The Pittsburgh Pirates had 16 players reach minor league free agency on Monday. Prior to yesterday, the Pirates were the only team able to negotiate with these players for a 2018 contract, but now all 30 teams are able to sign them. Two of them were covered here already in lefty relievers Wade LeBlanc and Dan Runzler. Both were dropped from the 40-man roster and sent outright to Indianapolis within the last week. The other 14 players are mentioned below along with notes on each one.

Brandon Cumpton – He finally pitched in 2017 after missing the previous two seasons due to multiple surgeries and looked decent despite the missed time. In 37.1 innings split between the top three levels, he had a 3.86 ERA, a 1.77 GO/AO ratio and 33 strikeouts, although the 1.55 WHIP was a little too high. You can’t look too much into the numbers because it was a long layoff, but he still pitched well under the circumstances.

Edwin Espinal – Espinal has received a lot of attention recently because he is hitting well in the Dominican this off-season. He also hit .323 in 35 late season games for Indianapolis, while being named as the minor league Gold Glove winner for all first baseman. Espinal turns 24 next year and hit a career-high 15 homers in Altoona last year. He would appear to be the top target on this list.

Luis Heredia – The Pirates highest bonus international free agent didn’t work out as planned. There were some minor injuries and major conditioning issues, but Heredia seemed to top out in his progress when he was with State College in his second season. Scouts who saw him after that had lesser opinions of him as time went along.  He had a decent season with Altoona this year, posting a 3.10 ERA thanks to a .211 BAA and a 1.50 GO/AO ratio, but the walks and strikeout rates could have been better. He had his best velocity (93-96 consistently), albeit in a limited relief role.

Danny Ortiz – He was signed as a minor league free agent prior to 2016 and put up solid numbers at Indianapolis. In 2017, he was re-signed and did the same, though this time he got two brief shots at the majors. He’s an outfield depth option, with solid defense in center field and the ability to play the corner spots. He also has nice power and average speed. He’s a low OBP guy, which keeps him from being a fourth outfield option in the majors.

Tomas Morales – Backup catcher for his entire career, Morales played just 204 games in seven seasons. His defense was solid, but he never hit much. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him re-signed as a depth option for any of the top three levels.

Jonathan Schwind – We have said for the last few years that Schwind seems like someone who will end up as a coach and he started doing a bit of that this season while he was injured. He will likely be back next year, possibly still as a player if he’s not willing to give up the dream yet.

Carlos Munoz – Munoz has hit well in the minors, but he didn’t make it to Bradenton until late this year. The Pirates have been on him for his poor conditioning forever. He has some of the best strike zone judgement in the system and a great ability to make contact. Besides that, he didn’t have much going, with minimal power for a first baseman, average at best defense and below average speed. He’s hitting well this winter in Mexico, but I don’t see him coming back next year.

Alfredo Reyes – Pirates took Reyes in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft two years ago. He has above average speed, strong defense at shortstop and a great arm. He’s also a versatile player due to his athleticism. His problem is that the bat is well behind everything else. I could either see him coming back next year or the next guy…

Anderson Feliz – The Pirates signed Feliz as a minor league free agent two years ago and he looked like a solid Double-A player with versatility. He didn’t quite hit as well in Triple-A though. He can play a lot of positions, which makes him a strong bench player to keep around. He’s more advanced than Reyes, but doesn’t quite have his defense or speed.

Joey Terdoslavich – The Pirates signed Terdoslavich as a free agent last winter and he was a solid player for Indianapolis all season. Didn’t quite put up the numbers to get him a shot at the majors, which is why he remained as a depth option all season.

Jackson Williams – Williams was a depth option at catcher, who was behind Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings at Indianapolis. He ended up seeing a lot of Triple-A time because of injuries, but he never made it to Pittsburgh. He has a couple of brief Major League stints in his past, but was clearly a drop down from Stallings on the depth chart. He is a glove-first player, who was behind both Diaz and Stallings defensively.

Jason Stoffel – A free agent signing over the winter, Stoffel was the first player injured this spring for the Pirates and barely made it back. A shoulder issue kept him out for all but four GCL games, where he saw some struggles. Basically, a lost season for the 29-year-old reliever.

Samuel Gonzalez and Kelson Brown – Both have been coaches recently. They were signed as player/coaches with no intentions of actually playing unless it was an emergency, but that got them enough minor league time to reach free agency. I’d expect both back as coaches next year.

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  1. I’m surprised, with four open spots on the 40 man, they didn’t add Espinal. They could always DFA him later.

    Obviously, they don’t see him as a future major leaguer.

