We're on to 2011-2012. As before, these are the more prominent players signed during these years. Country of birth and, when available, bonus amount are given.
It's still early for the signees from these two years, especially 2012, but these two groups on the whole don't look as strong as the return from 2008-10. Whether that indicates anything beyond sheer happenstance is impossible to say; these are small sample sizes. It's interesting, though, that the one unequivocally successful signing (to the extent we can tell now) was also the most expensive one from this year period. This leaves the question whether the approach of signing numerous, second-tier prospects will work over the long term. More on that in the next installment.
2011 -- Grade: B+
Daniel Arribas, C (Netherlands) ($110,000): Arribas has usually hit well, but the Pirates for some reason have moved him slowly and haven't kept him behind the plate full-time. He hasn't gotten beyond short season ball, but he's already eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
Elvis Escobar, OF (Venezuela) ($570,000): Escobar got one of the largest bonuses the Pirates have given out, but he hasn't quite developed, mainly because he takes very few pitches. He did have his best year in 2015 in low A.
Edwin Espinal, IF (Dominican Republic) ($150,000): Espinal is a big guy with a good approach at the plate, but the power hasn't come around and he didn't hit very much in high A in 2015. He could reach AA at some point in 2016.
Adrian Grullon, RHP (Dominican Republic) ($120,000): A big righty (he's listed at 6'0" by some sources but he's way bigger than that), Grullon has hit 100 mph but can't stay healthy. He's thrown only 58 innings in five years and missed all of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery.
Dennis Hurtarte, 1B (Guatemala): A rare signing out of Guatemala, Hurtarte came with a good reputation as a hitter, but didn't develop well and was released after the 2013 season.
Jin-De Jhang, C (Taiwan) ($250,000): Jhang has shown excellent plate discipline and a good line-drive bat, but isn't real athletic. He had a good year at Bradenton in 2015, but went unselected in the Rule 5 draft. He should be at Altoona in 2016 and could reach the majors.
Richard Mitchell, RHP (Colombia): Mitchell has pretty good stuff, but missed very few bats in the low minors. The Pirates sent him to Miami as the token return for Trevor Williams.
Carlos Munoz, 1B (Mexico) ($175,000): One of the most interesting players in the system, Munoz had a monster 2015 season with Bristol. He's always had an exceptional eye at the plate, but finally started hitting for serious power. His very stocky build probably doesn't endear him to scouts and he went unselected in the Rule 5 draft.
Carlos Ozuna, IF (Dominican Republic) ($115,000): Ozuna signed as a guy who looked like he might be able to stay at short, but he seems to have become a low-level utility player.
Cecilio Pimentel, LHP (Dominican Republic) ($140,000): Pimentel is a crafty lefty who may be better in relief; he fanned nearly eleven batters per nine innings in the NYPL in 2015.
Harold Ramirez, OF (Colombia) ($1,050,000): Ramirez got the second-largest bonus the Pirates have given to an international player. He's mainly been held back by injuries and conditioning issues, but showed up to mini-camp this month in excellent shape. Even with the injury problems, he was arguably the best hitter in the Florida State League in 2015. He might be able to stay in center, although he's seldom been able to play there due to Austin Meadows.
Wei-Chung Wang, LHP (Taiwan): The Pirates originally signed Wang for $350,000, but that contract was voided when a physical showed he needed Tommy John surgery. Wang re-signed at a much lower price, which made him immediately eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Milwaukee selected him after he'd pitched only in the GCL. He had a mediocre season in the FSL in 2015.
Ramirez obviously makes this group, assuming he continues to develop. Jhang could reach the majors, and Munoz, Wang and maybe Pimentel are still wild cards.
2012 -- Grade: C-
Dario Agrazal, RHP (Panama): So far, Agrazal has gotten good results in short season ball without missing many bats, by limiting walks and HRs. He should be in the low A rotation in 2016.
Johan De Jesus, IF (Dominican Republic) ($200,000): De Jesus mostly struggled in two years in the DSL, although he drew a huge number of walks in 2014. He then missed all of 2015 due to a PED suspension. He'll play most of 2016 at age 19, so he could still turn things around.
Julio De La Cruz, IF (Dominican Republic) ($700,000): The Pirates had two high-profile signees in 2012, both named De La Cruz although they're not related. Julio is a third baseman who was thought to have good hitting potential. He's struggled so far due to very poor plate discipline, although he's at least managed to move up each year. He's had serious defensive problems, so it's hard to see him staying at third. Even if he moves up one level again in 2016, he'll still be in short season ball.
Michael De La Cruz, OF (Dominican Republic) ($700,000): Michael is a speedy center fielder. After a good debut in the DSL, he had a miserable time in the GCL in 2014. He returned there in 2015 and did better, but needs to break out as a hitter. He's a legitimate center fielder.
Yoel Gonzalez, C (Dominican Republic) ($350,000): Gonzalez is a good defensive catcher, but he's struggled to hit. He repeated the GCL in 2015 and actually regressed at the plate.
Jhoan Herrera, IF (Dominican Republic) ($300,000): The Pirates signed Herrera as a third baseman with power potential. He was slated to go to Bristol for his second season, but an ankle injury landed him back in the DSL. He spent 2015 in the GCL as a DH and first baseman, mostly the former. Herrera hit just decently, but is still only 20.
Sam Kennelly, IF (Australia) ($225,000): The Pirates have been very active in Australia in recent years, but they haven't come up with a real prospect there yet. Kennelly comes the closest, as he's shown a decent-ish bat in two GCL seasons. Originally a shortstop, he played mostly first in 2015 and he doesn't have the bat for that.
Tito Polo, OF (Colombia): Not a high-profile signing, Polo got on the map with a strong GCL season in 2014. The Pirates tried jumping him up to full season ball in 2015. He mostly scuffled, although he did steal 46 bases. He's 21 now, so he hasn't been young for his levels. He should be the center fielder at Bradenton in 2016.
Pablo Reyes, IF (Dominican Republic): Reyes also wasn't a high-profile signing, but he's shown surprising pop for a small guy, and good speed. He seems to have settled at second, where he has good range. He's 22 now, so he was old for low A, where he played in 2015. Reyes could run into a logjam if Kevin Kramer moves up to high A in 2016.
Sandy Santos, OF (Dominican Republic): Santos hit for good power in 2016 at Bristol and seems to be able to play center, although he was old for the level. It will say a lot whether the Pirates move him up to low A this year.
This is still a very volatile group of players. Agrazal, Reyes and Santos had the only really successful seasons in 2015, and it's not clear how much of a prospect any of that trio may be. Nevertheless, both De La Cruzes, Herrera, De Jesus and Polo are all still breakout candidates.