Pittsburgh Pirates: Team on a Top International Pitcher

(Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
(Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates are notorious for stressing that they need to build through their system.  They are in on a top international free agent arm.

One thing that the Pittsburgh Pirates have focused a lot of their resources on is scouting the International Amateur market.  The guy who brought this to the forefront of the Pittsburgh Pirates was Rene Gayo.  Gayo was a well known International scout who did a good job of finding some real diamonds in the rough for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  However, in more recent years Gayo’s players have not really worked out.

He ended up being involved in a big scandal that cost him his job not only with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but in turn also got him suspended by Major League Baseball.  Gayo was taking side payments from teams and trainers for convincing the Pittsburgh Pirates to sign their players.  Essentially, he was not bringing back scouting reports on players he thought would help the team, but rather who he could make extra money off of.

This all made sense when looking back.  Toward the end of Gayo’s tenure with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team was not connected to really any notable prospects.  That has quickly changed with the new head of International Scouting Junior Vizcaino.  Last year, Vizcaino signed a couple of Top 50 International Prospects in Osvaldo Gavilan and Sergio Campana.  They also signed a group of other players to six figure deals.

It seems that the team is moving back towards being aggressive in the international market and trying to bring in more highly rated talent.  The team will be able to be aggressive this year as they have one of the largest bonus pools at $6.5 million.  This year it looks like the Bucs are going to be signing one of the top international pitchers and overall players available.

According to Jess Sanchez of MLB Pipeline, the Pittsburgh Pirates are the favorite to sign Dominican Republic pitcher Cristopher Cruz.  Cruz is the 20th overall ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline’s top 30 International prospect list.  Furthermore, he is rated as the third best starting pitching prospect available. This is a big deal as the Pittsburgh Pirates have not signed a Top 30 rated prospect since Luis Heredia in 2010.

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The 16-year-old Cruz is all about projections.  He stands at 6’2” and weighs 170 pounds, giving him plenty of room to fill out as he matures.  He actually trains at the Pittsburgh Pirates Dominican Academy, which is a big reason why the Bucs have the inside track on him.  MLB Pipeline gives him a projection to be a potential top of the rotation type arm and gives him a player comparison to a young Ervin Santana.