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Saturday, December 3, 2022

Morning Report: The Odd Reactions to a Minor International Signing

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.


Source: FanGraphs


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.


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.

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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.


Pirates Prospects has been independently owned and operated since 2009, entirely due to the support of our readers. The site is now completely free, funded entirely by user support. By supporting the site, you are supporting independent writers, one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates communities online, and our mission for the most complete Pirates coverage available.

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Sad to say I’m old enough to remember Joe Christopher when he was the best player the Mets had back in ’64.


I was actually mildly pumped to see this signing. An 18 yo kid that actually pitched (okay, barely) in the WBC. Hit it again, Sam…I like it.

joe s

John, the fans reaction is not that of a crazy person. Instead it is frustration of the fans seeing that the team is spending money on what appears to be a marginal player/prospect. The fans are watching the team flounder and are wasting Hanson by not using him more and giving him a chance to play and either prove himself worthy or he is not going to make it. The team has many problems especially signing international talent. For years now they have been signing half players, that is players that can field and not hit, or throw hard with no control. They are cheap and always have been, other then for a few years ago when they spent for high end talent that led to MLB changing the draft and adopting slotting of picks. This year is over for the team competing and it is now time to see what the kids can do and move on from there. If Hurdle will not play the kids then get rid of him and replace him with someone who will.

Matthew R

On the contrary, it’s perfectly understandable why people rush to judgment on something like this. Most news stories about the signing are not going to put it into perspective or explain how baseball player development works. And if those stories did do so, most people wouldn’t read beyond the headline anyway. So we then get to hear from the vocal uninformed.

Oh, and some people judge other people on the basis of skin color or national origin.


Which is why I have never embraced Twitter. It is a wasteland of negativity and keyboard bravery.

Bill Harvey

That is exactly how I feel about Facebook. Nothing positive on there for me. I prefer Twitter because it is my choice on if I want to see the negativity on there.


Keyboard bravery is my new favorite expression

Scott K

I suffer from that particular ailment on occasion.

Bobby L

As do most of the rest of us.


The negativity is obviously misdirected – especially without knowing the specifics about the signing bonus.


Can we get an analysis on Cutch’s low BABIP so folks won’t panic too much looking at his slash lines?


I don’t know if you were referring to this fangraphs article – http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/a-case-for-optimism-regarding-andrew-mccutchen/

It is supposed to be a positive spin on Cutch but it is not uplifting to me at all. His bat speed is now average. His exit velocity has dropped 2 mph compared to his already lowered 2016 levels. And his ability to barrel the ball has plummeted from 9.5 in 2015 to 8.5 in 2016 to now 5.6 so far in 2017.

Maybe all of those numbers combined with his “rigid” approach at the plate (which results in hitting into the shift) are what is causing the low babip.

Phil W

I see three reasons for Cutch’s decline: 1) some loss of speed which explains a small portion of his BABIP decline, but I still believe his speed is above average. 2) Bad luck so far this season – BABIP has to go up from where it is now. 3) Poor performance against right handed breaking stuff. I’d love to see the distribution of his bat speed metrics. I doubt he has lost much at speed at the high end of that distribution, but there seems to be more poor swings at breaking/off speed stuff. This is the thing that is most concerning.


Cutch’s BABIP was down 30 points from his career average of .328 last year. He has fallen off even more. Trend or bad luck?

A little of both?

His line drive % is down from last year’s 22.5 to 15.0% this year. His Groundball % is up 6.0%.


I just started wondering … What if he continues to play like this or a little better (let’s say a 0.5 WAR) for the year:

1. There would likely be no off-season suitors – since he would then be demonstrating a lack of skills for a two-year period
2. We would be crazy to execute the $14.5 million option for 2018. Meaning we would pay him $1 million to leave

This means our best bet would be to hope someone will gamble a prospect (and not necessarily a great one) at the deadline. That team’s thinking might be to hope he will bounce back in a pennant race in the right setting. That team could always buy out his option for 2018 so it would only be a guarantee of about $6.5 million.

It makes you realize that maybe NH was overplaying his hand by trying to get three high level prospects for what appears to be a league average player. So instead of being mad at him for being heartless for trading him, we can be mad at him for not correctly diagnosing his own talent’s decline and not trading him…


I think the saddest outcome would be if he plays so poorly this year that the Pirates don’t pick up his option for next year.


Sad for the Pirates, Cutch, and the fans


There is no reason to be negative about signing any international free agent. I think that it stems from the anti-Nutting crowd. They predicted for years that the Pirates would never win, then the Pirates make the playoffs for 3 years and proved them wrong. Now they need something else to complain about. It is the same group that bashed Baseball America for giving the Pirates their Organization of the Year Award. An editor from BA got grilled by a local radio station after the announcement. Now they are back to bashing Nutting because the team is losing again.


Yes. I think somehow fans feel that the $10k could have been used to sign Bryce Harper instead of this guy…

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