Morning Report: Checking on the Hitters from the Pirates’ 2017 International Signing Class

The 2017 international signing period (which began on July 2, 2017) marked a dramatic increase in the Pirates’ bonus pool, from barely over $2M to $5.75M.  (Of course, everybody else’s increased dramatically, too.)  The result, given the team’s continued quantity-over-quality approach, was a huge number of signings, over 70.  In fact, I’m going to have to do this update in two installments.  (I’ll be hijacking the Morning Report from John tomorrow.)

Another interesting thing about this draft class is that Rene Gayo was fired as director of international scouting in fall 2017 after an MLB investigation showed that he’d taken improper payments as part of one signing.  Of course, given the practice of teams agreeing to contracts with players long before they’re eligible to sign, many, maybe even all, of the larger deals in this group were reached under Gayo, with one big exception.

Juan Pie, OF (16, DR, $500K):  The top signing in this group, based on known bonuses, Pie had a good debut in the DSL, but he’s struggling badly this year in the GCL.  He’s not hitting the ball with any authority at all, with just a .574 OPS and .052 ISO, although he at least has a solid BB:K ratio.  As a corner outfielder, he’s going to have to hit an awful lot better.

Angel Basabe, OF (16, VZ, $450K):  Basabe was the team’s other large (known) bonus signing.  (Bonuses for Venezuelan players aren’t reported due to security concerns, but Basabe had moved from Venezuela by the time he signed.)  Like Pie, Basabe also hit well in his DSL debut but is struggling this year.  He has a slightly better OPS than Pie (.645) but a poor BB:K ratio of 1:4.  He was a centerfielder last year, but has played exclusively in the corners this year.

Norkis Marcos, SS (16, DR, $250K):  Marcos is an athletic infielder with good speed who looks like he should stick at short.  So far, though, he hasn’t hit at all.  His OPS this year is .555 and he’s striking out a lot.  He has good enough size, at 6’0″, 170, so he may still get stronger.

Jommer Hernandez, C (16, DR, $250K):  Hernandez appeared to be the most promising catcher in this class, but he just held his own in the DSL last year and the Pirates sent him back there despite a shortage of lower-level catching.  He’s hitting decently this year, at 298/396/395, but he’s seen more time at first than behind the plate, which probably isn’t a good sign.

Emilson Rosado, 3B (16, DR, $135K):  Rosado hit .287 with a .377 OBP in his DSL debut, but he showed only very modest power and he struck out a lot.  In the GCL he’s just struggled (.621 OPS), while striking out in over a third of his ABs.  He’s a big guy whose conditioning looks iffy, which means a move to first is a possibility.  In fact, he’s been playing there some this year, so he’s going to have to hit a lot more.

Joseivin Medina, OF (17, DR, unknown):  Medina’s situation was puzzling, as he got moved up to the GCL last year and to Bristol this year without playing all that much.  He was released a few days ago.

Randy Romero, OF (18, MX, unknown):  Romero was the Pirates’ first signing out of Mexico in years.  He went to the DSL last year and just held his own.  He’s back there this year and lighting the place up, batting 407/444/548, with 29 steals in 29 tries.  Some major cautions are needed here:  It’s his second year at the level and he’ll be 20 on Saturday.  Still, it’s fun to see a guy hitting .400.

Daniel Rivero, OF (16, VZ, unknown):  Rivero was the third in a trio of highly regarded outfielders in the DSL last year, the others being Pie and Basabe.  He had a good year, batting .317 with more walks than strikeouts.  He didn’t hit for much power, but at 6’1″, 191, he has the frame to get stronger.  The Pirates tried jumping him over the GCL to Bristol and it hasn’t gone well, as he’s batting .220 with no power at all (one double in 91 ABs), although his K rate isn’t alarming.  He looks legit in center.

Carlos Arroyo, IF (16, CO, unknown):  Arroyo is a 5’9″ infielder who’s played mostly at second.  He hit .294 with more walks than strikeouts but no power in the DSL last year.  The Pirates sent him back there this year and he’s hitting for more doubles power, with a lot fewer walks but still more of those than strikeouts.  His overall OPS is down just a hair.  The fact that he’s repeating the DSL probably shows the Pirates don’t see a huge amount of upside.

Fleury Nova, OF (16, DR, unknown):  Nova is another player who’s repeating the DSL.  He didn’t hit much there last year, but this year is batting 330/382/383.  He has good speed but is playing in the outfield corners.

Fabricio Macias, OF (19, MX, unknown):  Macias ran into delays due to MLB’s investigation of Mexican signings, which cost him the bulk of last year.  He played at a high enough level in Mexico that it seemed possible he could go to Bradenton, but he went to the West Virginia Power instead.  He struggled enough there to get demoted to Morgantown, where he hit well.  Back at Greensboro now, he has solid overall numbers (281/332/401), but he’s increasingly struggled since a big month of May.  Macias runs well and is playing a lot in center recently.  At 21, he needs to start moving up more quickly.

