Pittsburgh Pirates Sign 16-Year-Old Catching Prospect Yeison Ceballo; Scout Outfielder from Mexico

Pirates Prospects has learned that the Pittsburgh Pirates signed 16-year-old catching prospect Yeison Ceballo on Sunday. Ceballo participated in the Dominican Prospect League, which is a league specifically for the top prospects in the county. He has been eligible to sign since July 2nd and was one of the top remaining catcher unsigned in this class. He’s a right-handed hitter, listed at 5’11”, 170 pounds, though he may have grown from those numbers, which were from late 2016.

You can view a video here on Ceballo from December of 2016. His birthday is February 20th, not Feb 1st, which is listed in the video. During the game action in the middle, Ceballo is the catcher (If you pay close attention, I don’t think the pitcher Shook One sign):

Here’s the scouting report from the DPL website. I’ll note that his name has been spelled as both Ceballo and Ceballos, so I’m not sure which is correct, but I went with what I got from my source:

“Ceballo is a right-handed hitting catcher who has demonstrated the ability to be an above-average asset both at the plate and behind it.  At the plate, he has quick hands and the ability to drive the ball well to all fields with some pop, which will likely improve as he continues to develop.  Then behind the plate his above-average arm strength, his ability to block and receive the ball and his ability to frame pitches plus his overall feel for the position give him the makeup of a plus defender.”

The Pirates have now signed 38 international players this signing period, including 11 since early December, which could mean that they plan on running a second DSL team. The roster limit in the DSL is 35 and they already had 16 players leftover from last year’s team who didn’t get invites to the Fall Instructional League. The other option would be promoting some players to the States very early. With 54 players already, that’s about all you need for two teams, with some utility players and relievers switching between teams wherever there is a need.

The Pirates still have an unknown amount to spend (or trade) in their 2017-18 bonus pool with nearly five months left in the signing period. Ceballo likely cost six-figures and he may possibly be one of their top signings. Even if he received a decent bonus, they should have north of $1M still left in their bonus pool. An interesting note is that they have now signed five international catchers since July and had two catchers who didn’t receive FIL invites back in September, which is another sign that points to a second DSL team.

Scouting a Player From Mexico

The Pirates are one of a few teams looking into signing 19-year-old Mexican outfielder Fabricio Macias. Before I get into him, I’ll note that players in Mexico tend to sign a little older because their contract is owned by teams down there, who will put a high price on the players, so don’t let the age automatically scare you off.

Macias played in the summer league in Mexico, which is full of veterans of that league and players with Major League time.  For comparison sake, it’s probably better than the Dominican winter league, which is the best off-season league. In that league this year, he hit .318/.351/.382 in 73 games, stealing 18 bases in 25 attempts. He’s a solid defensive player, who can man any three outfield spots. The league is big on offense, so those numbers are a little below average for the league, but impressive for someone his age.

Macias is going to tryouts in the Dominican now, where teams will get a look at him. The Pirates have to bonus pool money left to compete for him. Don’t expect news in the next couple of weeks, but we could hear something shortly after that.

Here’s a video, which doesn’t show much, but it’s better than nothing.

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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With as much of a presence in Mexico as they appear to have, it’s a shame they don’t commit financially to Latin American talent.

Mexican prospects represent one of the only remaining loopholes in the IFA market. Because the Mexican team keeps 75% of the signing bonus given to these kids, MLB only counts the player’s 25% share against the IFA cap. In practice, this allows clubs who value amateur talent to acquire more than their cap space dictates, or to skirt the $300k max penalty rules. The Cubs have notably picked up on this as much or more than any other club.


The Pirates really need to step up their signings of quality players from Latin America and this is perhaps a start. The last two or three years have been very disappointing. Of course, as I approach age 71 I have to ask myself will I still be alive when a 16 year old kid from the Dominican develops and turns into a solid major league player.


Has their quantity over quality approach been a success? Success vs some benchmark that is.


“The Pirates have now signed 38 international players this signing period, including 11 since early December…”

In my version of a righteous and just baseball chat with strangers on the interwebz, every single “but top LA prospects bust…” hot take would have to begin by acknowledging and understanding the fact and context of the above quote.

The Pirates have *literally* signed *hundreds* of prospects that haven’t even amounted to enough to be worthy of acknowledgment en route to fielding a handful of guys who’ve matriculated to the Major Leagues, even in the most minor of roles.

The failure rate of low dollar signings is so high that we literally don’t even know the denominator; we don’t even know how many of these guys are signed, let alone the rate at which they succeed.


I acknowledge that data may be a challenge but if the Pirates have an approach to the international market, I presume it is the product of some rational analysis of an approach being more likely to yield success vs. other approaches. If that’s the case, there must be a method or means of measurement. If not, its like throwing darts and hoping for the best.


“If not, its like throwing darts and hoping for the best.”

This is literally the club’s approach to Latin America.

They may very well believe this is actually the *best* approach, but it’s illogical to simultaneously believe that prospects this young cannot be reasonably projected (i.e. top prospect bust rate) while also believing you have some special scouting sauce that can identify kids of lesser tools and skills at a higher rate.

The Pirates sign a ton of kids and hope for the best. There’s nothing more to it.


