By Jason Shetler
It was announced on Friday that four Pirates minor league players have elected to become free agents. Those players are Francisco Diaz, Jeremy Bleich, John Bowker and Zack Dodson.
Diaz originally signed as a amateur player with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009. The Pirates claimed the Venezuelan born catcher off waivers from the Phillies in December of 2011. Diaz posted a .901 OPS this season for the West Virginia Power, but it came in only 26 games played, so the sample size was small. In addition, he was playing Low A ball at age 25, which is old for the level. Diaz is very much above average defensively, as he’s put up a 35% caught stealing rate during his minor league career.
Bleich was signed by the Pirates to a minor league deal last offseason. He was considered one of the better pitching prospects in the New York Yankees system during the 2010 season. In 38 combined appearances this year for AA Altoona and AAA Indianapolis, Bleich posted a 2.93 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP.
Bowker rejoined the Pirates organization for a second time in June. The first time was at the 2010 trade deadline when he was acquired by the Pirates from the San Francisco Giants as part of the Javier Lopez deal. Bowker played in 55 games with Indianapolis where he hit .237 with a .623 OPS. He did not play for the big club this time around.
Dodson was the Pirates fourth round selection in the 2009 MLB Draft. The 25-year-old left-hander for a time seemed to be one of the more underrated pitchers in the Pirates system. Dodson entered 2015 with Altoona, posting a 3.67 ERA along with a WHIP of 1.23 in 162 innings pitched.