The Pittsburgh Pirates signed 18-year-old right-handed pitcher Johan Montero out of Venezuela yesterday. He is the 22nd international free agent signed by the Pirates since July 2nd. All of the players signed during this period will begin their pro career next year. Right now, they are playing in a minor league version of the DSL called the Tricky League, which goes on at the same time as the DSL season on the back fields. They will also attend the Fall Instructional League in the Dominican, which begins in October and has a schedule of 20+ games each year.
Montero is the oldest player signed so far by the Pirates during this signing period. Out of the other 21 players, 19 of them are 16 years old and the other two are 17 years old. Luis Tejeda, who is one of their bigger signings, has only agreed to a deal right now because he turns 16 on August 26th, so he can’t officially sign until then. He was announced as agreeing to a deal on July 2nd by Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, but I only recently learned that it was just an agreement and he will be signing on his birthday next Sunday.
Back to Montero, who is the seventh pitcher signed by the Pirates since July 2nd. They really stacked up on position players early, but they also gave $355,000 to lefty Andres Mendez from Venezuela, which is the most they have paid for a pitcher since Luis Heredia.
Montero pitched recently in a league for Venezuelan prospects. He trained at the MM Baseball Academy in Venezuela, which had two teams in the league. Montero had a 1.96 ERA in 18.1 innings over 12 appearances with the Red team. He had seven walks, 27 strikeouts, a .175 BAA and an 0.98 WHIP. His strikeout rate was the best on his team. His BAA and WHIP were the lowest.
When the MM Baseball Academy Red team was eliminated from the playoff race, Montero switched to the Blue team, where he gave up three runs over five innings, but also struck out 13 batters. He then pitched once in the playoffs before his team was eliminated, throwing 2.2 scoreless innings, with no walks or hits and four strikeouts.
I reached out to get more information on him, which I will add later if I get anything. He’s a tall, lanky pitcher, who has filled out some over the last year, which likely explains why he wasn’t signed during the previous international signing period. It’s also possible that his bonus demand was too high, which is what kept current DSL pitcher Estalin Ortiz from signing until he was 19 years old. Ortiz could have signed at 16/17/18, but no one was willing to meet his price, which he actually raised when he got better, before dropping it as he got older.