Baseball America's Ben Badler has probably established himself as the leading authority in the media on the Latin American baseball scouting scene. He's been posting summaries of each team's signing activity over the past year, with the Pirates (subscription required) going up today. In addition, Pirates Prospects has its own recap, which also summarizes Badler's.
Some of this won't be new. Many of you may recall that the Pirates' most prominent signing was a defense-first Dominican shortstop, Adrian Valerio. Badler points out that it's a departure for the Pirates, who've tended under Rene Gayo to focus on bats. The remainder of the more prominent signees are outfielders and pitchers.
Gayo has stated in the past that he prefers to spread the money around and the past year was no exception. The Pirates had a half dozen six-figure signings beyond Valerio:
Jeremias Portorreal, Dominican OF/1B ($375,000)
Edinson Lantigua, Dominican OF ($275,000)
Hector Garcia, Mexican LHP ($190,000)
Luis Escobar, Colombian RHP ($150,000)
Eliezer Ramirez, Venezuelan OF ($120,000)
Jose Batista (no, not him), Dominican LHP ($120,000)
I've been a little skeptical of the approach of signing larger numbers of mid-tier prospects rather than one or two seven-figure types, but it may well be the best approach given the almost absurd problems in projecting 16-year-olds, many from difficult backgrounds, who don't play in organized leagues. Of course, the Pirates' own history suggests that Gayo is right: Starling Marte signed for $85,000 and Gregory Polanco for $150,000.
Badler notes that the Pirates signed 33 players altogether. I don't have totals from past years, but that seems like a large number. It likely was dictated by the need to populate the new roster at Bristol. Many of the signees were slightly older players who look like organizational types. Among the more prominent ones listed here, Garcia and Batista are slated to be in camp this month, which means they'll likely be in the GCL this year.