  2. Not much on this list beyond Espinal – he’s a given as far as priority to get re-signed. As for the rest, I always liked Cumpton and hope he can bounce all the way back. Feliz and Ortiz are useful organization and depth players. The rest – no thanks.

    • Espinal for sure 40 man, and Cumpton was the kid who came out of nowhere to post a 0.7 WAR in 2013 and a 1.0 WAR in 2014 in about 15 starts. He is now 29, and the Walk and HR rates were up last year in brief minors activity. That said, this kid is a warrior, and helped the Pirates break that 20 year losing streak – is he physically able? I wonder what he is throwing these days and at what velocity?

      • If they were going to put Espinal on the 40 man, they’d have done it already. I don’t think they can just select him right now – he’s a free agent, can sign major or minor league deal with any team.

  3. Baseball America has a list of 572 Minor League free agents. The must be somebody who can provide some depth for the Pirates. Maybe a catcher, outfielder or middle reliever who is stuck behind a team with plenty of depth?

    Who really is best minor league catcher in the Pirate system after Diaz?

    • Stallings and Jhang will likely be the Triple-A depth. Stallings is a nice third catcher to have, Jhang probably isn’t far from being a legit fourth option because his defense has improved. He really had trouble getting on track this year at the plate after his oblique injury, but came around late. If you’re worried about your fourth option though, you have bigger issues than wondering if he’s a cup of coffee MLB player as opposed to a legit backup. It means two of your top three are hurt.

      In order, I’d say Christian Kelley is the best prospect right now after Stallings, followed by Deon Stafford and Jason Delay. The Pirates also have four international catchers who they paid over $250K for each, so there is potential at the lower levels.

      Catcher is the spot that takes the most time to develop. Kelley for example, mentioned that he put in a ton of time working with pitchers, and even though his hitting slipped during the year, he still felt positive about the progress he made overall. His defense alone could possibly get him to the majors, but the bat has more than what we have seen.

      • 2018 is Stalling’s last year with an option. I imagine they’ll hold on to him for the year, then we’ll see him bounce around to different organizations, getting a cup of coffee here or there.

        An impressive career for a guy who was drafter to help free up signing bonuses.

  4. Amazing and disappointing that Heredia never became more than a middling AA RP. Everyone wanted him. Never really had an injury or other major issue. Just never improved from the time he was 15. Probably threw as hard at 15 as he does at 22.

    • His worst injury was a shoulder issue before his second season at WV. This season started with a medical scare in Spring Training that shut him down. He also had major conditioning issues during two seasons, causing him to miss some time.

      It’s hard to say if he threw harder in the past because it was as a starter, so it’s not a straight up comparison. When he first signed, the initial reports were a bit bloated. They said he hit 95-96, but he was not throwing that hard in games, more like 90-93 and didn’t have stamina. From everything I’ve heard from scouts over the years, his best point was 2012. That was when I got multiple scouts come up to me and talk about him like he was a future top of the rotation pitcher. When he went to WV the next season, two of those scouts said he wasn’t as good as 2012, and then in 2014, then said he wasn’t as good as the previous season.

      This article is as in depth as I got on him from that time, talking to scouts, watching games with a scout and comparing everything I saw over the years, plus sitting five feet from him during a bullpen session, which is one thing I love about Lakewood.

  5. awe man i hope they can find a way to get Cumpton back. i dont think enough people appreciate just how good he was when he was in the majors.

  6. Here are some of my very uninformed opinions

    Cumpton – the guy used to know how to pitch. He may have other ideas though with so many talented arms ahead of him.

    Espinal-I hope we can retain him.

    Heredia- to me, probably the only “no” on the list.

    Ortiz-probably too many ahead of him, but would be a nice player to retain to play in Indy.

    Jackson Williams – why have we not signed him yet?
    We will need him to catch at some level. If we don’t
    sign him, we will be looking for a clone of him to sign.

    Joey T. – nice depth option, but not sure we can
    retain him. If Bell would get hurt you know CH
    would be playing S-rod at 1st instead of the
    obvious choice of Osuna. Joey might be looking
    for greener pastures.

  7. Have the Pirates missed the boat by not putting Espinal on the roster. I know rosters must be set around November 20th, but since any team can now sign Espinal can the Bucs still add him now or has that opportunity passed.

    • They could sign any of these players still, just that they don’t have exclusive rights to sign them anymore so there could be competition. Espinal might (should) be looking for a 40-man spot and they might not be willing to give that to him

  8. Top four guys could add non 40 man depth in Indy. I hope they all sign minor league deals. EE is supposedly a great clubhouse guy too.

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