The Pittsburgh Pirates announced on Monday that three minor league players have been released and another has been outrighted to the Mexican League. On Saturday, there were four other minor league players released, including Jordan Steranka and Marek Minarik. The additions to that list on Monday are pitchers Orlando Castro, Mervin del Rosario and Jen-Lei Liao.
Orlando Castro is the big name here. The little lefty from Honduras put up some strong stats during his time in the minors, but got injured at the end of 2014 and spent the entire 2015 season rehabbing. When I talked to him after the season, he said if all went well he would be throwing bullpens in February, so all of that missed time really hurt his chances of sticking around. Castro displayed terrific control, with a fastball that reached 90 mph. He was able to get by with the low velocity due to strong secondary stuff and plus command.
Castro had success in West Virginia in 2013 and Bradenton in 2014, though he took time to adjust to each new level. His last two starts, which came with Altoona in 2014, were very poor outings and he was soon shutdown with arm fatigue. That turned into surgeries that involved his labrum and rotator cuff, which has had him rehabbing since last July.
Mervin del Rosario pitched five years in the system without much success. The last three years were spent in rookie ball, where his lowest ERA was 5.06 over that time. At 23 years old in Bristol this year, he was well-above the average age for the league and was being used at a filler in the bullpen.
Jen-Lei Liao was signed two years ago out of Taiwan. He is a huge figure at 6’6″, 255 pounds, but he didn’t have velocity to match the frame. He pitched well in limited bullpen time this year, showing improved control over 2014. The upside was very limited though, and it’s usually not a good sign to see a 22-year-old pitching out of the GCL bullpen.
Also, lefty pitcher Omar Basulto has been assigned outright to Yucatan of the Mexican League, which usually means his time with the team is done. Last year, the Pirates assigned Carlos Esqueda and Jovany Lopez to Mexican League teams and neither returned. Basulto pitched once this year due to injury, and while he put up some decent stats in the past, he was never considered a prospect due to a below average fastball. As we have said in the past, lefty pitchers with decent control can get by at the lower levels even without velocity, but they usually get sorted out around AA or sooner. Basulto began his career in the Mexican League with Yucatan, which is also his hometown team.