Baseball America has posted its annual list of minor league free agents. It includes 15 Pirates, which is about half what it typically included in the latter part of Dave Littlefield’s regime and the early years of Neal Huntington’s. Two of the fifteen — Kelson Brown and Samuel Gonzalez -- are actually coaches, but they’re listed as players for some technical reason. So it’s really only 13.
Of that 13, one — left-hander Wade LeBlanc -- finished the season on the major league roster. Half of the remainder have played their entire careers with the Pirates, rather than coming from other organizations on minor league deals. The full list follows, with * denoting players originally signed by the Pirates:
C: Tomas Morales*, Jackson Williams, Samuel Gonzalez*
IF: Edwin Espinal*, Carlos Munoz*, Alfredo Reyes, Anderson Feliz, Joey Terdoslavich, Kelson Brown*
OF: Danny Ortiz, Jonathan Schwind*
LHP: Wade LeBlanc
RHP: Brandon Cumpton*, Luis Heredia*, Jason Stoffel
The most noteworthy players here are Cumpton, Heredia and Espinal.
Cumpton pitched respectably for the Pirates in 2013-14, but missed the next two years due to both Tommy John and shoulder surgery. He was able to throw only 37 rehab innings this year. The Pirates may have decided they wouldn’t have the innings for him in the upper minors, or he may have taken a look at their pitching depth and decided his odds were better elsewhere.
Heredia received what remains by far the largest bonus the Pirates have paid to an international amateur, unless you count Yoslan Herrera. He never made much progress as a starter and was also hampered by injury and conditioning issues. He showed some ability pitching in relief the last two years, but not on a consistent basis.
Espinal is very similar to Jose Osuna. He’s a capable first baseman who can stand at another position, in his case third. He has a good hit tool, but rarely walks and has only modest power. Osuna has shown signs of increased power in the last two years, so there was little need for Espinal.
One player who’s not on the list is right-hander Johnny Hellweg. The Pirates signed the former Brewers prospect out of independent ball late in the season. He showed some signs of discovering the strike zone in brief action with Altoona and continued to miss a lot of bats. I’m not sure why he’s not listed, as there’s been no news of him re-signing for next year (unlike Casey Sadler and Jin-De Jhang). It’s possible his minor league deal with the Pirates included 2018. I recall that happening at least once before in recent years.