Pirates Discussion: Diving Into the International Pool

By now, fans know that the Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had the most success in developing international talent over the last decade or so. A lot was attributed to not diving into the deepest of pools, while also having a farm system that wasn’t having much success in developing prospects as a whole.

On Sunday, January 15th, the market for signing international prospects opens, and the Pirates are currently rumored to be big players. John Dreker of Pirates Prospects wrote a piece back in September detailing the Pirates interests and who they were favorited to sign.

This comes a year after they signed two highly regarded international prospects in Yordany De Los Santos and Tony Blanco Jr., the latter who was originally rumored to be signing with the Tampa Bay Rays, before signing with the Pirates.

I’m not going to dive too deep into the upcoming signing period, as I don’t have the in-depth knowledge of John, and he’ll have plenty of coverage as he usually does.

When it comes to the upcoming 2023 season, the Pirates roster projects to be heavily influenced by international players. The off-season saw the Pirates add Ji-Man Choi and Carlos Santana to a group that included Rodolfo Castro, Oneil Cruz, Ji-Hwan Bae, Tucupita Marcano, and Miguel Andujar.

They added two left-handed pitchers in Jarlin Garcia and Jose Hernandez to a pitching staff that includes Roansy Contreras, Yerry De Los Santos, Dauri Moreta, Luis Ortiz, Johan Oviedo, and Yohan Ramirez. All of the players mentioned may not crack the opening day roster, but they are likely to see significant time in the upcoming season.

It should be noted that only four — Castro, Bae, De Los Santos, and Ortiz — of the aforementioned 15 names were originally signed by the Pirates, where the rest were acquired either through trade or free agency.

That isn’t a knock on the Pirates, as identifying and acquiring international talent through other means is equally as important. Take Oneil Cruz as an example.

The Pirates also have a handful of prospects in the upper minors that could see extended big league action in 2023. The biggest name being Endy Rodriguez, but also Liover Peguero and Malcom Nunez.

If the Pirates are going to be successful, they need to be able to find and develop talent in multiple sectors. Being able to develop international talent at a lower attrition rate will be a big step in the right direction.

Raised in Cranberry Twp, PA, Jeff attended Kent State University and worked in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, before moving to New Orleans in September of 2012. His background is as an Engineering Designer, but he has always had a near unhealthy passion for Pittsburgh sports. Hockey and Baseball are his 1A and 1B, combined with his mathematical background, it's led to Jeff's desire in diving into analytics. Jeff is known as Bucs'N'Pucks in the comments, and began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2022 after contributing so many useful bits of information in the comment section.

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For way too long the pirates preferred quantity over alleged quality when it came to signing international free agents. I advocated for the opposite approach but this site countered that the players are so young you can’t tell who is better. Now it seems the pirates are using a combination approach, signing a few high end expensive players and other cheaper signings. I hope this new approach will result in some of these players making it the majors thereby helping the pirates to improve.

John Dreker

The Pirates had high profile signings during the 2018-19 signing period and the best player from that group is Luis Ortiz at $25,000. There is no right approach on the international side. If there was, every team would be trying for it. Guys fail at all price levels at a high rate. Teams sign about 1,000 new international players from all countries each year and the group has a 95% failure rate. If you checked the price ranges, they fail at four figure bonuses, five figure, six figure and seven figure, all at high rates. Your way isn’t the best way, it’s a preference, there is no right way. The Pirates in recent years adjust their approach to the classes. If there’s someone to spend on, they do it. If it’s better to spread it around, they do it. You’re bringing up back when they had $2M bonus pools and they signed a group of six-figure players, while comparing it to a $6M pool. That’s the real adjustment, not what they did.


Ben Badler at Baseball America is usually the gold standard for IFA’s, but doesn’t have either of Mola or Shim identified among his top 40 bonuses.

Pretty sure neither will come cheap, right?


Good point, didn’t consider that they just might not know the exact amount so they ignore them altogether…

…which, yikes, maybe find a better way to “rank” IFAs.

Last edited 22 days ago by NMR
John Dreker

He posted it before Shim was known, so that just might be the reason he’s on the list. I know some things about the signing class I’ll share soon that makes me think Shim will be among the top 40 and Mola might not be among the top 40 signing bonuses, but the latter is considered by Jesse Sanchez to be a top 30 prospect


BnP – I think you meant “lower attrition rate”. Attrition has been too high among our prospects already.


Can Sheltie speak Spanish? That should be a requirement those days.

John Dreker

I used to always think that the players should just want to learn English, basing it on my own idea that if I spent more than half of a year in some place like Italy, I’d want to learn Italian to make it easier for me and I’d try to do it quickly.

I thought about it more recently, and with the popularity of baseball among kids in the U.S. plummeting according to multiple polls/reports I’ve seen recently, there will naturally be more players from Spanish-speaking countries in the majors because the sport is still growing in those countries. While I still think I would want to learn more, I now think it would be wise for all managers to learn the language. It should definitely be a two-way street though, one should be a desire, while the other should be highly recommended.

John Dreker

There is going to be a great feel good story among one of the players signed. At least I think so. Can’t wait to share it on Sunday, or possibly Tuesday. The Pirates are signing players at three different times, so Sunday won’t be as exciting as everyone thinks, but overall it will be the right amount of excitement when they are done signing players.


Such a tease, John. 🙂

John Dreker

It’s a good one. I just learned extra details about it last night.

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