Pirates Prospects has learned that the Pittsburgh Pirates released seven minor league players on Wednesday morning. Outfielders Barrett Barnes, Michael Suchy and Ty Moore, pitchers Cody Dickson, John Stilson and Yunior Montero, and 1B/C Jose Barraza have all been released.
Barnes is the biggest name here obviously. He was drafted 45th overall in the 2012 draft, as a toolsy outfielder out of Texas Tech. Injuries decimated his career and he only had one season where he was healthy for most of the year. In 2016, he hit .306/.377/.477 for Altoona, but then the injuries returned last year and by the time that the playoffs came around, he was on the bench for Indianapolis. In six season, he played a total of 355 games, including just 35 games last year. While he was healthy this spring, he was seeing limited time in minor league games, so it appeared the writing was on the wall already going into his final season before minor league free agency.
Cody Dickson was the fourth round pick of the Pirates in 2013. As a lefty starter out of college, who sat low 90s with his fastball and had decent off-speed pitches, he never reached his potential in the pros. He had issues throwing strikes, though it wasn’t all control related. Dickson wouldn’t attack hitters and rarely pitched to the inner half of the plate, instead trying to get batters to chase away. That worked well at times, but also led to huge pitch count totals and a lot of walks. He finished with a 3.91 ERA over 540.1 innings in the pros, making it as high as Indianapolis. The Pirates left him unprotected in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft, so just like Barnes, he was fighting for a job this spring.
Michael Suchy was the fifth round pick of the Pirates in the 2014 draft. He had a tough year last year in Altoona due to a hamate injury, which caused him to miss a lot of time and sapped his power when he returned. Suchy had a solid showing this winter in Australia, but it appears he lost out to a numbers game in the Altoona outfield with plenty of players moving ahead of him this winter. Suchy hit .245/.334/.367 in 385 games as a pro.
Moore is a surprising one, though the Pirates added to their outfield depth at Altoona this year by acquiring Jason Martin and Bryan Reynolds in off-season trades. Moore was the Pirates 12th round pick in 2015 out of UCLA. He split last season between West Virginia, where he made the All-Star team, and Bradenton, where he posted a .778 OPS in 52 games. In the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, that OPS was 98 points above league average. With a crowded outfield situation in Altoona, Moore was likely going to end up back at Bradenton, so he could end up finding a better situation with another club where he wouldn’t be so far down on the depth chart.
Montero is the guy most people rooted for when they heard his background. He signed with the Pirates back in 2009, but MLB sat him down due to identification issues. His contract was voided. The Pirates re-signed him in 2010 and had to pay more money due to progress he made on the mound and more teams gaining interest. This time he got into one game, throwing five shutout innings, before MLB once again stepped in and voided his contract. A year later, he signed for the third time, but wasn’t allowed to pitch while MLB did more background checks to verify his identity. He finally pitched his second career game in 2014 in the GCL. The worst part was that nothing changed with his identity the entire time, so he basically had five wasted years.
Montero pitched for Bradenton last year and looked very strong to begin the year, then finished poorly. He had a 5.13 ERA in 54.1 innings, with 69 strikeouts and a 1.55 WHIP. Some control issues got him in trouble late in the year, while very early in the season, his low-90s fastball and wipeout slider helped him dominate the competition. In his first 11.2 innings, he had 22 strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA.
Barraza was signed out of independent ball prior to last year. He was originally a seventh round pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2012. He played last year for Morgantown and hit .221/.346/.360 in 38 games, mostly playing first base. He was originally signed as a catcher, but he caught just four games last year.
Stilson was signed as a free agent this off-season. The 27-year-old right-hander had reached as high as Triple-A with the Blue Jays. This spring in Major League camp, he posted a 13.50 ERA in six innings over eight appearances and was reassigned to minor league camp on March 20th.
Another New International Signing
Pirates Prospect has learned of the 59th international signing by the Pittsburgh Pirates since July 2nd. That number would actually be 62 if they didn’t have two contracts voided due to injuries and another one due to missing paperwork. The Pirates signed 17-year-old Dominican outfielder Mario Maldonado (UPDATE: he now goes by Mario Jerez) earlier this week. He’s a lanky kid, standing 6’3″, 182 pounds, with a frame he could really fill out. The righty hitting/throwing Maldonado has been training at the Carlos Guzman Baseball Academy in the Dominican Republic.
The Pirates have now signed 12 outfielders since July 2nd. It sounds like they would have trouble finding playing time for all of them, especially with 2016-17 high profile signing Pedro Castillo still in the DSL. Besides running two teams in the Dominican, the Pirates sent Mexican outfielders Christian Navarro and Fabricio Macias directly to Bradenton for Spring Training. A third outfielder from Mexico, Fernando Villegas, could join them in Bradenton once he gets his visa. At the time of his signing, the Pirates were deciding whether to send him to the DSL or GCL to start his career.
Unless more outfielders are signed, it appears each DSL affiliate will have 5-6 outfielders, including Juan Pie and Angel Basabe. Those two were the top signings for the Pirates in this international class before Ji-Hwan Bae signed for approximately $1.25M earlier this month. Pie received a $500,000 bonus and Basabe got $450,000 to sign. The signing tracker has been updated.