The Pittsburgh Pirates are signing 22 players on the first three days of the international signing period, which opened on Sunday. Here are the scouting reports for the 12 players who have already signed, plus Raymond Mola and Jun-Seok Shim, who have been announced as having agreements, but have not officially signed yet. Both will be done by Tuesday morning, with Shim coming sooner than the others.
Jonathan Rivero – Lefty hitting catcher from Venezuela who is advanced for his age. A recent growth spurt has him at 6’1, 191, and he has also put on good weight, with room for more. His bat shows power already with projection to add more. He has all of the tools to remain behind the plate, including athleticism, arm, good instincts and makeup. He turned 17 years old in December.
Angel Perez – The Pirates added two catchers from Venezuela. Perez is 5’10, 160, with a medium frame. His defense ahead of offense, with the ability to stay behind the plate as he gets older. As with almost everyone else in this signing class, his athleticism gets a lot of notice. He makes solid contact at the plate and drives the ball to the gaps, using the middle of the field well. Power could develop later.
Andres Villafane – He’s a 5’10, 175 pound center fielder out of Colombia, who turned 16 on St Patrick’s Day. He’s very athletic, with above average speed that has improved recently (6.6 in the 60). He has strong instincts in the outfield, and the ability to play all three outfielder positions, though right field is probably out of the picture due to an arm that rates average at best. He’s a very aggressive player on both sides of the ball, whose speed works on the bases and defense. He has a solid approach at the plate, and drives the ball well to all fields, though he gets pull happy. He’s a real gamer.
Miguel Rodriguez – He’s a 5’11”, 152 pound center fielder out of Venezuela, who turned 16 in April. His speed gets a 70 grade, while his arm is a 55 grade. He will remain in center field, where his speed will help him impact both sides of the ball. He’s a top of the order hitter, with a medium frame, strong bat-to-ball skills that produces a lot of line drives. Another plus athletic player, who is still filling out his frame.
Janderson Linares – He’s a 17-year old (October birthday) left-handed pitcher out of Venezuela, who stands 6’2″, 180 pounds. He has a large frame, shows athleticism on the mound, with a durable body that should allow him to be a starter. He has the ability to spin the ball well, with average control of three pitches. His fastball is 86-88 MPH now, that has room to add plenty of velocity. His slider is his best secondary pitch, sitting 71-72 MPH, with a good feel to spin it, though it can be more of a slurve at times. His delivery is very deceptive, and he has an aggressive approach on the mound. His changeup is an average offering now, sitting 79-81 MPH.
Carlos Castillo (pictured up top) – He’s the most exciting of the pitchers signing today. He’s a 6’2″, 166 pound right-handed pitcher, who turns 17 next month. He had a growth spurt recently, so there’s more room to fill out his frame. He’s a great athlete with a solid frame, who has the full package for a future starter. He shows above average arm speed, throws all three pitches for strikes, with great spin on his pitches, and minimal effort delivery that produces easy strikes. He already spots his fastball, which he has taken from sitting 84-85 MPH last year, to touching 92 MPH in his last outing. He throws a curve that’s around 76 MPH, with 12/5 shape. He also has an 80-81 MPH changeup.
Joenelly van der Linden – Lower profile signing out of Aruba who is a bit raw now. He’s 5’11, 145 pounds, with plenty of room to fill out. He’s signing as a shortstop, but appears to be headed for second base, where his defensive tools will play better. As you would expect, it was the athleticism that got him noticed at this point in his game, though he has solid bat-to-ball skills, with a possibility for future power.
Ronal Gomez – Left-handed pitcher from Colombia, who stands 6’4″, 150 pounds (yes, those are correct numbers). He turns 17 next month. He’s a very lanky pitcher, with a frame to add a lot. This is a deep projection player, who will take some time, but there are current things to like about his game. He has three pitches that are around the plate. He has an 86-88 MPH fastball already, though he doesn’t maintain velocity long, so expect him to work in shorter outings at first. His curve projects to be a solid pitch. It now sits 70-71 MPH, and has some late bite. His changeup is 80-82 MPH. Pirates like the desire here and he’s progressed recently. He’s a smart player, real gamer, who is driven to get better.
Yosmar Gimenez – He’s a 16-year-old (May birthday), 6’2″ 155 pound shortstop from Venezuela. He has a projectable body, athletic with a lean/cut physique, but room to add more. He was originally a shortstop, then got moved to center field by his trainer, and only recently returned to the shortstop spot. He has a plus arm and the tools to stay at shortstop in the future and have solid defense, but he’s very raw at the spot. He has solid speed, with a 6.8 time in the 60. Very smart player, good instincts all around, the bat rates average now, but he has shown good power from the left side.
Nicolas Carreno – He’s a 5’11, 155 pound left-handed pitcher from Venezuela, who turned 16 in June. He has a medium frame to add to in the future. He has the ability to spin the ball well. He throws his fastball 89-91 MPH, while offering a slider that is 78-81 MPH. His changeup is a work in progress, one in which he was just given a new grip on the pitch and it has progressed quickly. He’s a very smart pitcher, with a good feel for the strike zone.
Joseph Sequera – He’s the third catcher from this initial signing group. He turned 17 back in November and stands in at 6’0″, 185 pounds. He’s a strong kid who already shows some power from the right side of the plate and makes solid contact. He should be able to stick behind the plate, as he looks comfortable in his actions.
– The final player from today is from a country you don’t see producing baseball players. MLB holds camps in Africa and Europe and the best players from certain areas will attend those events. The entire continent of Africa will have about 20 kids at these events, with South Africa being their version of a baseball hotbed, though it’s far from the most popular sport in their country. Then there’s the country of Uganda, which didn’t have a single pro baseball player until just under a year ago. Matoma is not a raw player though. He’s very athletic, standing in at 6’0″, 155 pounds now at 16 years old, with obvious room to add to that frame. His selling point right now is a fastball that gets up to 92-93 MPH and sits 88-92. His slider is 80-84 with good spin. His changeup is 78-83. He’s a bit of a project, but not the biggest one on this list. He has legit upside. Much more on him here
Jun-Seok Shim– 18-year-old right-handed pitcher, ranked tenth in this signing class by MLB Pipeline. He has a big frame at 6’4″, 215 pounds and he’s touched 101 MPH already. He throws four pitches, with his fastball, curve, changeup and slider all having plus potential. The fastball and curve are ahead of the other two pitches now, but he’s a strike-thrower with all of his offerings. He’s the big signing in the class, who you will hear much more about in the future, especially after his signing is official. For now, here is a quote from Max Kwan, who is the Pirates Director of Player Personnel:
“We have been tracking Jun Seok for the last three years and couldn’t be more thrilled to bring him into the organization. We believe he will fit right in with our diverse culture and growing population of players and personnel from the Pacific Rim. He has a strong combination of flexibility, arm speed and spin, which is rare for a player with this type of size and frame.”
Raymond Mola – A 17-year-old, switch-hitter outfielder, who was ranked 26th overall by MLB Pipeline. He received 50 grade tools across the board in every category. He has a large frame and he’s a corner outfielder, who has shown the ability to drive the ball well to the entire field. Everything he does now matches up to the grades, average runner, power, arm, defense, with the bat tool likely being the carrying tool. He has above average bat speed and gets credit for how he plays the game.
The rest of the signings will get reports once they officially sign. I’ve never heard of teams announcing signings before they happened, so the reports aren’t written up yet. We will have our 2023 signing tracker up soon as well, which will be updated throughout the year, so bookmark it.
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.