Pirates Prospects Daily: The Pittsburgh Pirates 2023 Minor League Free Agents

Today is the deadline for the Pittsburgh Pirates to add players to the 40-man roster, protecting them from the Rule 5 draft. Last week, I wrote about the best players to protect from the available candidates. I’ll have more on that tomorrow.

I’ve been working on my system prospect rankings behind the scenes, among other things on the site. The Pirates saw a group of players elect minor league free agency last week. Here are those players, broken down by their ranking tiers.

The MLB Depth Tier

The highest talent player who the Pirates lost was RHP Yerry De Los Santos, who wasn’t prospect eligible. He pitched in the majors a few times this year, including a stretch where he posted a 3.42 ERA in 23.2 innings from June 15th to August 7th. De Los Santos went down to Triple-A for a few appearances, before going on the injured list in mid-August. By the end of August, he was shut down with a right lat strain. This was the second year in a row that De Los Santos had his season ended with an injury in August. He’s a Triple-A depth option right now, potentially able to help out in the majors during stretches, though not to a point where he can be relied upon for a full-season workload.

Tier 6: “Quad-A” Depth

THE TIER: My rankings are going to be more attached to the player’s present-day grade, with a look toward where they could go. All of these guys are upper-level guys who could reach the majors in a depth role. Most of these players will be in their age 24-25 seasons, so there’s still time to develop for some who still want to put the work in. That work might come with another organization. Here’s how the Pirates added these players:

RHP Tahnaj Thomas – The Pirates added Thomas in a November 2018 trade, under Neal Huntington, sending away Jordan Luplow and Max Moroff. Thomas could pitch out of a Double-A or Triple-A bullpen in late innings in 2024, with plenty of time to develop into the big leagues.

OF Cal Mitchell – The Pirates drafted Mitchell in the second round of the 2017 draft. They used Mitchell for MLB depth over the last two seasons, but he fell behind Joshua Palacios and Miguel Andujar on the depth charts by the end of the year.

RHP Beau Sulser – The Pirates have added Sulser three different times as MLB depth, most recently in June this year on a minor league deal to fill out the Triple-A bullpen.

RHP Noe Toribio – The Pirates signed Toribio on July 2, 2016. He mostly pitched in Altoona this year, featuring a changeup that can work against left-handers.

LHP Daniel Zamora – Zamora is another player who has multiple stints with the Pirates. They added him to a minor league deal last December in their search at the time for lefty relievers.

1B Mason Martin – Martin was an over-slot prep player taken in the 17th round of the 2017 draft. He’s had some of the best power in the system since being drafted, while also having strikeout issues which have held him back from the big leagues.

3B Ryan Vilade – The Pirates added Vilade last year as outfield depth, though they didn’t use him. He batted .270/.370/.382 with Indianapolis this year.

INF Domingo Leyba – Leyba will be in his age 28 season next year, and signed as depth a little over a year ago. He provided a lot of solid hitting for Indianapolis down the stretch, but the MLB opportunity went to Miguel Andujar.

Tier 7: Upper Level Depth

THE TIER: This tier focuses on players who could fill out depth roles in Double-A and Triple-A, but who would need a breakout season to emerge as an MLB option in 2024.

RHP Michell Miliano – The Pirates added Miliano in the Adam Frazier trade with San Diego in July 2021, also receiving Tucupita Marcano and Jack Suwinski. After losing Marcano on waivers to the Padres this offseason, they’re left with Suwinski for Fraizer.

RHP Juan Minaya – The Pirates added Minaya shortly before the 2023 season. He’ll be in his age 33 season next year, and spent this season as Double-A depth.

RHP Wei-Chieh Huang – Huang was added for depth last offseason, but spent the entire year on the 60-day IL.

RHP Travis MacGregor – MacGregor was drafted in the second round in 2016, during an era when the Pirates would go heavy with prep pitching selections. He reached Triple-A the last two seasons, struggling with his ERA, but showing better control this season in a swingman role.

LHP Braeden Ogle – Ogle was also drafted as part of the 2016 prep pitcher class, which was rounded out by Max Kranick. Ogle spent the last three seasons between Double-A and Triple-A, ultimately struggling with his control.

LHP Caleb Smith – Smith was signed to a minor league deal in February. He’s pitched parts of six seasons in the majors, and spent all of 2023 in Triple-A in his age 31 season.

C Dom Nuñez – Nunez was a late-season addition, filling out the catching depth in Triple-A. He’s spent parts of three seasons in the majors as a depth option.

OF Chavez Young – The Pirates added Young in January as an outfield depth option. He spent the year between Double-A and Triple-A, showing strong outfield defense and great energy at the end of the season in Altoona.

OF Lolo Sanchez – Sanchez was the top international signing for the Pirates in 2015. He was a minor league free agent heading into last offseason, but was retained. His numbers slightly regressed in Double-A this year.

Tier 8: Middle Level Depth

THE TIER: These are lower level players who could make it to Double-A, but don’t project well beyond that level, for one reason or another. They’re likely to retire from this point, or return for a shot at repeating any High-A success in 2024.

RHP Oliver Garcia – Garcia was brought back to the team in 2023 on a minor league deal, after originally signing in October 2015. He returned to the Double-A bullpen this year, with a 4.27 ERA.

RHP Santiago Florez – Florez was signed in July 2016 out of Colombia, and spent the last two seasons in High-A Greensboro. He had a combined 6.96 ERA in 147.1 innings at the level across three years.

3B Jacob Gonzalez – The Pirates added Gonzales, the son of former MLB big-leaguer Luis Gonzalez, in a waiver claim at the end of 2021 from San Francisco. He spent the 2023 season with Altoona, with a .644 OPS.

INF Claudio Finol – Finol was claimed off waivers from the Reds in December 2020. He spent most of 2023 with Altoona, providing strong defense up the middle.

INF Francisco Acuna – Acuna was signed in 2016 out of Colombia by the Pirates. He’s been in High-A the last three seasons, missing significant time in the process due to a PED suspension.

RHP Jake Stevenson – The Pirates added Stevenson as a minor league free agent in February, using him all year in Greensboro. He had control issues, but posted a 1.85 ERA in 24.1 innings, with 26 strikeouts. 

RHP Dante Mendoza – Mendoza was added as part of the 2018 trade that also brought in Tahnaj Thomas. Mendoza made it to High-A this year, with a 3.13 ERA in 46 innings, and a 64:31 K/BB.

Site Updates

I haven’t been in the daily routine for a few months on this site. I’ve been working toward what the new site would look like.

One of the ways I’ve been preparing this offseason is with a new ranking system for the site (previewed above). This isn’t completed yet, and largely missing information below the lower levels. The rankings will be tiered based, focused on where a player might end up. The goal here is to look at the rankings and get a feel for how strong the Pirates’ system looks — now and in the future.

I’ve also been working on a system to evaluate pitchers in pro ball, ever since watching Max Scherzer in Game Three of the World Series. At the outset of my writing career, I had Scherzer as a sleeper ace, due to different metrics at the time that I used to isolate sustainable pitching results. There are deeper metrics today, and I’ve been having fun creating a new way of looking at pitching talent.

Between this, and updating the site’s databases, there hasn’t been a lot of time for writing. I want to publish some features, but I also don’t want to write in less than ideal conditions.

Today is the deadline to add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. The new site model will have transaction recaps as part of the daily feature, rather than instant news. Hopefully, you can check back here tomorrow and see my recap of the Rule 5 protections.

My focus today is working toward an article drop in the next week.


Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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