The Pittsburgh Pirates signed a good group of international prospects this off season, so how have they fared so far?
The Pittsburgh Pirates signed some very notable players during the most recent international signing deadline. Most of those prominent players have made their debuts with the Pirates’ Florida Complex League affiliates, and now that they’ve played a handful of games, I think it’s time to check in on some of these top international signees.
Infielder Yordany De Los Santos
Yordany De Los Santos received the largest signing bonus among the Pirates’ international class, getting $1.2 million. The infielder is currently batting for a solid .280/.406/.395, leading to a .400 wOBA and 125 wRC+. He isn’t hitting for much power with an ISO of .115 but has only struck out in 19.3% of his plate appearances while having a 15.7% walk rate. He’s also been much more productive recently, with a 177 wRC+ in his last month of playing time.
De Los Santos may not be hitting for a lot of power now but projects to be an above-average power hitter. The big question is if he can remain at shortstop long term. He has the arm for the position but lacks the speed and range. He should hit more than enough if he has to move to third base long-term. He has already seen some innings at the hot corner as a professional.
Outfielder Tony Blanco Jr.
Tony Blanco Jr. is arguably the most interesting prospect from the Pirates’ international class. Standing at 6’6”, 250 before his 18th birthday, Blacno Jr. has already drawn comparisons to some of baseball’s biggest power hitters like Aaron Judge (6’7″, 282) and Giancarlo Stanton (6’6″, 245). Blanco Jr. has shown off a ton of raw power as an amateur. Like with any big power hitter, there is some strikeout concern.
Unfortunately, Blanco Jr. has been injured for most of this season. But in the five plate appearances he had before landing on the injured list, the slugger had two hits, including a mammoth home run on a pitch up and out of the zone. With his frame, he’ll surely be a fun player to watch develop.
RHP Pitterson Rosa
Pitterson Rosa received the third most money for their signing bonus behind De Los Santos, and Blanco Jr. Rosa received $700K from the Bucs. So far, Rosa has performed relatively well through his first 22 innings. He has a 3.22 ERA and 3.55 FIP with a strikeout rate of 27.9% while not allowing a home run yet. Rosa’s ground ball rate clocks in at 55.3%. However, he does have a 12.8% walk rate.
There’s a lot of projectability with Rosa’s frame. He stands at 6’2” 178, so more muscle and bulk are likely to come. Rosa is athletic, which should help him repeat his delivery and cut down on the walks. His arm speed also adds some deception. His breaking offerings are already considered decent pitches, and he has reached 94 MPH with his fastball.
Catcher Axiel Plaz
Axiel Plaz is the top catching prospect the Pittsburgh Pirates signed in this year’s class. He signed for $350,000 and has obliterated the baseball so far. In just 80 plate appearances, Plaz has 24 hits, including three home runs and ten doubles. He’s only struck out 14 times and has drawn 12 walks. He’s been an absolute machine at the plate in this small sample size.
Plaz receives good reviews for his defense behind the dish. He has athleticism that not many backstops have, which helps him move well for a catcher. There’s also good offensive upside. Plaz has plus power potential and hasn’t shown much swing-and-miss concern.
RHP Hung-Leng Chang
Hung-Leng Chang is the Pittsburgh Pirates second Taiwanese pitching prospect, alongside Po-Yu Chen. Chang signed for a half-of-a-million and was seen as one of the team’s more notable international signees. Chang has looked great in his small body of work. In 20.1 innings, he has struck out 29.3% of batters faced with a walk rate just a tick below 5% (4.9%) and hasn’t surrendered a home run yet. He also has a great 49.1% ground ball rate. While he has allowed ten earned runs, he still has a sub-3.00 xFIP and FIP.
Among the Pirate international signees, Chang has the best chance to reach the majors first. He was one of the more talented pitchers among this group and is already 20 years old. He’ll turn 21 in early October. Chang is even more projectable than Rosa, with a 6’3” 160 frame. He’s an advanced pitcher who has five offerings. Definitley a guy I think will be in the majors in 2-3 years.