By Jason Shetler
In 2010, the Pirates signed Jose Osuna as a 17-year-old out of Venezuela for $250,000, which is considered very good signing bonus money for an amateur player. The signing bonus is also one of the highest given by the Pirates to a player from Venezuela since Neal Huntington has been the General Manager.
While the offensive production for Osuna in the minors has been consistently good, the Pirates farm system has significantly improved in recent years, stockpiling top flight talent, and that talent has put up even greater numbers. As a result, Osuna’s stats get overlooked, making him one of the more underrated prospects in the Pirates organization right now.
2016 was another productive season for Osuna. He began the year playing for AA Altoona, posting a .435 slugging percentage, before then being promoted to AAA Indianapolis in June, where he posted an even better slugging percentage of .482. Combined with the two affiliates, he hit 37 doubles, which was a career best for him.
This past offseason, the Pirates added Osuna to the 40-man roster. Had they chose not to, then he would have been eligible to become a minor league free agent. In his first Major League camp with the Pirates, Osuna has been making a very strong impression in the early going, with a .583 on base percentage and four home runs. Now that he’s garnering some attention with his unworldly yet unsustainable numbers, does Osuna have a future in Pittsburgh?
Despite the strong Spring showing, Osuna will start out 2017 with Indianapolis. The first reason being Super 2, which would begin his arbitration clock early. Another reason is that Alen Hanson is out of options, and the Pirates would risk losing him, if they tried to clear him through waivers. David Freese is under contract for this season and next season, which means Osuna wouldn’t be able to platoon at first base with Josh Bell, unless the Pirates were to move Freese. John Jaso will be a free agent after this year, so that could give Osuna an opportunity to claim a bench spot for 2018. Another scenario that can’t be ruled out is the Pirates using Osuna as a trade piece to obtain a starting pitcher at the deadline, assuming of course that the team is in buyer mode. Personally, I think Osuna could have a future with the Pirates in some capacity, especially if the Pirates end up being sellers this year, which would give him a chance to be in Pittsburgh much sooner.