Pittsburgh Pirates: More on New Pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla
On Tuesday evening, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced the news that they had designated Jeff Locke for assignment. In a corresponding move they signed free agent pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla.
The big news from all of this is, that after his roller coaster career, the Pittsburgh Pirates have finally cut ties with Jeff Locke. However, there was a reason they decided to make the move Tuesday evening instead of Friday at the deadline. The reason is because they had the opportunity to sign right-handed pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla. Bonilla, who pitched with the Dodger’s Double-A and Triple-A affiliate last season, was a free agent. He spent technically two years in the Dodgers system. In 2015, he was signed by them while rehabbing from his 2014 Tommy-John surgery. Then they released him to resign him for the 2016 season on a minor league contract.
According to Rob Biertempfel, of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the Pittsburgh Pirates had shown interest in Bonilla previously. In fact, they tried to sign him last off-season after he was released from the Dodgers. Biertempfel tweeted what GM Neal Huntington told him:
"“Huntington said #Pirates mulled signing Bonilla last year after he had TJ surgery in ’15. “We like his pitch arsenal.”"
So with that being said, the Pittsburgh Pirates got a chance to bring in the 26-year-old pitcher and did so. Bonilla ranked as the Phillies #14 prospect entering the 2012 season according to minorleagueball.com. He then was trade to the Rangers that off-season, along with another player, for Michael Young. Bonilla continued to be ranked as a top 30 prospect for the Rangers. He eventually made his MLB debut with the Rangers in 2014 pitching in three innings. The following season he was expecting to open with the Texas Ball Club. However, the 6’0” right-handed pitcher found himself on the disabled list to start the season. Eventually, it was determined that he would undergo Tommy-John surgery and miss all of 2015. Instead of keeping Bonilla around, the Rangers cut him. As mentioned earlier, he was scooped up by the Dodgers, and resigned to pitch for them in 2016.
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A quick scouting report on Lisalverto Bonilla. First off, he stands at 6’0” and weighs 225 pounds. According to most scouting reports, his fastball sits around 92-94 miles per hour and has good movement. Because of the movement on his fastball, he produces a good amount of ground-balls. Last year he was getting 1.61 ground-balls per air out. He also has an average offering in a slider, and a deceptive change-up that produces swings and misses. Speaking of swings and misses, Bonilla’s most impressive stat is his 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings over his minor league career. Through his career, Bonilla has been used primarily as a starter. However, Neal Huntington told Biertempfel:
"Huntington said Bonilla will be given a chance to compete for a bullpen job during spring training. Bonilla has a minor league option left…”“We’ll develop him as a reliever, but we also have interest in him as a starter if we have that need,” Huntington said. (Full Article)"
Related Story: Pirates Cut Veteran Locke
With that, it sounds like Bonilla will more likely be a long man in the bullpen if he makes the team. This suggests that they could look to use Nicasio more as a late inning reliever, in higher leverage situations. Bonilla is just 26 years of age, and is going to make $575,000 with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017. All in all, the Pittsburgh Pirates get a young, cheap arm with potential upside. Never hurts to have to much bullpen depth, especially one with a minor league option.