Minor Moves: Pirates Cut Eight Minor League Pitchers, Three Other Players Retire

The Pittsburgh Pirates cut eight pitchers from minor league camp on Tuesday afternoon. There are also two retirement announcements from over the off-season, plus a recent retirement from minor league camp. All three retired players were signed in 2016, two as draft picks.

The two biggest names among the players cut today would be Jake Burnette and Neil Kozikowski, who both received significant bonuses to sign out of high school. Burnette received $550,000 in 2011 after being taken in the 11th round. He has been battling injuries from the start and ended up pitching just 117.1 innings in six seasons. Kozikowski got a $425,000 bonus in the eighth round in 2013 and his issue was that he never showed any progress with his pitches. His 6’4″ frame gave him a chance to add muscle and improve on a low-90s velocity, but he was never better than when he started in the system. This past season he served in a bullpen role in Morgantown and had his issues with a 4.19 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in a pitcher-friendly league.

Chris Plitt missed all of last season due to a UCL sprain. He showed some promise after being taken in the 14th round in 2015, but the combination of a missed year and injury cost him a chance to add on to his 86-88 MPH velocity.

Nick Hutchings was the last player from Australia still in the system. The 21-year-old showed an improved velocity last year, but he served as a bullpen arm in Bristol and didn’t have success. He planned to pitch this winter in Australia, then ended up throwing just one early season game.

Nick Neumann showed some solid results in A-ball the last two years, though he is just shy of his 26th birthday and was sitting 86-89 MPH during a minor league game earlier this week. He was a 28th round draft pick in 2014.

Henry Hirsch was a 22nd round pick in 2013, who put up better stats in 2015 in Bradenton than he did last year at the same level. He had decent velocity and a solid strikeout rate, but you don’t like to see a 24-year-old pitcher take a step back at the same level. He’s also a flyball pitcher, who didn’t have the same command as the previous year and that hurt his stats and chances to succeed.

Jose Regalado is a 25-year-old, who has been in the system since 2011, when he was signed as a free agent out of the Dominican. He did well in Bradenton last year, but his high-80s fastball and lack of any strong secondary pitches would have trouble in the upper levels.

Julio Vivas has also been in the system since signing as an international free agent in 2011, though he is two years younger than Regalado. Vivas topped out around 90-91, using deception in his delivery to get by, as he didn’t have the best control. He had some success at Bradenton in 2015 and in winter ball in Venezuela against much older players, but he spent 2016 in West Virginia, where the results were average at best.

As for the retired players, Danny Beddes was a 15th round draft pick last year and had a very successful season for Morgantown, getting named to the All-Star game and posting a 2.27 ERA in 77.1 innings. He had good size at 6’6″ and a nice four-pitch mix, with a fastball that could touch 95 MPH. We had him as the eighth best prospect for Morgantown last year, though he wasn’t considered for the top 50 in our prospect guide. He retired over the off-season.

Tyler Leffler was in Spring Training camp until last week when he decided to leave. As a 27th round pick last year, he received very little playing time with Morgantown and was looking at a similar role this upcoming season. He didn’t officially retire, so if they Pirates intend to keep him, he will be put on the restricted list.

Daniel Cucjen also retired over the off-season. He was signed as an undrafted free agent shortly after the Bristol season began last year. He struggled in a limited utility role at Bristol, so at age 23, he would have had a tough time remaining in the system this year.

The Pirates still hold the rights to all three of these players if they intend to come back, which rarely happens.

  • Nick Neumann cut? Victor’s going to be pissed about that!

  • Got curious about Beddes. Google lead me to a page that said his degree was in Business Management. I wish him luck in his career, whatever it is. He can say he played pro ball for a year. Not many can say that.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    March 21, 2017 5:14 pm

    Beedes is a real shocker, given his success in his first season of pro baseball – and he had what appeared to be upside and potential. The others, no surprises – there are a couple of other names who should be cut, based on their body of work to date – and a couple were fairly high picks and former HS pitchers.