Fernando Villegas, OF (19, MX, unknown):  Another Mexican signee whose first season was delayed by MLB, Villegas is just three months younger than Macias but went to the GCL.  He had an OPS of .852 there, then his 2019 season was delayed by injury.  He spent several weeks at Bristol, posting an OPS of .844, and was just promoted to Morgantown.  Villegas is a corner outfielder and has only one career home run, and like Macias he’s 21 now.

Ji-Hwan Bae, SS (18, SK, $1.25M):  The Pirates signed Bae after MLB voided his contract with Atlanta due to the Braves’ chicanery.  This made him the first big signing for Junior Vizcaino as the Pirates’ international scouting director.  It remains the second largest bonus the Pirates have paid to an international amateur, if you don’t count Dave Littlefield’s publicity stunt with Yoslan Herrera.  Bae is having a strong season at Greensboro, currently batting 298/380/383 with 22 steals.  Power isn’t likely to be part of his game, but the potential for everything else is there, including the ability to stay at short.  He should rank well up the team’s top prospect list.

Yoyner Fajardo, IF (18, DR, unknown):  Fajardo was the best Pirate hitter in the DSL last year and batted .318 in the GCL this year, although with no power but with a very low strikeout rate.  He was promoted to Bristol a few days ago.  He’s not a shortstop, but profiles more as a utility guy.  The big caveat is that he’s a little older than the better Latin prospects for the stage of his career.

Eduar Ramirez, IF (16, DR, unknown):  Ramirez hit 301/397/415 last year in the DSL, but the Pirates sent him back there this year.  He’s played very little, possibly due to injury, and is hitting 327/522/408.  I’m not sure what the story is with him, but it seems like a guy who hit as well as he did last year would have been in the GCL unless the Pirates had doubts about his upside.  So far he’s divided his time between first and third.

PLAYOFF PUSH

Indianapolis has 27 games left. They trail by 8.5 games in the division and eight games in the wild card.

Altoona has 25 games left. They trail by 13 in the division.

Bradenton has 25 games left. They trail by 6.5 games in the division.

Greensboro has 26 games left. They trail by four in the division and 1.5 for the second best record, which could possibly get them a playoff spot.

Morgantown has 26 games left. They trail by three games in the division and 1.5 games in the wild card spot.

Bristol has 21 games left. They trail by 3.5 in the division and they’re 1.5 out of the second playoff spot.

GCL Pirates have 20 games left. They trail by 10.5 in the division.

DSL Pirates1 have been eliminated from the playoffs.

DSL Pirates2 have clinched a playoff spot

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 8-3 to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night. The Pirates have off today, as they travel to St Louis for a weekend series. They will send out Chris Archer in the series opener. He gave up one run over six innings in his last start against the New York Mets. Archer faced the Cardinals on July 23rd and he gave up four runs over six innings. He also went up against St Louis six days earlier and served up three runs over six frames. If you go way back to April 1st, he threw five shutout innings against them in his season opener. The Cardinals will counter with 24-year-old right-hander Dakota Hudson, who has a 3.99 ERA in 117.1 innings, with 93 strikeouts and a high 1.58 WHIP. He faced the Pirates back on July 23rd (versus Archer) and allowed three runs over 6.1 innings. Hudson also allowed three runs over six frames against the Pirates on May 12th and he picked up the save against them way back on April 3rd. He has a 3.54 ERA at home.

The minor league schedule includes the possible last Triple-A start for Mitch Keller? He is slated to go in game one of a doubleheader this afternoon. Cam Vieaux was originally scheduled for this game, so he might pitch the second contest. I left his stats below just in case. Keller has not pitched well in his last two starts, giving up nine runs in 10.2 innings. He ranks second in the International League in ERA (3.54), second in WHIP (1.24) and he’s first with 123 strikeouts. Bradenton’s Aaron Shortridge goes against Dunedin for the second start in a row. He threw 5.2 shutout innings against them five days ago, striking out seven batters.

Morgantown is sending out fourth round pick JC Flowers, who gave up three runs over three innings in his last start. He has a decent 4.00 ERA in his limited time, but it comes with a 2.11 WHIP. Greensboro’s Alex Manasa began the season with 16 straight starts in which he limited the opposition to 0-3 runs each game. In three of his last four starts, he has given up 4+ runs. Bristol has a doubleheader, with Luis Ortiz starting game one and reliever Yoelvis Reyes gets the spot start in the second game. Ortiz has allowed two runs over 15 innings in his last three starts combined. He’s holding batters to a .230 average. Reyes has thrown at least two innings in all 11 of his relief appearances this season. He has held the opposition scoreless in three of his last four outings. The GCL Pirates have off today.