I don’t understand what you’re saying here. Can you rephrase? Thx.


So, at least the public justification for their quantity approach to LA in the Rene Gayo era was that Gayo and his scouts had a particular ability to find “diamonds in the rough”, as if they *purposely* targeted the players they sign because they thought they were the best players.

I find this extremely hard to believe. After all, there is no shortage of seven-figure bonus babies who *do* go on to be extremely successful. If one were so good at scouting that they could find diamonds in the rough, there’s no reason they also shouldn’t be good enough to figure out – with reasonable but not perfect success – *which* high-end prospects were worth investing in.

The Pirates essentially say that they’re to LA as the Cards are to the MLB draft (successful in later rounds), except the Cards don’t punt on top talent (high round picks).

The truthful explanation seems to be that the Pirates LA strategy amounts to signing as many kids as possible and *hoping* a couple pan out. Their prospect successes would seem to be far more a product of development than scouting.



I never thought of this before bit can teams trade current year international slot money for next year’s money? When teams trade players to acquire money is it always for money during the current signing period?


“….During the game action in the middle, Ceballo is the catcher (If you pay
close attention, I don’t think the pitcher Shook One sign)….” (doing his best school girl impression) WOW! The pitcher didnt even shake off one sign :O ;p

“… I’ll note that his name has been spelled as both Ceballo and Ceballos, so I’m not sure which is correct,…”

Tim, the answer is, whatever birth certificate has him listed as younger, thats the correct spelling :p


Completely unrelated, but here is the link to the tribute Andrew McCutchen wrote to the city of Pittsburgh.

Blaine Huff

A class act.

…thoroughly prepared for 70% of this site to be clamoring for Cutch to be signed as a free agent after the ’18 season.

Scott K

I’m all for that idea under one condition, the NL adopt the DH. Otherwise, no thanks.


Scott, he will still be better than any of that trash we have in the OF…sorry, thats the facts – Marte was not the same player when he returned so there are HUGE question marks about how long he has been on the PEDs and Polanco is simply a terrible outfielder and injury prone

Scott K

Maybe for a season or two, you’re right. But for what he will command in payroll and # of seasons, it would be a bad baseball decision. Pirates have no business paying top dollar for declining skills.

I think he would be smart to find a home in AL after this year.


It would not be a ‘bad baseball decision”, Mr. Nutting – it would definitely upgrade our club as nobody in our OF currently or in the next 5 years will put up numbers like Cutch….Cutch could play RF at PNC into his 40s better than Polanco will ever play….Cutch is a once in a generation talent (ala Stargell/Clemente) and will never be able to be replaced by anyone on our current roster


Cutch’s ego would never let him DH

Scott K

But his legs will.


Have you watched adam frazier in the OF? Polanco? and for that matter Luplow? all look clueless…..Osuna looked better than any of them


I can’t figure out what your talking about, I never said anything about any of those being better then Cutch defensively. My comment was strictly about Cutch thinking that he is an elite defensive CF & will not except a DH role


I wasn’t sure if you were being hyperbolic until the Osuna comment, and at that point, I was certain you were being hyperbolic.


I certainly hope so. It was the right time to trade him for buisness reasons, but this man also deserved the right to be the “Jeter or Ripken” of Pittsburgh.

Josh G

Classic beat!


I thought the Pirates were after some 16-17 year old Mexican catcher who was already 6’3″ 210 or something like that? There was article on this site a month or so ago about him. Did he sign elsewhere?


John’s reply few posts above:

“No, that would be Fernando Diaz and he isn’t eligible to sign until July 2nd”

IC Bob

Good to see the Pirates spending some of the money they have. Having signed 54 players already is that a normal number most teams sign? We only have one team in the league down there so what happens to all of these guys every year? Do we just release them if they don’t progress quickly?


Do they ever relieve some pressure by lending kids to other leagues, or is that not allowed? And how would they decided who to send early to the GCL? Would it be a purely baseball decision, or would they send kids who seem like they’d adjust quicker to the culture and language?


Not John, but I good points. Unless someone with mad skills, I think they probably have to look at the complete package which would include the ability to adjust, and some of these kids may have a passable grasp of the English language before leaving the island.

IC Bob

thanks for the follow up. My thought was if they sign 50 players every year and the average player doesn’t get to the states until 19 or 20 we would have 150 to 200 players down there at anyone time. They could have a league of their own if they wanted with that many players

Jason G

Thanks, John. Not that you need this for any validation, but I just want to compliment your writing, especially the empathy you have for readers. Quickly pointing out that signing a 19-year old shouldn’t be a red flag because the player is from Mexico immediately addressed the concern that flashed through my mind (and I’m sure others) as I was reading that segment. That’s quality journalism. Thank you.


It’s less hypocritical and controlling than the college system I guess.


good good good. is this the same catcher the pirates were scouting earlier? i forget his name….


ahh yes him. thanks. i hope the pirates can sign him too


Oh, I like what I see with this Ceballo(s) kid. The first round of BP, he looked a little off balance, but the second round was encouraging. His frame is really athletic, there’s a lot of strength to add if he wants to. But I especially liked watching him catch. His hands are very quiet.


That’s exactly what I noticed too. What appears to be really soft and calm hands. Receives smoothly.

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