International Reviews: Pittsburgh Pirates
See Also: 2014 Pirates International Review
See Also: 2013 Pirates International Review
See Also: 2012 Pirates International Review
Top signing: OF Kevin Sanchez, Dominican Republic, $450,000.
Total signings: 23
Since the bonus pools began, the Pirates have never exceeded their pool and have stayed away from giving out bonuses north of $1 million, preferring to spread their budget around to players in the mid six-figure range and under, with a strong presence throughout Latin America but a heavy focus on the Dominican Republic.
Pittsburgh’s top bonus ($450,000) last year went to 17-year-old Dominican center fielder Kevin Sanchez on July 2. Sanchez was an infielder with an unorthodox throwing action who has grown taller (6 feet, 150 pounds) and saw his tools jumped in the past year, impressing the Pirates with his plus-plus speed and bat control from the right side of the plate. He’s mostly a line-drive hitter now with gap power, relying on his contact skills and speed. He has the speed to stay in center field with an average arm. He will debut in the Dominican Summer League. Sanchez trained with Raul Valera, the trainer known as “Banana” who also had outfielders Michael de la Cruz and Jeremias Portorreal and shortstop Christopher Perez sign six-figure deals with the Pirates in the last few years.
The big name last year out of the Bahamas was shortstop Lucius Fox, who signed with the Giants for $6 million, but the Pirates also went there to sign 17-year-old outfielder Larry Alcime for $350,000 on July 2. Alcime has a strong, physical frame (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) with good righthanded power, though he’s still on the raw side and learning to translate that power into game situations. He runs well for his size and has a strong arm, which should allow him to play right field.
Dominican catcher Samuel Inoa signed for $240,000 after training with Azulito and playing in the Dominican Prospect League. Inoa, 17, is 5-foot-11, 180 pounds with an above-average arm that plays up because of his quick exchange. He has soft hands and projects to stick behind the plate. He’s a righthanded hitter who also impressed the Pirates with his righthanded hitting ability.
When some scouts watched Sherten Apostel in Curacao, they preferred him on the mound due to his big frame (6-foot-4, 198 pounds), athleticism and a fastball that could reach 92 mph when he could come in to pitch occasionally. Apostel preferred to hit and play third base though, so the Pirates signed him for $200,000 as a position player on July 2. His best tool is his outstanding arm strength, and while there aren’t many players his size at third base, the Pirates liked his body control to be able to stay at the position. He’s a righthanded hitter who takes more of a line-drive approach in games and will have to grow into his power, though he has the physical projection to develop power as he gets bigger. If Apostel is unable to figure it out at the plate, the Pirates could always move him to the mound later on, much like they did with Yhonathan Barrios.
Dominican shortstop Rodolfo Castro signed for $150,000 in October. He’s a 16-year-old who the Pirates project to stick at the position, with a good arm and a quick release. He’s a switch-hitter with average speed whose glove is ahead of his bat.
Yeudry Manzanillo is a 17-year-old Dominican righthander who signed for $150,000 on July 2. He stood out to the Pirates for his strike-throwing ability, physical projection (6-foot-3, 175 pounds), good delivery and arm action that should allow him to add to his 86-90 mph fastball, with a curveball and changeup still developing.
Leandro Pina, another 6-foot-3, 175-pound Dominican righthander, is more advanced with his feel for pitching and has a polished changeup for a 17-year-old. The changeup is already his best pitch, working off an 88-91 mph fastball as well as a slider.
For $110,000, the Pirates signed 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Carlos Garcia in July. At 6 feet, 170 pounds, Garcia is a lefty who impressed the Pirates with his hitting ability and line-drive approach. He’s not a big runner or thrower, so he fits best in an outfield corner.
At the end of the 2014-15 signing period in June, the Pirates gave $100,000 to 17-year-old Dominican lefthander Randy Jimenez. He has a projectable build (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) that should allow him to add to his 86-90 mph to develop a plus fastball to pair with an advanced curveball for his age, with a changeup rounding out his repertoire.
Jared Oliva Improves Swing From Ground Up
The 24-year-old has showcased speed and on-base skills, but power development is the next frontier as he readies for Triple-A.
One sleeper to watch from the Pirates 2015 signing class is Joel Cesar, a 20-year-old Dominican righthander who signed for $50,000 in October. Cesar has an undersized but strong 5-foot-10 build, but the Pirates liked his delivery and arm action to go with his 91-94 mph fastball. After signing, Cesar’s velocity jumped quickly, now sitting in the mid-90s and he’s been up to 100 mph. He’s a shorter framed two-pitch guy with a solid slider and could end up in the bullpen.