Pirates celebrate signing class at Dominican complex

January 19th, 2024

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- For many of the players in the Pirates’ 2024 international signing class, signing day on Friday will be one of the most memorable days of their lives. Their new organization made sure it was treated as such.

Inside the large batting cages, surrounded by the fields and the living and training complexes they will call home for the next few years, 16 players signed their papers to become Pirates at the club’s Dominican Academy outside of Santo Domingo. Pittsburgh has signed 22 international players since the signing period began on Monday, including four in a ceremony in Venezuela on opening day.

“Today is the final touch for your sacrifice, your dedication, all of the help from your parents, your sacrifice to do tryouts,” said Luis Silverio, the Pirates’ senior adviser to international operations. “… So you should be proud of every accomplishment that you have done so far.”

In attendance at the signing ceremony were Pirates chairman Bob Nutting, president Travis Williams and assistant general manager Steve Sanders, along with various members of the international scouting and development teams.

The signing group featured players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama, Curaçao and even Australia, which Pirates director of international scouting Junior Vizcaino said made him do the ceremony in both Spanish and English for the first time in his seven years leading the event.

It also featured a ton of talent that could make an impact on the Pirates’ system. No player better represents that than Bralyn Brazoban, a 17-year-old Dominican outfielder who stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs 180 lbs. He’s ranked No. 38 on the 2024 Top 50 International Prospect list by MLB Pipeline. Vizcaino said Brazoban has the potential to be a five-tool player.

“He’s a special kid, as far as his size,” Vizcaino said. “He has power. He has high contact. Then he runs a 6.5 60[-yard dash] and has a 55[-grade] arm. He follows directions really well. He makes adjustments quickly. It’s just a question of having our guys put their hands on him and make him better.”

Bralyn Brazoban (in Pirates jersey) is joined by his family and team officials.

The same is true for Abdiel Feliz, ranked No. 50 on the Top 50 International Prospects list, though he’s of a much different build: A lanky 16-year-old who is known much more for his whippy arm and great glove.

“He’s a special defender, but he’s also a switch-hitter,” Vizcaino said. “I won’t say he’s a power guy, but it’s a high-contact, gap-to-gap, very smart baserunner, top-of-the-order type of hitter -- if not first then second, because he’s so smart.”

The signing class has a lot of intrigue beyond the box score. Dominican signee Anthony Sosa, a shortstop who can also play the outfield, is the nephew of MLB legend Sammy Sosa. Deshandro Tromp represented Curaçao on the 2019 Little League World Series team that reached the final in Williamsport, Pa. Iverson Allen from Panama explained that he was named after Allen Iverson because his dad, a former Panamanian national basketball team player, was a huge fan.

The celebration on Friday was complete with music, photograph areas, tableside service and a large buffet of food -- food that players like Brazoban and Allen said stood out to them from the first time they visited the academy. Scouting videos played in the background as each player had his red carpet moment. Families came dressed in their finest outfits, with one family even color-coordinating their suits.

It was an event worthy of this type of fanfare. Vizcaino, who is from the Dominican Republic, knows how much a day like Friday can mean for these families.

“Most of these families have a very humble beginning. We wanted to make a day like this special for their families,” he said. “We started in a way, then through ownership, we started doing more and more. We’re already talking about how we can make this better, because we have to beat it next year.”

Here are all of the signees who were present and signed at the Dominican Academy:

  • Javier Acevedo: C, Panama
  • Iverson Allen: OF, Panama
  • Bralyn Brazoban: OF, Dominican Republic
  • Abdiel Feliz: INF, Dominican Republic
  • Edward Florentino: OF, Dominican Republic
  • Kendrick Herrera: SS, Dominican Republic
  • Randol Martinez: RHP, Dominican Republic
  • Frenkeli Mesta: SS, Dominican Republic
  • Reinold Navarro: LHP, Dominican Republic
  • Irwin Ramirez: RHP, Venezuela
  • Rubens Romero: RHP, Australia
  • Angel Soriano: LHP, Panama
  • Anthony Sosa: SS, Dominican Republic
  • Jesus Tapia: RHP, Dominican Republic
  • Deshandro Tromp: SS, Curaçao
  • Phillando Williams: OF, Bahamas