Pittsburgh Pirates Sign Outfielder Fernando Villegas from Mexico

The Pittsburgh Pirates signed 19-year-old outfielder Fernando Villegas as an international amateur free agent out of Mexico on Friday afternoon. He recently completed a tryout in front of two scouts and Junior Vizcaino, who took over as the Director of International Scouting after Rene Gayo was let go by the Pirates in November.

Villegas has belonged to Saraperos de Saltillo, a summer league team in Mexico, since he was 14 years old. His father had a long pro career in baseball playing outfield in the Mexican league for 16 seasons, 12 of them with Saltillo. The younger Villegas had not played for Saltillo yet because the level of player is about equal to weak Triple-A, but the team said that he would have had a shot to make the club this year if he wasn’t signed.

The Pirates gave him a tryout in Monterrey, Mexico, where he went through running drills, fielding, live batting practice and strength tests. His signing scout was Roberto Saucedo, who first scouted him in 2015 during a Pan-Am tournament. Since then, Villegas has participated in the Mexican league academy, where he hit .333 in 52 games, with a league leading 25 doubles in 2016. In 2017, he went to Spring Training with Saltillo, then played 43 games in the minor league version of Mexican baseball. That’s usually the next step after players graduate from the academy.

Because teams in Mexico collect 75% of the bonus given to a player, they usually put a high price on the players and will hold on to players until they get their price. If no teams meets their price, then the player ends up playing for the team. Because of that practice, many players out of Mexico end up signing 2-3 years after they are first eligible. The flip side to getting them later is that they are being developed by those teams and you’re getting a more polished player.

Villegas is the 45th international player signed by the Pirates since July and the fourth from Mexico. As of his signing, the Pirates had not decided whether he will go to the Dominican or report directly to Bradenton and skip the DSL.

For those who might remember the article last month, this isn’t the same 19-year-old outfielder from Mexico who the Pirates have been scouting. That was Fabricio Macias, who went to the Dominican Republic for two weeks of tryouts recently (he may still be there). He has not signed anywhere yet. Macias plays with the same Saltillo team and saw time in the advanced league this year, so his required bonus is likely higher than Villegas.

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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Thank you for answering the question floating around in my head: “Is this the same Mexican OF that…?”


From what you’ve told us here, I like this signing quite a bit. If he had a chance to make a AA/AAA quality team, I can’t imagine he won’t go to Bradenton, right? Good to sign a kid who can come to the states straightaway, start populating the levels closer to the Majors.

Wilbur Miller

Weren’t the Pirates looking at a Mexican catcher?

Wilbur Miller

Oh, yeah, I forgot that.


… and the Cubs sign Yu Darvish for 6/$126M + incentives


He can opt out after 2 years. Cubs are probably hoping/praying he opts out after 2.


SIx years for Darvish is a pretty high-risk move, given his recent injury history. I would have rather paid him $30 million/year to get him for just three years, I think, than depressing the cost to $21 million/year, but risking not having him on the mound much in the latter half of the deal.


The Cubs sign players like Darvish because they have the silly and outmoded idea that baseball teams actually should try to field winning teams. Clearly they are not blessed with the wisdom of Dear Leader Nutting who knows the “financial flexibility “ is the ultimate goal of baseball.

joe s

since only 25% of the bonus paid is used against the cap I would assume the Pirates still have money to spend?


Thanks. Yes. Last pitched for Mazatian on November 4, a couple of weeks before Pirates released him. He will be 30 years old, so my guess is he is done. Maybe he’ll catch on with an independent league team.


Speaking of Mexico, where is Yoandy Fernandez? After the Pirates released him on November 17, 2017, he played briefly for Mazatian in the Mexican Pacific Winter League. Is his professional baseball career over?


Sorry if this has been asked many times before but how many latin signings have the Pirates averaged in the past 5-6 years? I follow moderately closely every year but can’t remember the numbers. Seems exceptionally high this year. I just read Fernando Villegas’ dad’s Mexican league stats so maybe I follow more than moderately.

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