The Pittsburgh Pirates signed 16-year-old right-handed pitcher Alessandro Ercolani out of San Marino on Friday morning. He will report to Pirate City in Bradenton in May.
Ercolani was among a group of players from foreign countries who came to the U.S. in October of 2019 for a ten-day academy in Arizona. Pirates high-profile signing Solomon Maguire was also in that group and he signed four months later. Ercolani wasn’t eligible to sign until this January when the 2021 signing period started. During that time in Arizona, he turned some heads by striking out Arizona State’s Spencer Torkelson on three pitches. Torkelson was the first overall pick in the 2020 draft.
Ercolani pitched at the highest level in Italy in 2020, playing for San Marino of the Italian Baseball League, where he had 11 strikeouts in 6.2 innings. He had an extensive record of success prior to that while playing for Italy’s U15 National team.
Ercolani, who turns 17 later this month, has a fastball that current sits in the 86-91 MPH range. He also has a mid-70s curve and a changeup that shows advanced feel and good separation from his fastball in the mid-70s. He has very good arm speed, which should lead to more velocity in the future as he continues to grow. He’s 6’2″, 175 pounds.
Pirates European scout Tom Gillespie has been following Ercolani for over two years and he was the signing scout. He gave a quote to the local press at the signing, saying “We liked his motivation, his stubbornness, his way of facing and overcoming challenges. The next step is to mentally grow and improve his throwing repertoire ”.
Ercolani was being trained by Bill Holmberg, who was born in the U.S., but he spent many years coaching baseball in Italy. He was in the game in various roles for 44 years after college until his passing in November of 2020.
San Marino is a country of just 33,600 people, which has never produced an MLB player.
Here’s the updated 2021 International Signing Tracker. There are still five players who have agreed to deals and were announced by some sources, but haven’t completed their physicals yet due to travel restrictions, so their deals are not official. All are still expected to sign without any other issues. Once they do, they will be added to the tracker.