chances to succeed.
Jose Regalado is a 25-year-old, who has been in the system since 2011, when he was signed as a free agent out of the Dominican. He did well in Bradenton last year, but his high-80s fastball and lack of any strong secondary pitches would have trouble in the upper levels.
Julio Vivas has also been in the system since signing as an international free agent in 2011, though he is two years younger than Regalado. Vivas topped out around 90-91, using deception in his delivery to get by, as he didn’t have the best control. He had some success at Bradenton in 2015 and in winter ball in Venezuela against much older players, but he spent 2016 in West Virginia, where the results were average at best.
As for the retired players, Danny Beddes was a 15th round draft pick last year and had a very successful season for Morgantown, getting named to the All-Star game and posting a 2.27 ERA in 77.1 innings. He had good size at 6’6″ and a nice four-pitch mix, with a fastball that could touch 95 MPH. We had him as the eighth best prospect for Morgantown last year, though he wasn’t considered for the top 50 in our prospect guide. He retired over the off-season.
Tyler Leffler was in Spring Training camp until last week when he decided to leave. As a 27th round pick last year, he received very little playing time with Morgantown and was looking at a similar role this upcoming season. He didn’t officially retire, so if they Pirates intend to keep him, he will be put on the restricted list.
Daniel Cucjen also retired over the off-season. He was signed as an undrafted free agent shortly after the Bristol season began last year. He struggled in a limited utility role at Bristol, so at age 23, he would have had a tough time remaining in the system this year.
The Pirates still hold the rights to all three of these players if they intend to come back, which rarely happens.