Pirates land Colombian outfielder for $1.05 million
The Pirates agreed Saturday with Colombian outfielder Harold Ramirez on a $1.05 million signing bonus, second-largest in franchise history for an international free agent.
Ramirez, 16, is 5 feet 11, 185 pounds, and scouts do not expect him to grow much, but they do see the potential for at least four of baseball's five tools: He has exceptional speed, as evidenced when he twice stole home against visiting Mexican League teams in March. He makes consistent contact at the plate, often with power. And he has the range and glove to play center field, though his arm is average.
Rene Gayo, the Pirates' Latin American scouting director, likened him to Starling Marte, the Pirates' top outfield prospect with Class AA Altoona.
"Harold's not as fast as Marte, but he's got more power," Gayo said. "He's got really strong, big hands. When he shakes your hand, his finger's touching your forearm. We see good power, a real jump to the ball off his bat."
Baseball America rated Ramirez 15th on its recent list of international prospects most likely to receive the largest bonuses.
Saturday marked the beginning of Major League Baseball's period to sign 16-year-old international players — anywhere outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico — and Ramirez probably will be the Pirates' biggest splash. Last summer, they set the franchise record by signing Mexican pitcher Luis Heredia to a $2.6 million bonus.
Although Ramirez has played primarily in Colombia — where the Pirates have two scouts, Orlando Covo and Daniel Garcia, in a rapidly growing talent base — he soon will be sent to their Dominican academy.