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Bucs to add Gonzales, Peguero to pool

@adamdberry
July 15, 2020

PITTSBURGH -- With two open spots in their 60-man player pool, the Pirates are planning to bring a pair of their top position-player prospects into camp. General manager Ben Cherington said Wednesday that the Pirates expect to add 2020 first-round Draft pick Nick Gonzales and shortstop prospect Liover Peguero to

PITTSBURGH -- With two open spots in their 60-man player pool, the Pirates are planning to bring a pair of their top position-player prospects into camp.

General manager Ben Cherington said Wednesday that the Pirates expect to add 2020 first-round Draft pick Nick Gonzales and shortstop prospect Liover Peguero to their player pool. Assuming they clear the intake screening process, Gonzales and Peguero will report to Pittsburgh’s alternate training site at Peoples Natural Gas Field in Altoona, Pa.

The Pirates had two spots available after reliever Edgar Santana was suspended and right-hander Hector Noesí elected not to play this season. They sent 19 players to their alternate training site at the start of Summer Camp.

"We're continuing to evaluate kind of day to day the best way to use our 60-player pool in terms of putting the best team we can on the Major League level, making sure we're supporting the Major League team and also trying to find ways to continue development for some younger players, too,” Cherington said.

Gonzales and Peguero are in the last category. The Altoona camp is otherwise stocked with players who are nearly ready for the Majors or could be at some point this year, so Cherington used this opportunity to keep two of the organization’s best young players on the field and under their supervision even with the Minor League season canceled.

Cherington said the Pirates chose two position players in part because it’s easier for pitchers to train remotely. Pitching prospects can throw bullpen sessions and perhaps even face hitters near their homes, one reason that pitchers came into Summer Camp sharper than the hitters. Position players have a harder time conducting defensive drills and batting against the kind of professional pitching that the Pirates have in Altoona.

“That doesn't mean we wouldn't add pitching over the summer also, but that was a factor and obviously both those guys are important players for the Pirates,” Cherington said. “So we wanted to make sure we got a chance to spend some time with them in person."

Once an undrafted walk-on freshman at New Mexico State University, Gonzales turned into a star in college and went seventh overall in this year’s MLB Draft. Gonzales visited Pittsburgh and signed on June 24 for a $5,432,400 bonus, after which he said he expected the Pirates to “ramp up a little bit more specific to my development.” Gonzales will enter the system as a shortstop, although evaluators believe he will eventually move to second base.

Peguero joined the Pirates along with right-hander Brennan Malone in the January trade that sent center fielder Starling Marte to Arizona. The 19-year-old shortstop likely would have been assigned to Class A to start this season, but now he’ll get to train with some of the Bucs’ higher-level prospects in Altoona. Peguero, the Bucs' No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, hit .326/.382/.485 in 60 games between Rookie-level Missoula and Class A Short-Season Hillsboro last season.

Gonzales and Peguero are years away from the Majors, but they represent one major pillar of the plan Cherington laid out when he took over as Pirates GM: the acquisition of talent. But to get the most out of their ability, Pittsburgh needs to properly develop potential high-impact players like them. For now, the only place to accomplish that is at the satellite camp in Altoona, which Cherington visited on Monday.

“That group is really important, too. I was really pleased with what I saw on Monday. The energy out there is really good. The practice was good,” Cherington said. “That's a really important time for that group. We certainly hope that there's additional player-development activity at some point in 2020, but we don't know yet. So right now, we've got to take advantage of what we have, and a lot of that is going on in Altoona now."

That camp contains only a small percentage of the players in Pittsburgh’s system, however. Cherington said the Pirates remain in touch with the rest of their Minor Leaguers, making sure they have a prescribed practice routine to stay sharp even while working out remotely. Pitchers are asked to throw a certain number of times per week, and hitters are given defensive work and an assigned number of swings.

So if the Pirates do have to dip into their Minor League ranks to add more players, they’ll be ready.

“From that standpoint, it’s just working to get everyone a certain work volume that would come as close as we can to approximating an in-season environment so that, if they had to move to a different environment at some point, they’d be ready to do so,” Cherington said. “Less that we might be giving them a heads up that they might be going somewhere, more just making sure that they’re as in shape [as possible] if they do.”

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.