The Pittsburgh Pirates signed an 18-year-old pitcher from China yesterday, who was the first pitcher signed out of MLB’s Development Center in China. The reactions to the signing yesterday were overwhelmingly negative around the internet. That’s surprising and disappointing because it makes zero sense to react negatively to his signing.
There seems to be negativity attached to being the first team to sign a player from a country and it’s really surfaced after two players became the first players from their country to make it to the Major Leagues. There’s the first thing that makes no sense. They signed Major League players, who cares where they are from if they made it to the majors? Gift Ngoepe signed for $15,000, which is a minimal outlay to get a big league player signed. The MLB draft history is littered with millionaires who never made the majors. Dovydas Neverauskas looks like he could be in the bullpen for the Pirates for many years, which again brings up the point, why is he lumped into a negative group? He signed for a $60,000 bonus.
Too many people seem to point to the two players from India as being bad for the Pirates as well. Their bonuses weren’t announced, but what was said is that they received less than $10,000 combined in bonus money.
Before the Pirates got Neverauskas to the majors, their last player who was the first for his “country”, was Joe Christopher from the U.S. Virgin Islands back in 1959!
Ngoepe wasn’t the first player from his country signed, he wasn’t even close. He was the first to make it to the majors, so it isn’t even like they signed someone from an unknown country. He’s just the best one so far, although Dylan Unsworth on the Mariners could have a better career by the time it’s all said and done.
We should also probably remember that Ngoepe, Neverauskas, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel were all signed in 2008-09, so people are going a long way back to find examples to fit some strange argument they have against signing players from different countries.
So they got two Major League players for $75,000 total and spent less than $10,000 on two players who didn’t make it, and somehow that has turned the internet against an 18-year-old pitcher from China, who likely received a very minimal bonus himself. We don’t know the number, but we do know that the Pirates have now signed ten players, mostly from the Dominican, and they received less than $430,000 combined. Many of them were signed at 17-18 years old on July 2nd, so they probably received mid-five figure bonuses.
I also don’t know what people think goes into signing a player like him. The Pirates have a scout for Asia and his job is to look for talent in Asia. He signed a player from Asia for a minimal bonus. It’s not a complicated process for a lower level signing. Things don’t come to a screeching halt in the front office to make sure they get the deal done. They don’t send Rene Gayo and his best Latin American scouts away from that area just to double check on the player. So there seems to be a lot of negativity over something that should barely show up on the radar. Some “crazy” people might even consider it smart to not limit yourself to certain areas to find talent.
No one has to worry about Haicheng Gong though. He isn’t the only player from China in the minors and he won’t be the first to the majors, because that happened over 100 years ago. It’s somewhat noteworthy because he’s the first pitcher (not player) signed from the MLB China Development Camp, but that’s where it ends. There was no sideshow to his signing and he shouldn’t be lumped into any group other than the 2016-17 international signing class for the Pirates.
** West Virginia doesn’t have any starters listed for their upcoming series against Columbia yet. They are off today, so it might not be updated until tomorrow. According to announcer Adam Marco, they expect both James Marvel and Cam Vieaux to be back during the series. Marvel is eligible to come off the DL on Friday, while Vieaux can return tomorrow. No word on Marvel’s injury, which could possibly just be a skipped start for someone in their first full season back from Tommy John surgery. Vieaux just had some tightness in his pitching arm, so they pushed him back a couple days to give him a little extra time off.
JT Brubaker returned from the blister on his right index finger and pitched in relief for Altoona last night. His last appearance was 6.2 shutout innings on May 2nd. On Tuesday, he allowed two runs on five hits in two innings, so there was a little rust. The good thing is that he is back and both West Virginia pitchers seem to be minor issues. Now we just have to wonder about Mitch Keller’s back tightness from last night…
** Don’t be surprised if Danny Ortiz rejoins the Pirates today. He didn’t play either game of a doubleheader last night and Gregory Polanco is likely to miss a few days with his hamstring from Sunday. Those two things probably have a correlation.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 8-4 to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night. The Pirates will send Gerrit Cole to the mound to make his ninth start. He has a 1.80 ERA and an 0.80 WHIP in three home starts this season, compared to a 3.90 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP in five road starts. The Nationals will counter with TBD, who will be making his season debut, unless they name another starter in the meantime.
In the minors, Nick Kingham will make his Triple-A debut. He threw five shutout innings for Bradenton last week, allowing one hit, with no walks or strikeouts. That was his first start of the season after missing time due to an ankle injury in Spring Training. Taylor Hearn made his last appearance out of the Bradenton bullpen, following Kingham in that game. Hearn’s last start was 11 days ago. In that outing, he struck out eight batters for the second straight game. West Virginia has off today. Kevin Kramer has a 31-game on base streak active. Cole Tucker currently has a 23-game on base streak.
