Pittsburgh Pirates: Potential Minor League Free Agents to Consider
By Noah Wright
It's surprising that no team has decided to take a chance on Edwin Rios. Rios debuted in 2019 but has never gotten an extended look at playing time because of injuries. But he has consistently been a good hitter when given the chance. The only time he didn't post a wRC+ of 120 or greater was in 2021 when he had an abysmal 11 wRC+ (89% worse than the league average).
Overall, Rios has 291 career plate appearances, slashing .219/.299/.492 with a .334 wOBA and 112 wRC+. Now that doesn't seem too impressive. He only hits for power, but that 2021 season really bogs down his overall production. Outside of 2021, he’s a .254/.320/.524 batter. While Rios has consistently had issues with strikeouts, with a career 32% strikeout rate, he does have a decent 8.6% walk rate. Rios has a ton of raw power, averaging out with a 90.9 MPH exit velocity and 47% hard-hit rate.
Rios is primarily a third baseman but has also seen ample time at first base. He's not much of a defensive infielder but holds his own over at first base. He's a decent 1B/DH/3B option, and he also comes with a minor league option remaining.
Harold Castro would be an interesting player to secure a minor league deal with. Castro's not much of a batter. From 2018 through 2021, he posted an unimpressive .295/.315/.375 line. Sure, that's a good average, but his on-base percentage was only about average, and he hit for zero power. 2022 has so far been his best offensive season yet.
This past season Castro batted .271/.300/.381 with a .297 wOBA, and 94 wRC+. While those numbers still aren't going to wow anyone, they're passable for the kind of versatility Castro brings. The utility man has played every single position on the diamond except for catcher. He's not a particularly good defender at any position, but the fact he can move around with ease brings some value. Having a guy like that stashed away in your back pocket adds an extra layer of quality depth to any organization.
A third position player worth considering bringing in on a minor league deal is Yusniel Diaz. Diaz was once considered a consensus top-100 prospect and was sent to the Baltimore Orioles for Manny Machado. After trending upward from 2017 through 2019, 2021 hit Diaz hard as he registered a wRC+ of just 28 at Triple-A.
He rebounded this past season, but not to his former glory. In 310 plate appearances, Diaz batted .252/.348/.372 with a .329 wOBA and 96 wRC+. Of the few positives, Diaz had a strong 12.6% walk rate and a solid 22.9% strikeout rate. While Diaz might never recapture his prospect status, the Pirates lost Jared Oliva as part of their minor league outfield depth. Adding Diaz would at least give them a low-risk chance on a guy who was once considered a headliner for an MVP-caliber player.