MLB: Pittsburgh (48-66) @ Cardinals (58-55) 8:15 PM 8/9
Probable starter: Chris Archer (5.35 ERA, 122:53 SO/BB, 107.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (56-57) @ Norfolk (45-68) 12:05 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (5.49 ERA, 60:28 SO/BB, 57.1 IP) and Mitch Keller (3.56 ERA, 123:35 SO/BB, 103.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (57-58) vs Richmond (42-71) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

High-A: Bradenton (62-51) vs Dunedin (65-47) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Aaron Shortridge (3.50 ERA, 85:23 SO/BB, 110.2 IP)

Low-A: Greensboro (68-45) vs Asheville (54-61) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex Manasa (3.67 ERA, 93:24 SO/BB, 112.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (26-23) vs Williamsport (20-31) 6:35 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: JC Flowers (4.00 ERA, 9:7 SO/BB, 9.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (22-24) vs Kingsport (22-25) 6:00 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Ortiz (2.81 ERA, 26:11 SO/BB, 32.0 IP) and Yoelvis Reyes (5.58 ERA, 27:10 SO/BB, 30.2 IP)

GCL: Pirates (12-24) vs Orioles (23-12) 12:00 PM 8/8 (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (27-30) vs Dodgers (27-28) 10:30 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (46-11) vs Colorado (24-33) 10:30 AM (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Altoona on Sunday/Monday, since nothing new was posted yesterday, an RBI single from Robbie Glendinning

Jared Oliva collects his 100th hit of the season

Bligh Madris hits his eighth home run of the season

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

8/7: Pirates sign Luis Joseph.

8/7: Eric Wood activated from temporary inactive list.

8/6: Steven Brault activated from injured list. Richard Rodriguez activated from paternity list. Dario Agrazal and Yefry Ramirez optioned to Indianapolis.

8/6: Tom Koehler assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab

8/6: Pirates release Joseivin Medina

8/5: Pirates sign Omar Alonzo and Juan Fuentes.

8/5: Yoyner Fajardo promoted to Bristol. Fernando Villegas promoted to Morgantown.

8/5: Clay Holmes assigned to Altoona on rehab.

8/4: Blake Weiman placed on Indianapolis injured list.

8/4: Pirates release Jung Ho Kang

8/3: Pirates claim Yacksel Rios.

8/3: Richard Rodriguez placed on paternity list. Pirates recall Parker Markel.

8/2: Pirates Designate Jung-Ho Kang for assignment. Recall Pablo Reyes. Activate Erik Gonzalez from injured list.

8/2: Nick Mears activated from Bradenton injured list. Ryan Valdes placed on Bradenton injured list.

8/1: Blake Weiman activated from Indianapolis injured list.

8/1: Austin Coley placed on Altoona injured list.

7/31: Pirates trade Corey Dickerson to Phillies for a player to be named later and international bonus slot money.

7/30: Oneil Cruz promoted to Altoona. Jerrick Suiter activated from injured list. Bralin Jackson placed on injured list. Gift Ngoepe released.

7/30: Pirates recall Geoff Hartlieb and Yefry Ramirez. Montana DuRapau and Alex McRae optioned to Indianapolis.

7/30: Elvis Escobar assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

7/30: Daniel Amaral activated from Bradenton injured list.

7/29: Jordan Lyles traded to Milwaukee Brewers for Cody Ponce. Montana DuRapau recalled from Indianapolis.

7/28: Darnell Sweeney assigned to Altoona. Alfredo Reyes assigned to Greensboro.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus two transactions of note. We start with the trade and it’s one that helped the Pirates short-term, but really hurt long-term. On this date in 1990, the Pirates dealt Moises Alou, Willie Greene and Scott Ruskin to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Zane Smith. Pittsburgh got six wins the rest of the way from Smith and he stuck around for another four seasons, but Alou went on to become a great player, making six All-Star teams. He was considered to be a good trade piece because he was close to Major League ready, but the Pirates had no spot in the outfield for him.

On this date in 1934, the Pirates signed pitcher Burleigh Grimes, who was 40 years old at the time and nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career. This was his third and final tour with the Pirates and it didn’t go well, with a 7.24 ERA in 27.1 innings over eight appearances.

Players born on this date include:

Ross Ohlendorf, pitcher from 2008 until 2011. Will forever be remembered as the pitcher who won his arbitration case after a 1-11 season. For the record, he won just one game the next season as well.

Brett Gideon, pitcher during the 1987 season. He was traded to the Expos in a deal that worked out much better than the Moises Alou deal. The Pirates got Neal Heaton back and he spent three seasons in Pittsburgh, while Gideon pitched 5.2 innings for the Expos.

Mark Ross, pitched for Pirates in 1987 and 1990. Threw 12.2 innings over nine games for the 1990 NL East champs.

Clise Dudley, pitcher for the Pirates on September 15, 1933. He recorded one out, but not before allowing five earned runs, leaving him with the highest ERA (135.00) in team history. Other pitchers have failed to record an out, while giving up runs, but they get an “inf.” next to their name for infinite. I think I’d rather have that than a 135.00 ERA.

Billy Gumbert, pitcher for the franchise in 1890 and 1892. He did something you will never see again from a Major League pitcher. He also played for Louisville for one game in 1893, so it wasn’t just a coincidence from the team he was on. Gumbert was from Pittsburgh and only pitched home games, never traveling on the road. His only game for Louisville was as a fill-in when they were playing the Pirates and needed a pitcher on short notice. The official reason from the local papers at the time, was that he had business ventures he couldn’t be away from for any amount of time.

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