Pirates Prospects has learned that the Pittsburgh Pirates have re-signed right-handed pitcher Eduardo Vera before he reached minor league free agency this off-season.
Vera split the 2018 season between Bradenton and Altoona, finishing strong with the Curve by allowing just two runs on 11 hits over his final 28.2 innings. The 24-year-old has made amazing strides since Tommy John surgery at the end of Spring Training in 2015 limited him to only 8.2 innings over two seasons. He skipped from the GCL to West Virginia last year after adding about 5-6 MPH to his fastball, then finished strong at Altoona this season in big games during the Curve’s playoff run. He will be playing winter ball this year in Mexico, though he will be on a limited schedule. Vera currently ranks as the 30th best prospect in the system.
He will be Rule 5 eligible this winter, but it seems unlikely that he would be picked. Teams either look for overwhelming stuff, with Nick Burdi and his ability to hit 100 MPH being a prime example. Or they look for someone who could step right in and help. Vera has solid control over a nice four-pitch mix, hitting 95 MPH with his fastball, while also throwing a lot of changeups and a slider that he brought back for the 2018 season. He isn’t a big strikeout pitcher and has no Triple-A experience yet, so it seems unlikely that a team would try to hide him in their bullpen all season. That being said, it’s possible that he could be a Major League option late in 2019.
The Pirates re-signed Elvis Escobar to a minor league deal and Casey Sadler, Buddy Boshers and AJ Schugel all declared early free agency. That leaves just eight remaining minor league free agents this off-season, though the Pirates have exclusive rights to negotiate with them until after the World Series ends. That list includes Wyatt Mathisen, Eric Wood and Jin-De Jhang as players who have spent their entire career with the Pirates. It also has former MLB players Daniel Nava, Jackson Williams, Damien Magnifico and Bo Schultz, as well as Alfredo Reyes. Among all 30 teams, only the Houston Astros (four players) have a smaller list of upcoming minor league free agents.
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.