Pirates' International Signings Stand Out

A few fare well in 2011

PITTSBURGH—The Pirates' four drafts under the current management have bolstered the quality and quantity of pitching, but have done comparatively little for the hitting. Fortunately for the organization, the international pipeline is making up for it.

Four of the system's top five hitters in batting average in 2011 were signed by Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo and his staff, and all are prospects: Outfielder Startling Marte batted .332/.370/.500 with 12 home runs and 24 stolen bases for Doulbe-A Altoona while leading the Eastern League in hits. For high Class A Bradenton, catcher Ramon Cabrera batted .343/.410/.471 while collecting more walks than strikeouts and third baseman Elevys Gonzalez hit .322/.374/.467 with 36 doubles. And outfielder Jose Osuna batted .328/.397/.505 for short-season State College and rookie-level Bradenton.

Total cost: $470,000. Osuna was the most expensive of the international signing bonuses at $250,000, followed by Cabrera at $100,000, Marte at $85,000 and Gonzalez at $35,000.

"We're proud of all these guys, and we look forward to seeing all of them make it to Pittsburgh and help the Pirates win," Gayo said. "That's what we're all about."
Marte is among the Pirates' top prospects, but the rest have been pleasant surprises.

Cabrera, 22, is 5-foot-7, 250 pounds—a pudgy build for a catcher, to put it kindly. But the Pirates have been pleased with his consistent approach, as well as his defense.

Gonzalez, 22, has steadily improved since coming to North America with a wiry build in 2009. That has been most evident in his increase in extra-base hits from 19 last season to 48 this season.

Osuna, 19, was so impressive in his performance and his 6-foot-2, 213-pound physique that he earned a late-season promotion. Twenty two of his 61 hits went for extra bases, and he drew 19 walks against 21 strikeouts.

Treasure Trove

• The Pirates made several management promotions, notably adding the titles of assistant general manager to Kyle Stark, the director of player development, and Greg Smith, the scouting director.

• Righthander Jared Hughes made an immediate impression as a surprising September call-up by making five scoreless appearances out of the Pirates' bullpen. Hughes, 26, was 6-5, 3.28 in 48 appearances for Triple-A Indianapolis.