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Is the Pirates’ quantity-over-quality approach to Latin America working?

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The Pirates for years now have followed an approach to international scouting that’s routinely been referred to as “spreading the money around.” Rather than competing with other teams for top talent, they restrict themselves to signing players to smaller bonuses, ostensibly with the idea that they can bring in more young players. The last seven-figure bonus they doled out went to Harold Ramirez in 2011. Since 2012, the largest bonus they paid out was the $550,000 that went to Jean Eusebio earlier this year.

The Pirates have consistently operated within the limits for international spending set by MLB through the last two collective bargaining agreements. The one that expired a year ago imposed low spending limits on the Pirates in most years by virtue of the fact that they had good records. While roughly two-thirds of MLB teams thumbed their noses at the weakly enforced limits, the Pirates remained good little troopers and toed the line. This year, the penalties for exceeding the pool became much more draconian, making it likely that most or all of MLB will stay within their limits. The Pirates, though, had a much more generous pool as it’s now based roughly on market size rather than W/L record. Nevertheless, the Pirates again have chosen to sign a lot of players for modest bonuses rather than compete for the top talent. As a result, they didn’t sign any of the more highly regarded Latin American prospects.

Let’s leave aside for the moment whether the Pirates’ quantity-over-quality approach is likely to bring in the sort of high-ceiling talent that’s needed to win in the majors. If focusing on quantity is a sound approach, at the very least it should bring in enough talent that the Pirates would have a relatively large number of Latin American players with enough talent to reach at least the middle levels of their system.

That’s easy enough to check. I just counted up the number of Latin American players who appeared with each team in the Eastern and Florida State Leagues, where the Pirates have their AA and High A affiliates. I didn’t look at the International League because AAA rosters are heavily loaded with free agents who originally signed with teams other than the ones they’re with now.

So, logically, Altoona and Bradenton should have had a lot of Latin American players, right?

Eastern League

Reading (Phi): 19
Trenton (NYY): 17
Bowie (Balt): 15
Erie (Det): 14
New Hampshire (Tor): 14
Harrisburg (Wash): 13
Portland (Bos): 13
Richmond (SF): 13
Akron (Cleve): 12
Binghamton (NYM): 11
Altoona (Pgh): 9
Hartford (Col): 9

Florida State League

St. Lucie (NYM): 25
Lakeland (Det): 22
Clearwater (Phi): 21
Palm Beach (StL): 20
Dunedin (Tor): 19
Jupiter (Mia): 17
Daytona (Cinn): 16
Tampa (NYY): 16
Charlotte (TB): 15
Florida (Atl): 15
Fort Myers (Minn): 9
Bradenton (Pgh): 8

Oops.