The Pittsburgh Pirates just signed their 48th international amateur free agent since July 2nd, and they may not be done yet for this signing period, which wraps up on June 15th. Earlier this week, the Pirates signed right-handed pitcher Enmanuel De Los Santos out of the Dominican Republic. The 17-year-old became eligible to sign this July. He has a 6’4″ frame, with plenty of room to fill out still at 163 pounds. He is the 26th international pitcher signed by the Pirates since July.
Don’t expect the Pirates to finish out this current international signing period without adding to that high total of players signed. We recently announced that the Pirates will be fielding a second Dominican Summer League team this year, so there is room for some more signings. They have been busy scouting this week in Mexico, with at least four scouts down there looking over talent this week. The Pirates are holding and attending tryouts with at least four teams, which included a group of 21 players on Tuesday in a private workout and another tryout for 24 players on Thursday, which was attended by 15 MLB teams. The tryout on Thursday included some of the top signing-eligible prospects in Mexico, plus at least one interesting pitcher who can’t sign yet.
The top prospect scouted this week is catcher Victor Landeta, who is currently competing for a job with the Mexican Pacific League team Leones de Yucatan. That competition could end for him soon if scouts like what they saw from him on Thursday. Landeta turned 18 last month and he stands 6’1″, 183 pounds. He is between 4-15 years younger than all five of the other catchers competing for spots on the team. It’s a group that includes Sebastian Valle, who caught for Altoona in 2015. That’s a good indication of Landeta’s potential, when he’s being considered for the highest level in his country at such a young age.
Jonas Garibay and Fabian Urbina were also top targets at the tryout on Thursday. Garibay is a 17-year-old right-handed pitcher, who is the son of Salvador Garibay. The older Garibay was a pitcher for many years in Mexico and is currently the bullpen coach for Yucatan. Urbina is also 17 years old and he’s a switch-hitting infielder described as a well-rounded player, who is strong on defense and has above average speed. Yucatan infielders Juan Diaz and Jesus Morales are two other top names from the event on Thursday. Both players were on the preseason roster for Yucatan this spring. They aren’t ready for action in the top summer league in Mexico, but attending training camp for a top level team is a great experience for the two young players.
There was also a right-handed pitcher at the tryouts named Emir Blanco, who was a big target for scouts at the event, but I don’t believe he is eligible to sign until July 2nd. From what I can tell, he turned 16 on October 3rd, which would make him eligible to sign this upcoming July 2nd. He’s a big kid, who has recently dedicated himself to get into better shape. Blanco has been a known pitching talent in Mexico for a few years already.
It’s possible that this week in Mexico could result in some currently eligible players who will sign this upcoming July 2nd, when the Pirates can use their 2018-19 signing pool. They will have $5.25 M to spend during the next signing period. The Pirates are likely getting close to maxing out their 2017-18 pool after their recent signings included some higher profile players.
Signing players out of Mexico helps teams get the maximum out of their pool space. Their price is usually a little higher than comparable players from other countries, but their teams in Mexico get 75% of the bonus. The remaining 25% that the players get is all that counts against the bonus pool. So while you’re paying extra most of the time, you’re also saving pool space in the process.