MLB: Pittsburgh (15-23) vs Nationals (25-13) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (3.06 ERA, 10:47 BB/SO, 50.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (18-18) @ Columbus (17-21) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (Indianapolis debut)
AA: Altoona (21-14) @ Binghamton (19-13) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (2.76 ERA, 8:20 BB/SO, 29.1 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (25-14) @ Daytona (21-18) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Taylor Hearn (3.67 ERA, 11:42 BB/SO, 34.1 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (18-20) @ Columbia (20-17) 7:05 PM 5/18 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD
Here is an RBI double from Pablo Reyes, who was one of the players featured in our The Twenty article.
5/16: JT Brubaker activated from Altoona disabled list. Chris Diaz assigned to Morgantown.
5/15: Nick Kingham promoted to Indianapolis.
5/15: Casey Sadler and Pedro Vasquez assigned to Bradenton. Sam Street assigned to Extended Spring Training.
5/15: James Marvel placed on West Virginia disabled list. Chris Harvey assigned to West Virginia.
5/14: Cam Vieaux placed on West Virginia disabled list. Adrian Valerio added to West Virginia roster.
5/14: Barrett Barnes added to Indianapolis roster. Anderson Feliz assigned to Morgantown.
5/12: Pirates active Adam Frazier and David Freese from disabled list. Chris Bostick and Max Moroff optioned to Indianapolis.
5/12: Justin Maffei assigned to Morgantown.
5/12: Zane Chavez added to Altoona roster. Tomas Morales assigned to Morgantown.
5/11: Chris Harvey assigned to Morgantown. Brent Gibbs assigned to West Virginia.
5/11: Nick Kingham assigned to Bradenton. Pedro Vasquez assigned to Extended Spring Training.
5/10: Albert Baur activated from West Virginia disabled list.
5/9: Jackson Williams assigned to Altoona from Indianapolis. Zane Chavez assigned to Morgantown.
5/8: Pirates add Max Moroff and Chris Bostick to roster. Elias Diaz and Phil Gosselin assigned to Indianapolis.
5/8: Adam Frazier assigned to Indianapolis on rehab. Just Maffei assigned to Indianapolis.
5/8: Boomer Synek retired.
5/8: Kevin Krause placed on disabled list. Logan Ratledge promoted to Bradenton.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Ten former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, and two trades of note. Here is the long list of players born on this date, starting from the earliest days of the franchise (bios can be found in the two links above):
Henry Oberbeck- 1883 first baseman. He went 2-for-9 in two games for Alleghenys, handling all 25 chances in the field cleanly, which was an impressive feat in the pre-glove era.
Billy Reid- 1884 left fielder. Hit .243 during his 19 games in Pittsburgh.
Frank Mountain- 1885-86 pitcher/first baseman. Went 1-6 for Alleghenys after winning 23 games during the 1884 season. Hit .145 in limited time, though he did draw 13 walks.
Fred Woodcock- 1892 pitcher. Was the first starting pitcher to make his MLB debut on his birthday, something that didn’t happen again until 1955. Star college player at Brown and Dartmouth.
Elmer Steele- 1910-11 pitcher. Had a 2.60 ERA in 166 innings in 1911 before being sold to Brooklyn in September.
Hal Carlson- 1917-23 pitcher. Won 14 games for the 1920 Pirates. Missed time due to serving in WWI.
Harry Riconda- 1929 shortstop. Was part of the underwhelming return the Pirates got for star shortstop Glenn Wright. Batted just 15 times over two months before being sent to the minors.
Ozzie Virgil- 1965 catcher. Played 39 games for Pirates before being dealt to Giants for Matty Alou.
Pascual Perez-1980-81 pitcher. Played sparingly for Pirates before being traded to the Braves for pitcher Larry McWilliams in 1982
Jose Guillen- 1997-99 outfielder. Went from High-A ball to majors in one season. Hit 14 homers in each of his first two seasons with Pirates.
On this date in 1956 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded outfielder Bobby Del Greco and pitcher Dick Littlefield to the Cardinals for center fielder Bill Virdon. The trade worked out well for the Pirates, as the two players they gave up did very little in St Louis. Virdon played ten seasons in Pittsburgh, plus later managed the team and still helps the team to this day during Spring Training.
Five years prior to that deal, the Pirates and Cardinals made another trade. The Pirates dealt shortstop Stan Rojek to the Cardinals in exchange for outfielder Erv Dusak and first baseman Rocky Nelson. This trade didn’t work out well for the Pirates, though Nelson had a second stint with the Pirates and hit a big homer during the 1960 World Series.
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.