The Pittsburgh Pirates have been tied to MLB Pipeline’s 12th ranked prospect in the 2021-22 international signing class for quite some time, but Pipeline recently updated their top 50 prospect list with news that the Pirates are the front runners for the #11 prospect as well. Dominican shortstop Yordany De Los Santos is expected to receive a bonus just north of $1,000,000 according to Ben Badler at Baseball America. That left the Pirates plenty of room to pursued 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Tony Blanco Jr to sign, after initial reports had the Tampa Bay Rays as the favorites.
Baseball America ranked the top 50 international signings by expected bonus, and they didn’t have Blanco in their top 50, but that may have changed with him apparently switching teams. Blanco is huge for any age, but especially a 16-year-old, standing in at 6’5″, 230 pounds. According to Pipeline, he has raw power that gives him 40-HR potential. That’s not out of the question, seeing as his dad, who isn’t as big, hit 41 homers in a season in Japan in 2013. His dad also played just one partial season in the majors, which gives you a great example of the caveats with a prospect who is so young. It’s elite raw power though, and the younger Blanco has great bat speed, excellent strike zone judgement and strong pitch recognition skills according to Pipeline. He’s a corner outfielder with a strong arm, decent speed.
De Los Santos is also 16 years old still, when many of these prospects are signing now at 17, because of the change from July 2nd to January 15th for the first day of international signings. De Los Santos stands in at 6’1″, 170 pounds, with a frame that has room to fill out. He barrels the ball well already and has the potential to develop into more of a power hitter in the future. His defense is strong at shortstop, with the only question being whether he will outgrow the spot as he fills out. Somewhat surprisingly with his athleticism, he’s a slightly below average runner, though he gets extra points for having great baseball instincts and smarts on the bases.
The Pirates will have $6,262,600 to spend on international signings this year. Per the MLB agreement back in June of last year when the 2020-21 signing period was pushed back, trades of bonus pool money aren’t available this year. Assuming all goes well on January 15th, De Los Santos and Blanco are going to take up a large percentage of the Pirates bonus pool, but they will still have plenty to spend on other players. I don’t have any other names, but I was told that they were high on another shortstop and catcher who both verbally agreed to deals early in the process. Nothing will be official until January 15th though, and with signing delays last year due to travel restrictions, some of the Pirates biggest signings weren’t official until early May. That could be repeated this year as well.
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.