LISALVERTO BONILLA, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: June 18, 1990
Signed: International Free Agent, 2008 (Phillies)
How Acquired: Free Agent
Country: Dominican Republic
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Bonilla was a low-profile signing by the Phillies in 2008, but he quickly got onto prospect charts with some very high K rates that resulted from a good change. He throws a fastball that’s been in the 90-93 range, topping out at 95, as a starter. He’s thrown harder as a reliever, which was his main role as he was climbing through the minors. He’s struggled to develop a consistent slider. Bonilla has been a groundball pitcher and hasn’t had much of a platoon split in the upper minors, although he had very large platoon splits in the low minors. His career got derailed by Tommy John surgery just after he reached the majors. The Pirates signed him to a major league deal after he became a minor league free agent following the 2016 season.
Bonilla put up dominant numbers as a starter in his debut season. Having signed at age 18, he was just a little old for the league.
The Phillies sent Bonilla to the GCL, where he had a low ERA, and great walk and K rates. After six starts, he went to the New York-Penn League and had considerably more trouble as both a starter and reliever. That included gopher ball problems, as he allowed one every five innings.
Bonilla made the jump to low A successfully. He spent the first half of the season as a reliever, then moved to the rotation. His K rate dropped, probably because the Phillies strictly limited his use of his change. After the season, Baseball America rated him the Phillies’ twelfth best prospect.
The Phillies moved Bonilla to the bullpen and he had a big season, initially in high A and mostly in AA, until he went out in early July with a broken hand. His velocity improved with the move to relief, to the 92-96 range, and he posted very high K rates. He did have trouble throwing strikes in AA. After the season, the Phillies sent him to Texas for Michael Young. BA rated him the #31 prospect in a Rangers’ system that was much stronger than the Phillies’.
Bonilla dominated in AA, but ran into trouble after moving up to AAA. He struggled due to command issues and the much more hitter-friendly environs of the Pacific Coast League. BA still rated him the Rangers’ 20th best prospect after the season.
Texas used Bonilla mostly in relief in AAA, but he made six starts late in the season. He actually pitched quite a bit better as a starter. The Rangers called him up in September and he made five appearances, three of them starts. He pitched well despite some control problems.
Bonilla went on the disabled list with an elbow injury at the start of the season. He ended up having Tommy John surgery, which kept him out all year. After the season, Texas lost him on a waiver claim to the Dodgers, who then non-tendered him and signed him to a minor league contract.
The Dodgers sent Bonilla to AAA, where he pitched in relief until mid-June. At that point, they sent him to AA for seven starts, then moved him back up to AAA for six starts. He was much more effective as a starter, with a 3.45 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 2.4 BB/9, compared to 5.09, 1.59 and 5.1 as a reliever. The Dodgers did not add him to their 40-man roster after the season, so he became a free agent. He signed a major league deal with the Pirates.
The Pirates consider Bonilla a possibility as a starter, which would add him to the mix for a rotation that looked very uncertain at the time they signed him. Although he’s generally been regarded by scouts as better suited to relief, given his reliance mainly on two pitches, he actually was better as a starter in 2014 and 2016. He has two options left, but the Pirates designated him for assignment when they acquired Pat Light.
2016: Minor league contract
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2009
MLB Debut: 9/4/2014
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2021
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/13
Options Remaining: 2 (USED: 2014)
MLB Service Time: 1.027
|December 19, 2008: Signed as an international free agent by the Philadelphia Phillies.
December 8, 2012: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies with Josh Lindblom to the Texas Rangers for Michael Young.
October 21, 2015: Claimed off waivers from the Texas Rangers by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
December 2, 2015: Non-tendered by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
December 8, 2015: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
November 7, 2016: Became a free agent.
November 29, 2016: Signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
February 9, 2017: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates.