We learned a few days ago that the Pittsburgh Pirates signed three international amateur free agents, bringing their total up to 21 signed since July 2nd. The reason we didn’t post anything when we found out is because there was nothing out there on one of the players and another one had a somewhat common name, so we had to confirm who he was first.
With some help, we learned that our information was correct and the one player has a tragic background, that now has a positive twist.
The Pirates signed 16-year-old right-handed pitcher Carlos Jimenez out of Venezuela. Back in February, Jimenez was still 15 years old and on his way to a showcase in the Dominican Republic. He found out shortly before this event, where he would be the starting pitcher, that he older brother was killed in Venezuela. It was actually a big story on the international side at the time because his 24-year-old brother once played in the minors for the Twins and was an active player in the Venezuelan Winter League.
I read the story back then, and while the name didn’t ring a bell, I remember how much the younger brother stood out for being able to go through with the showcase. Carlos Jimenez took the mound during that event after an emotional tribute to his brother and despite walking four batters, he apparently impressed the Pittsburgh Pirates enough that they wanted to sign him. They had to wait until after July 2nd due to his age.
Translating the quotes from the day, Jimenez said that “It was a difficult day for my family, but I was there to do a job and hopefully get signed. Baseball is in my blood and my brother was my idol.”
It appears that he did his job well that day.
The other two players had no information other than names, age and positions when I got them, so I had to do some digging. I was able to find out the country for both of them and got some interesting info on one of them. They are Andy Maldonado, a 16-year-old, right-handed pitcher, and Franrielis Mercedes, a 16-year-old, right-handed hitting outfielder from the Dominican. Neither is related to current players for the DSL Pirates with those same last names.
Maldonado was among a large group of players from the Dominican Republic, who Jesse Sanchez from MLB.com called “the best of the rest” outside the top 30 July 2nd prospects on the international side. He was also at the same showcase where Jimenez pitched. It sounds like he’s a legit top 50-100 player from this international class. Jimenez was also mentioned in that article as a best of the rest prospect, so he too might be a really nice pickup who flew under the radar, despite both being well known names on the international side.
The Pirates have signed 21 players and they went younger than usual, with 19 of those players listed as 16 years old. With only eight known bonuses, their remaining bonus pool was already under $2,000,000. With 13 unknown bonuses, 11 of them being 16 years old and two of these last three being significant signings, that remaining bonus pool is likely in the six figures by now. I’d be shocked if it wasn’t.