2018-19 International Reviews: Pittsburgh Pirates
This is part of Ben Badler's 2018-19 International Reviews series chronicling all the moves made by teams on the international market over the prior year. To see all 30 teams, click here.
Total 2018 (Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2018) signings: 69
The Pirates signed 69 players in the 2018 calendar year, tied with the Yankees for the most signings in that time. Pittsburgh added a second Dominican Summer League team, so they spread their dollars around in their first July 2 under international scouting director Junior Vizcaino, with no million-dollar signings but 15 players who got $150,000 or more last year once the 2018-19 period opened on July 2.
Pittsburgh's biggest signing bonus in the 2018-19 period went to Oswaldo Gavilan, a 17-year-old Dominican outfielder who got $700,000 on July 2. He's a 5-foot-11 lefty who stood out for his instincts in center field. Gavilan is an average runner, so some scouts weren't sure whether he profiled as a center fielder, but others thought his reads, routes and natural defensive actions would give him a chance to stay in center. Gavilan has a loose, easy swing with inconsistent contact but a patient approach with gap power. He trained with Rafael Furcal.
Perhaps the most exciting player the Pirates signed last year was Sergio Campaña, a 17-year-old Dominican center fielder who got $500,000 on July 2 after training with Banana. His older brother, Marino Campaña, is a 21-year-old corner outfielder with the Red Sox in high Class A Salem. Sergio is 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, a lean, quick-twitch athlete with big tools. He's a plus runner with easy, gliding actions in center field. At the plate, Campaña is a righthanded hitter with quick hands, good bat speed and a compact swing. With the strength projection in his frame, he could develop above-average power too. In games, Campaña went up and down, mixing high swing-and-miss stretches with good performance, like when he went to Colombia for the 2017 COPABE 15U Pan American Championships and hit .364 (8-for-22) with two home runs. There's considerable upside if he can keep his contact rate manageable in pro ball.
One of Campana's teammates at that tournament in Colombia was Luis Tejeda, a Dominican shortstop the Pirates signed for $475,000 when Tejeda turned 16 on Aug. 26. Tejeda is one of the youngest players in the 2018 class—had he been born one week later, he would be a 2019 player—and he will play nearly the entire 2018 season as a 16-year-old. His swing, however, is advanced for his age. It's a short, quick, direct stroke from the right side, leading to a lot of barreled balls and hard line drives in games. Tejeda is an offensive-minded player who most scouts felt was a future second baseman, although his defense has taken a step forward. Signed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, he has grown an inch since then, improved his conditioning and his throwing, with an average arm now. Tejeda trained with Rudy Santin.
The Pirates paid $400,000 to sign 17-year-old Dominican infielder Dariel Lopez on July 2. He had Tommy John surgery after signing though, so he's going to miss the 2019 season. A shortstop as an amateur who also spent time pitching, Lopez is a third baseman with power upside from the right side of the plate. He's 6-foot-1, 185 pounds who impressed the Pirates with his combination of power, bat speed, leverage, rhythm and timing at the plate. He has soft hands and showed a strong arm, so he has the attributes to defend his position well.
Another Dominican third baseman, Alexander Mojica, signed with the Pirates for $390,000 when he turned 16 on Aug. 2. He's 6-foot-1, 195 pounds with good bat speed and power from the right side of the plate. He has good hands and a plus arm at third base, where he should be able to stay as long as he keeps his conditioning in check. Mojica trained with Carlos Guzman.
Juan Jerez is a 17-year-old Dominican shortstop the Pirates signed for $380,000 on July 2. He's 6 feet, 160 pounds and impressed the Pirates with his offensive ability. Other clubs had concerns about Jerez's strikeouts, but the Pirates saw him perform well in games with good bat speed, swing path and power. Jerez's athleticism gives him a chance to stick at shortstop, though he's not a pure defender relative to others his age at the position, so third base or possibly a corner outfield spot could be options down the road depending how his defense progresses. Like Mojica, Jerez also trained with Carlos Guzman.
