The Pittsburgh Pirates released eight minor league players on Tuesday, including some of their top signings over recent years.
Many of the top international outfielders signed recently were in the group, including Michael de la Cruz ($700,000), Yondry Contreras ($400,000) and Jeremias Portorreal ($375,000). De la Cruz was the top signing in 2012, while Portorreal received the second highest bonus in 2013 and Contreras was the highest bonus in 2014. None of them reached full-season ball. Also in that group released was first baseman Jhoan Herrera, who received a $300,000 bonus in 2012. He was with West Virginia for a small part of the 2018 season, but spent most of the year with Morgantown.
The other players released were lower bonus signings, infielders Melvin Jimenez, Williams Calderon, catcher Robinson Ramos and outfielder Eddy Vizcaino. None of them made it to full-season ball.
The top group is quite surprising because of the amount spent on the players and the fact that they are all young, but none of them showed huge potential after coming over from the U.S. Portorreal has outstanding raw power, but an adjustment he made in 2016 when he had success, didn’t help him this year when he struggled in Bristol. Contreras (pictured) had struggled for two years in Bristol. He is a terrific outfielder with a plus arm and plus raw power, but never made enough contact for that to matter. Herrera also has plus power and he’s had a lot of success in Extended Spring Training the last two years, but due to injury in 2017 and lack of playing time in 2018, that never carried over.
De la Cruz had a lot of trouble adapting to life in the U.S., which led to his downfall. He was one of those players who was changed by the high bonus money and his off-season training was horrible because of it. His skills rapidly declined due to his lack of dedication and he went from a four-star center fielder with huge upside to someone who was on the bench in short-season ball five years later.
The Pirates also signed two international players, though a quick search came up empty for info, so I’ll have to do some digging. They are catcher Rafael Escalante and infielder Ronny Sanchez. You can find out more about the other international signings since July in our tracker.
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.