    As for the failed “Australian experiments”, maybe the Pirates ought to place more emphasis (meaning money) in signing the better Latin American prospects? Their inactivity and refusal to invest more heavily in the top Latin American prospects pool year after year is indefensible – and obviously catching up to them. Who are the top Latin American positon player prospects in the system? Can you name more than 3-4 above the A level? The excuses are endless but without merit – because most MLB teams (even other smaller market teams) are far more active and successful.

    • Strongly agree.

    • Well the last few years they have been spending near their entire allotment just not going over into the penalties like other clubs. They don’t have he option of going over their allotment anymore but it will be bigger so as long as they keep doing what they have done, spending their allotted amount, then I think they will be fine.

      Anyway to answer your question Alen Hanson, Elias Diaz and Jose Osuna are probably the top Latin American prospects in the system. I don’t think that is actually all that bad the issue is the Latin American prospects in the lower part of the system not the upper.

  • They are very similar pitchers and were used the same. Pimentel was a little better overall, threw a little harder too, but they were almost interchangeable.

  • Beddes was the only surprise on this list but this is not the first time a college draft pick retired unexpectedly after a successful season in Rookie Ball. He was still a long way off anyhow. Regaldo is interesting because I recall someone (John something…) commenting, in response to a comment I made about upper level bullpen depth a month or two back, that he had been selected in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft, I guess that was not the case after all.

    • Might be confusing him with Cesilio Pimentel, similar pitcher who was taken in the rule 5, minor league portion

  • Cutting Plitt seems odd. If they liked him in 2015 and he was injured all through 2016, they didn’t get to see much from him. Unless of course, he is still injured

    • If he was still injured, they couldn’t cut him. He’s been listed as healthy on the minor league roster since camp started, but he hasn’t been throwing bullpens or games. He may have just had nothing, and since he didn’t throw hard to begin with, a drop of any kind would be bad news.

      • Wilbur Miller
        March 21, 2017 5:39 pm

        I think you can cut a player on a MiL contract if he’s hurt. ML rules don’t apply & he’s not a union member.

        • They can’t cut an injured player. They did that to a former player a few years back and ended up losing a lawsuit, which included surgery and rehab costs. They could cut them and pay the cost if they want, but they are still responsible for it, so they might as well do the rehab themselves.

  • Mino league baseball is a rough life if you are in the lower levels and have no shot at the bigs.

    • As JD touched on below, I gotta wonder what happened with Beddes, because he seemed to have good stuff and had a good season.

      • Some guys just don’t have it in them to go through the minors. He turns 23 in July, got a $5,000 bonus and was probably starting out in Low-A, so there was a long road ahead of him. The NYPL is a pitcher-friendly league and he was older than most players, so that helps the stats. I have no idea if that’s the reason he retired, but it’s possible. He was the best prospect of the 11 players, but the system isn’t any weaker today than before.

        • I had a cousin that was a 9th rounder out of Yale about 12 years ago and he played one season as a pitcher and was ok but sometimes when you have that kind of education you are wasting time and money trying to spend 3-5 years trying to make it to the majors. People pass you in the business world just like the majors and he felt he needed to just get out there in the workforce and use the degree he worked towards. Guys retiring because they aren’t at the level they want to be…I would guess you don’t want that type of guy anyways. You are there to develop, not pout about what level you think you should be at.

  • Beddes He had good size at 6’6″ and a nice four-pitch mix, with a fastball that could touch 95 MPH. Plus he had a good season.


    Makes you wonder.

  • Wait, Danny Beddes? What’s the story there?

    • We didn’t get any background on it. A couple players retired in the past few years because they got married and needed more money. Another one just got a good job offer during the off-season and didn’t have it in them to put in the time. Another one I talked to said that his goal was to make Altoona and when they assigned him to Bradenton, he said no thanks and left. I heard that from a former player too, though he also had a kid over the off-season, so sitting in Extended Spring Training wasn’t doing him any good.