According to the United Shores Professional Baseball League (USPBL), the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed 22-year-old right-handed pitcher Andrew Potter. He was originally drafted out of high school in 2012, taken in the 31st round by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Potter played four seasons for Arizona and had very poor stats at the lower levels. Part of his stats can be blamed on the Pioneer League, where the average pitcher had an ERA just under 5.00 during his two seasons in the league. In his four seasons of short-season ball, Potter had a 6.04 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP in 140 innings, covering ten starts and 46 relief appearances. He walked 71 batters and picked up 120 strikeouts.
Potter pitched in the Frontier League at the beginning of 2016 and got hit really hard, posting a 10.59 ERA in 17 innings over 18 relief appearances. His control was even worse, with 17 walks, though he did pick up 21 strikeouts.
At the time he was drafted in 2012, Baseball America noted that he was hitting 93-94 MPH as a junior in high school, though he lacked stamina. His fastball would quickly drop into the high-80s. He also had the control issues that plagued him through the pros and didn’t have a strikeout pitch. He threw a below-average slurve and a changeup that was decent at times.
So then you may ask, why would the Pirates want a player with that type of scouting report and those stats in pro ball? The answer is in this tweet from the USPBL, where he turned things around beginning in July.
— USPBL (@uspbl) December 13, 2016
Potter had a fastball that average 93.7 MPH according to the league, and topped out at 96 MPH. In 19 innings, he had 19 strikeouts, while issuing just three walks. The fact that he will play the entire 2017 season at the age of 23, with a mid-90s fastball and improved command over the summer, makes him a much more interesting arm than the stats would indicate. He projects as a bullpen arm and will likely begin at one of the lower full-season levels.
The second player signed is catcher Jose Barraza, who will play most of the 2017 season as a 22-year-old. He was a seventh round pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2012 and received a $146,300 bonus. Barraza announced the signing on Twitter. He’s the second catcher added this week.
— Jose Barraza (@jbarraza16) December 24, 2016
Back in 2012 out of high school, he was called a project. Whichever team selected him would need to be patient. He had a strong arm and power potential, but lacked experience behind the plate, and had a stocky frame at a young age. He ended up missing all of the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm and the White Sox gave up on him after just 74 games played. Barraza signed with Lake Erie of the Frontier League in 2015 and has split his time between catcher and first base.
In two years with Lake Erie, he hit .278/.344/.399 over 187 games. I mentioned when the Pirates signed Zane Chavez on Wednesday, that they were short-handed with catchers. Barraza seems like the type of player who could fill in at the lower full-season levels at this point, while also seeing time at 1B/DH. He also played a couple games in left field last year, so that might be an option in a pinch as well.