Ben Badler from Baseball America put out a top 100 list of international prospects signed since July 2nd. The Pittsburgh Pirates had five players make the second half of the list. There’s also a new international signing at the bottom of the article, as well as an updated scouting report for a previous signing.
Before I get into the rankings, I’ll note that Badler saw 25 of the 30 teams play in the Tricky League during a four-week period while making this list. The Tricky League is for July 2nd signings to get game experience, without putting them into games against older players in the DSL. The Pirates were not one of those 25 teams this year. They ran their own program for July 2nd signings, playing occasional games against outside opponents, but ran it more like instructs, where they have Pirates vs Pirates (Black & Gold games) and play more situational games, than actual games keeping score.
As for the list, the Pirates are led by Cristopher Cruz, who ranks 54th. He was the top signing of the Pirates, receiving an $850,000 bonus. That rank obviously sounds low for someone who was considered the second best pitcher in the signing class back in July. This class was loaded with position players, so Cruz still ranks as the 11th best pitcher on this list, but this opinion from Badler is quite different than others.
Cruz is followed closely by shortstop Javier Rivas. I’ll get into thoughts on the list later, but as far as Rivas being just seven spots behind Cruz on the list, isn’t really surprising. The Pirates were very high on Rivas (his bonus wasn’t announced because he’s from Venezuela) and I was told that he might end up being the best player they signed this year.
Outfielder Ewry Espinal is right after Rivas, ranking 64th overall. I got great reports on Espinal back on July 2nd, but he took a step forward in the rankings when the Pirates sent him to the Fall Instructional League in Bradenton. That’s very rare for a 16-year-old international signing and he more than held his own against older players. He was one of a few power bats they signed specifically for the power as the top tool.
Roelmy Garcia ranks 84th on the list. He was a kid who had a lot of projection due to elite arm speed and saw instant results, going from 90 to 95 MPH. The Pirates believe there is more.
Yojeiry Osoria ranks 90th on the list and has huge upside. The Pirates paid $600,000 to sign the lefty and believe that he (along with a few others) could end up as the best on this list.
I won’t argue any ranks on here because putting together a list like this in an unenviable task. We see how much 18-year-old players change during April-June during the Major League draft, so imagine how much 16-year-old players could change before that point and then obviously, beyond that point. Maybe Cruz deserves to be higher, but a top 100 list like this will have drastic changes over the next year.
What I will say is, giving the benefit of the doubt that Cristopher Cruz ranks 54th in this class, that Venezuelan right-handed pitcher Gilberto Alcala should be in that same range or even slightly higher. He’s ahead of Cruz right now and has just as much projection. Using this list of five players from Badler as the template, then 18-year-old Taiwanese shortstop Tsung-Che Chang should also be on the list and probably close to Rivas.
One other name I’ll mention is 16-year-old shortstop Jesus Castillo, who was a projection signing at 5’9″ when the Pirates agreed to his deal, but he has already grown three inches and filled out some since then. He may have taken the biggest step forward of this group since signing, including Roelmy Garcia mentioned above. The Pirates liked him a lot when he signed, so he ranks even higher now.
It’s nice to have five players on the list, but at minimum, Gilberto Alcala and Tsung-Che Chang both deserve to be ranked with those players. I’m not saying the Pirates should have seven players on the list, rather pointing out that those two players deserve to be in that group, and Alcala might be the best. I wrote about ten players to watch from this signing class back in November and from talks today, I wouldn’t change this group of ten.
Here’s our signing tracker for the 2019-20 international signing period. We have info on all 42 players signed by the Pirates since July 2nd, so you can read much more on the players above and other players who might not rank as high as these players now, but have potential.
The total of 42 includes a new signing and here’s his scouting report:
Right-handed pitcher, Reyson Santos, 6’3″, 180, 18-year-old from the Dominican. Athletic, with good arm speed and clean arm action. He currently throws 88-91 MPH, 74-76 MPH curveball and an 83-84 MPH changeup, which is better than the curve right now. He’s an aggressive pitcher on the mound, great approach.
I also got a better scouting report on the 41st signing, who I only had his height/weight 6’1″, 164, age (18) and the fact that he was a skinny lefty from the Dominican. So here’s the update:
Luis Brito, 85-88 MPH fastball, 70-72 MPH curve with good shape and spin, 77-81 MPH changeup. He’s an athletic player, good arm speed, with plenty of room to still fill out. More projection than results now, but the curve has potential to be a plus pitch.
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.