Pirates Add Five Minor League Players

The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed five minor league players according to Baseball America. We already heard about two of them, with the signing of catcher Mitch Slauter last week and shortstop Blake Davis was announced this week.

The new additions are RHP Jenn-Lei Liao, LHP Matt Ford and catcher Mike Spano.

Starting with Spano, the Pirates added an extra affiliate this year and along with that means more pitchers and the need for more catchers. It’s going to be crowded in Extended Spring Training now with three teams worth of players and extras, so there was a need for extra catchers. The Pirates signed Slauter last week and also added catcher Erick Fernandez late last week. Spano was a non-drafted free agent, who spent the 2013 season with Florida Atlantic. He caught four years of college and had a decent junior season in 2012, but really slumped last year at the plate, hitting .211/.309/.233 in 40 games. He made just two errors and threw out 20% of attempted stolen bases.

As a junior, Spano hit .293/.398/.377 and threw out 28% of base stealers, while committing just one error in 44 games. He was named as one of the top collegiate catchers during a mid-season poll this season despite the poor stats on offense.

Matt Ford is an interesting signing in that he has been out of baseball for awhile, so unless this is a comeback, he might just be a player/coach that doesn’t actually play. He pitched for the 2003 Milwaukee Brewers after being taken from the Blue Jays as a Rule V pick, then he spent the next five seasons bouncing around the minors. Ford was a third round draft pick in 1999 and possibly proof that there is always a spot for left-handed pitching in baseball.

Right-handed pitcher Jenn-Lei Liao(BA lists him as Jen-Lei) is a 20-year-old out of Taiwan. He is a big kid at 6’6″ 264 pounds and he is raw. Liao is signing his first pro contract, so he is an International signing. He throws high 80’s, topping out at 92 MPH. For more information on him and another video, check out this link from Twitter user @imokemp.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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any idea about the kid we lost to the brewers in the rule 5 draft, wei wang? think he will stick?

Mike C.

The Buccos should sign Tracy McGrady and let Searage work his magic.
He’s Exactly the tall big pitcher they seem to love so much!


I hope that’s a joke.


This kid in the video doesn’t look 260+ pounds to me so maybe he has filled out since the video. (Although he is not scrawny by any means) You can never have enough big raw prospects around so hopefully he is another kid that will be throwing 95+ in another year.


Hopefully he’s cleaned up his mechanics a bit since that video was shot. He’s all loosey goosey with glacially slow arm action.


It’s looks as though his warmup jersey in the video has an “Angels” logo on it. Perhaps he was brought over to show the brass in Anaheim his stuff? Anyway, if he can turn into the Taiwanese Heredia it’d be interesting for sure.


Is anybody watching the #4 game in mlb history? I’m going to be sick all over again.


John…I didn’t even find those videos….lol


Liao is the only potential interesting one. There’s a Lei Liao on Facebook…:)

Good luck with that search. :).


Liao looks like he throws all arm and no lower body. If he learns to use his legs, the velocity should significantly increase. Wonder why there aren’t any pitchers that copy Tom Seaver and get dirt on their knee from driving off of their back leg

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