The Pittsburgh Pirates have released six minor league players. The group includes outfielder Deion Walker, right-handed pitchers Ryan Velasquez, Drew Irvine, Andres Sierra and Juan Santos, as well as catcher Jhosmmel Zue.
Walker was an over-slot signing during the 2019 draft out of high school. The 21-year-old played a total of 73 games over four seasons, seeing more action during Extended Spring Training over the years, than actual games. He reached Bradenton briefly last year, but didn’t get into any regular season games this year. He hit .221/.355/.342 over 235 plate appearances during his career.
Zue is an interesting case in that he never got into a game for the Pirates. He was signed in the middle of the 2021 season, after putting together an impressive extended tournament in Venezuela at 17 years old, one in which he was one of the top hitters over 14 games.
Zue’s release wasn’t even announced, but he signed today with the Kansas City Royals, so it likely just happened during Spring Training in the Dominican.
The pitching side includes four players who saw very little combined time. Sierra and Santos were both injured for all of 2022, after debuting during the 2021 season. They combined to throw 12.2 innings. Neither was a high profile signing. Sierra is 19 years old, Santos is 20.
The 24-year-old Velasquez was signed as a non-drafted free agent just last year. His pro career has consisted of 1.1 innings over two appearances in the Florida Complex League last year.
The 23-year-old Irvine was a 19th round pick in 2021. He didn’t pitch during the 2021 season. He did well at the lower levels in 2022, posting a 2.28 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and 21 strikeouts over 23.2 innings between Bradenton and the FCL Pirates. His 2022 season consisted of a poor showing during the first month with Greensboro, then he hasn’t pitched since.
There have been a few players released recently as you may have noticed. That’s because the short-season teams start on Monday, and there are roster limits in the Dominican Summer League, as well as one overall 180-man roster for the minor league teams in the U.S.
Players being added to the Florida Complex League roster from the DSL last year (plus high-profile pitcher Jun-Seok Shim) need to be added to that 180-man roster once the season starts. International signings from January 15th this year need to be added to the DSL rosters for the first time, though some were already added prior to today.
The MLB draft doesn’t start until July 9th, and no one will be signing for a few days after that date, but more roster space will need to be created once that happens.
Not all of the draft picks will play this year, as we have seen in the past two seasons. The amount of openings needed won’t be large by then, especially if the inevitable season-ending injuries between now and then allow the Pirates to open up a roster spot.+ posts
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.