Dominican shortstop Orlando Chivilli, 16, signed with the Pirates on July 2 for $350,000. Chivilli has smooth hands with a strong arm and a good release at shortstop. Chivilli had a lean 6-foot, 170-pound frame when he signed, though he's added significant size and strength since then, so his future may be at shortstop. He's a righthanded hitter with a quick bat, strength and lift in his swing to generate pull power, although he will have tro make adjustments to hit more in games.
The Pirates signed Dominican outfielder Franrielis Bastardo for $260,000 when he turned 16 on July 19. He's a physical corner outfielder at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds with good bat speed and a lot of strength in his hands and wrists to generate power. He swings hard with an aggressive approach and a power-over-hit profile. Another Dominican outfielder, 17-year-old Rodolfo Nolasco, signed for $235,000 on July 2. He's a similar player to Bastardo, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound corner outfielder who stood out for his raw power but needs time for his game skills to catch up.
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Jose Berroa is a 17-year-old center fielder from the Dominican Republic who signed with the Pirates for $230,000 on July 2 after training with Papiro, the same trainer who had Starling Marte. He's an athletic 6 feet, 165 pounds with outstanding speed, running the 60-yard dash in 6.3-6.4 seconds for the Pirates, who were also drawn to Berroa for his hand-eye coordination to consistently barrel balls for line drives in games from both sides of the plate.
Dominican shortstop Deivis Nadal is a 17-year-old shortstop the Pirates signed for $185,000 on July 2. Signed with a thin-boned body type at 5-foot-11, 150 pounds, Nadal has easy actions but needs to get stronger, though he's already made progress there over the past year. He's a switch-hitter with good bat-to-ball skills and a line-drive approach with gap power. If his tools tick up with more strength, he has a chance to stay at shortstop, though he might flip over to second base.
Among the pitchers the Pirates signed last year was Adrian Mendez, a 17-year-old lefty from Venezuela who trained with Francisco Murillo and Henderson Martinez. He's 6-ffoot-1, 160 pounds with a quick arm and a fastball that was 86-88 mph and has inched up to touch 90. He throws scattered strikes but his delivery generally works well, mixing in a slow curveball that's inconsistent but shows feel for spin.
The Pirates signed 17-year-old Dominican righthander Miguel Toribio for $175,000 on July 2. At 6-foot-1, 160 pounds, Toribio has good arm speed on a fastball that was 86-89 mph and has ticked up a bit to touch the low-90s, along with feel for a slider. He trained with Chiqui Mejia.
Dominican righthander Andy Maldonado signed with the Pirates for $170,0000 when he turned 16 on July 21. He has an extra-large, projectable frame (6-foot-5, 195 pounds) and a fastball that was 87-90 mph at last year's MLB international showcase in February and has since touched 92 mph. Given his youth, arm speed and physical projection, Maldonado could throw considerably harder once he packs on more weight. He's still learning to control his delivery to throw more strikes and develop a reliable secondary pitch, with a three-quarters breaking ball that could eventually morph into a slider. Maldonado trained with Felo.
The Pirates also paid $150,000 to sign 17-year-old righthander Listher Sosa from the Dominican Republic. He's a big, physical pitcher (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) who is strong for his age with good arm action on an 87-91 mph fastball with projection for more, mixing in a curveball and a changeup he's shown feel for landing in the strike zone.
One under-the-radar signing to keep an eye on is Luis Ortiz, a 20-year-old righthander from the Dominican Republic who signed for $25,000. Ortiz signed in October with a fastball up to 92 mph, then went to Dominican instructional league and quickly saw his velocity jump into the 90-95 mph range. Ortiz has broad shoulders on a 6-foot-2, 165-pound frame with more projection remaining. He backs up his fastball with a curveball and a changeup, with his changeup already flashing above-average.