Review of the Pirates 2019-20 International Signing Class

On Monday we took a look at the upcoming 2021 international signing period for the Pittsburgh Pirates. That begins on January 15, 2021, which is sure to be a busy day here. The 2019-20 signing period just wrapped up last week and the Pirates spent over $8M signing 49 players. You can review the entire class in our signing tracker, which has links to scouting reports for all 49 players. You won’t get more in depth than that tracker, but I’m going to break the class down a little more in this article.

The best place to start is by position. The Pirates added two full pitching staffs in this class, inking a total of 30 pitchers, with seven southpaws and 23 right-handed pitchers. There’s a ton of possible high upside talent in this group as well, which we will get into below.

The Pirates went soft on catchers, signing just two, though both have upside with the bat and the chance for solid defense.

Shortstop was another huge position. The group has nine shortstops, most of them with a chance to stick at the position in the future. That’s not a surprising total, even if it sounds high. Trainers put their best prospects at shortstop to show off their skills, even if the player won’t stick at the spot later. You might be signing them as a shortstop, but your scouts already saw enough of the player to know that he’s going to end up elsewhere, but he’s still worth signing. You’re not going to find many second basemen or first basemen signed on the international side for that reason. That’s the same reason that most outfielders are signed as center fielders.

The rest of the signings include seven outfielders and one second baseman. That’s zero first basemen and zero third basemen, but some of those shortstops have already taken some turns at third base.

The Best of the Group

Almost a full year ago, I did an article noting ten names to watch in this signing class. I refuse to do a top ten because it would be irresponsible at this point in their careers, especially with the unexpected layoff. That being said, that list was sort of an alphabetical top ten at the time. Here is that group if you’re too lazy to click on the link.

Gilberto Alcala, RHP

Omar Alfonzo, C

Jesus Castillo, SS

Tsung-Che Cheng, SS

Cristopher Cruz, RHP

Ewry Espinal, OF

Roelmy Garcia, RHP

Yojeiry Osoria, LHP

Delfin Ramirez, SS

Javier Rivas, SS

When I made that list, the Pirates had 39 players signed. I also noted that some people who have better opinions than me would have outfielder Enmanuel Terrero ($600,000 bonus) on the list, but I wasn’t enamored with his scouting report, size or the video I saw. I had him ranked 11th, but I didn’t like the sound of a top 11 list, so I left him off.

Since that list was made, simple math will tell you that the Pirates have signed ten more players. If I decided to redo that articles, listing ten names to watch, it would include Australian outfielder Solomon Maguire and Taiwanese pitcher Po-Yu Chen. They would both be near the top of the list too. I was told without question that Chen is the best prospect from this group. Adding them would knock off Jesus Castillo and Delfin Ramirez for me, while remembering that their reports are a year old at this point, so they could have easily moved ahead of others on the list.

How Strong is this Group?

When the Pirates had 39 players signed, it was my opinion that this was their best international signing class ever. That was before they added their best player in the current group (Chen), and a huge upside outfielder (Maguire) with potential for five plus tools if the power fully develops. The other eight players added aren’t top ten players, but there are interesting players in the group.

To put it another way, the guy who got a $600,000 bonus because of his high upside lefty bat (Terrero), now ranks 13th on my list. There were three power bats (see below) not even considered for the top ten, as well as a bunch of hard-throwing pitchers who would rank in the 14-20ish range.

Final Thoughts

The Pirates got a little of everything in this group, which is what really sells it for me. With the addition of Chen, they have five pitchers with huge upside right now. I’ve heard great things about other pitchers as well, so the farm system is stocked well with upside arms, especially when you add in all of the young players who are already in the U.S.

The group of shortstops they signed has a ton of upside, which will mean that third base and second base will get some of the overflow. Rivas and Cheng are legit top shortstop prospects on the international side and just because I knocked Ramirez out of the top ten, it doesn’t mean that he’s not a huge upside player. Every other year he is someone in the top 5-8 players of the signing class.

They only signed two catchers, but Alonzo has huge potential, and Eybert Escalona has the bat to be a legit catching prospect, even if the defense lags behind at this point.

The outfield has a ton of power. Ewry Espinal is huge power. Enmanuel Terrero could be a power bat. Robert De Paula barrels the ball as well as anyone in the group. Heiron Montalban has plus power potential. Dioris Valdez had off the charts plus power when signed, with room to still fill out. The Pirates have never had anything close to this power potential in a signing class.

The group is loaded with athletic players and projectable pitchers.

On the international side, you want to hear the word “upside” a lot. It’s everywhere here. There is tons of it. The international side also has a ton of attrition each year and the best signing classes ever in baseball history all have more misses than hits. The key here is that you have a lot of potential hits to help your chances of finding those hits.