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Bucco Breakfast: Reviewing the Pirates’ international signings, part 2

Part 2 starts about the time the Pirates’ international efforts really went downhill. The 2012-13 class was especially awful and 2014-15 may be headed the same way. A lot of the team’s top signees from 2012-16 not only failed, but failed badly, never making it past the lowest levels of the system. Their 2015-16 class, though, looks better, as does 2017-18 after just one season.


Julio De La Cruz, 3B ($700K) - Failed to reach full season ball, released after 2017.

Michael De La Cruz, OF ($700K) - Failed to reach full season ball, recently released.

Sam Kennelly, IF ($225K) - Didn’t get past rookie ball, released after 2016.

Yoel Gonzalez, C ($300K) - Reached low A briefly, released early this year.

Johan De Jesus, IF ($200K) - Failed to get past rookie ball, released early this year.

Dario Agrazal, RHP (N/A) - On 40-man roster, although he didn’t have a great year in AA this year.

This class has been a disaster, with only Agrazal still to show for it. Other than a few games from Gonzalez, nobody else even got out of the short season leagues. Julio De La Cruz was a classic example of the perils of Latin American scouting, which is heavily oriented toward workouts. If you saw De La Cruz play, both in the field and at bat he didn’t look like he could handle pro ball at all. I’ve been told, though, that he showed a lot of power in batting practice. It just never translated to games. Michael De La Cruz, on the other hand, had plenty of speed and defensive ability, but apparently had non-baseball adjustment problems.


Adrian Valerio, SS ($400K) - Played this year in high A, good glove but didn’t hit, Rule 5 eligible for second time.

Edison Lantigua, OF ($275K) - Has yet to reach full season ball, hit well in NYPL this year.

Jeremias Portorreal, OF ($375K) - Failed to get past rookie ball, recently released.

Luis Escobar, RHP ($150K) - On 40-man roster and reached AA late this year, but has struggled increasingly with command issues.

Edgar Santana, RHP (N/A) - Now with the Pirates, although he’ll miss 2019 due to Tommy John surgery.

Santana was a low-profile signing who obviously worked out extremely well. Otherwise, this class is probably going to boil down to the question whether Escobar can get some degree of command of his quality stuff. Valerio will get a little further based on his glove, but he’ll probably be passed over in Rule 5 for the second time this winter and he hasn’t even reached AA yet.


Yondry Contreras, OF ($400K) - Failed to get past rookie ball, recently released.

Christopher Perez, IF ($150K) - Failed to get past GCL, released early this year.

Gabriel Brito, C ($200K) - Has yet to get past rookie ball and hasn’t done well.

Domingo Robles, LHP ($175K) - Finesse lefty who reached high A late this year; mostly pitched well but doesn’t dominate.

Brian Sousa, RHP ($160K) - Has pitched less than two innings above GCL and has struggled with a variety of issues.

Roger Santana, LHP ($100K) - Lefty with improving stuff, got hit hard at Bristol this year but has some ability.

This could be another wipeout. Robles has made it to high A, but his stuff is fringy. Santana has better stuff (a fastball that reaches 95 and a good change), but he mostly struggled at Bristol, which is still two steps from full season ball. Both are already eligible for Rule 5, although neither is likely to be added to the roster. The big signing, Contreras, had speed and athleticism, but couldn’t hit at all.


Larry Alcime, OF ($350K) - Struggled severely for two years in DSL, released after four games in GCL this year.

Lolo Sanchez, OF ($450K) - Struggled in first half this year as one of the younger players in low A, but did better in second half; still one of the Pirates’ best prospects.

Samuel Inoa, C ($240K) - Hit very well at times but hampered by injuries; playing time behind the plate was limited in GCL this year.

Sherton Apostel, 3B ($200K) - Shown very good power potential, had solid year at Bristol then traded to Rangers for Keone Kela.

There’s some promise here. Alcime flamed out very quickly for a guy with his bonus and Inoa needs a healthy season. Apostel helped the Pirates get Kela, though, and Sanchez remains a good prospect as a legitimate centerfielder/leadoff type.


Santiago Florez, RHP ($150K) - Had sharp velocity increase in GCL this year, still learning to pitch.

Pedro Castillo, OF ($170K) - Released this year after two years in DSL.

Noe Toribio, RHP ($100K) - Good velocity but had disappointing year this year in GCL.

Samuel Reyes, RHP ($45K) - Pablo’s brother, small pitcher with good control and solid velocity, made it to low A this year.

Jean Eusebio, OF ($550K) - Struggled at the plate last year in DSL and this year in GCL.

Osvaldo Bido, RHP (N/A) - Older, low-key signing, jumped to NYPL this year and showed good stuff with erratic results.

It’s very early, but probably a couple out of Florez, Toribio and Bido need to take a big step forward for much to come of this class. The big bonus guy, Eusebio, has yet to show any sign that he can hit. Castillo was another very quick flameout. Reyes has advanced quickly, but may not have a lot of upside. Then again, it may not be a good idea to bet against Pablo’s brother.


Juan Pie, OF ($500K) - Had good debut in DSL.

Angel Basabe, OF ($450K) - Had good debut in DSL.

Norkis Marcos, SS ($250K) - Didn’t hit much in debut, although he walked a lot.

Jommer Hernandez, C ($250K) - Didn’t hit a great deal in debut.

Bryan Torres, RHP ($180K) - Got good results in DSL debut, although his stuff isn’t great.

Daniel Rivero, OF (N/A) - Had good DSL debut; probably was one of the team’s more expensive signings, but the amount was not disclosed due to security concerns for Venezuelans. (Basabe is also Venezuelan, but he moved out of the country before he signed.)

Fabricio Macias, OF (N/A) - Slightly more experienced player signed out of Mexico, at a guess probably to a low six-figure bonus; debut was delayed, then he struggled in low A before rebounding in NYPL.

Ji-Hwan Bae, SS ($1.25M) - Had good debut in GCL, but facing discipline from MLB (and maybe visa issues?) for domestic violence.

These guys have played only one year. For Pie, Basabe, Rivero and Torres, it was so far, so good. It’s too early to get down on Marcos or Hernandez. Macias was disappointing, as he had minor league experience in Mexico. Bae was not a disappointment on the field, but we don’t know yet how his legal troubles will play out.

This is a very partial listing for this class. The Pirates signed a staggering number of players in the signing period. Quite a few not listed here were still 16 when they signed. They probably got bonuses in the very low six figures, which is typical for 16-year-olds who aren’t high-profile guys. I’ve listed the top signees; in most other cases I don’t have exact bonus information. Some of the younger guys (i.e., the guys who have realistic prospect potential) did well in their debuts and some didn’t, but it’s too early to start sorting through them so I haven’t tried. It’s enough to say that there are quite a few lottery tickets not listed here.


Osvaldo Gavilan, OF ($700K)

Luis Tejeda, SS ($500K)

Sergio Campana, OF ($500K)

Adrian Mendez, LHP ($355K) (I’m not sure why the bonus amount was available, as Mendez is Venezuelan. I assume he must not live there any more.)

Dariel Lopez, IF ($400K)

Juan Jerez, IF ($380K)

Alexander Mojica, 3B ($350K)

Orlando Chivilli, SS ($350K)

Of course, these guys haven’t played yet. As can be seen from the dollar figures, the Pirates seem to have pushed their top bonus amounts up a notch, which may indicate the influence of new scouting director Junior Vizcaino. The bonus for Mendez was nearly twice what they’ve paid any other international pitcher since Luis Heredia.

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