The Pittsburgh Pirates claimed shortstop Engelb Vielma from the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday afternoon. The 23-year-old Vielma has been claimed off waivers three times since September. He has two options remaining and the Pirates now have 38 spots filled on their 40-man roster.
Vielma was originally signed by the Minnesota Twins as an international free agent in 2011 out of Venezuela. Baseball America placed him among the top 30 prospects for the Twins each year from 2014-16, topping out at 18th best in 2015. That season, he was also the 19th best prospect in the Florida State League.
According to his 2016 scouting report from BA, Vielma is a plus defender at shortstop, who was the best in the Minnesota system at the position.
While he has hit for average, he doesn’t walk a lot and doesn’t have any power to his game. He has a .302 slugging percentage during his career. His speed is also average, so his real carrying tool seems to be his value at shortstop. He’s a 5’11, 155 pound switch-hitter, who doesn’t project to add much if any power. Along with a low walk total, the upside appears to be someone along the lines of Gift Ngoepe, minus the strikeouts and occasional extra-base hit.
Don’t be surprised if the Pirates try to sneak him through waivers this off-season. While he still has options left, it would open up a 40-man spot for someone else down the line, or (if he clears waivers) give them the ability to add him back to the roster if he progresses with the bat. In which case, he would still have two options remaining. He has minimal Triple-A experience and no success at the level, so it’s unlikely he would compete for a bench spot this spring.