The Pirates released 39 minor league players this week, as first reported by John Dreker of PiratesProspects.com. Outfielder Charlie Tilson, utilityman Jake Elmore, right-hander Luis Escobar and infielder Sherman Johnson stand out as players with prior big league experience.
Tilson, 27, joined the Bucs on a minor league deal this winter after spending the past four seasons in the White Sox organization. Acquired by Chicago in the 2016 swap that sent lefty Zach Duke to the Cardinals, Tilson made his MLB debut shortly after that trade. However, a torn hamstring suffered in his debut game required surgery, and he’s been plagued by a series of leg and ankle injuries ever since. In 280 Major League plate appearances, the former second-round pick carries just a .246/.310/.290 batting line. Tilson was known for his speed early in his career, but the 46 stolen bases he recorded in 134 games back in 2015 dwarf the eight bags he swiped in a combined 115 games between Triple-A and the Majors last year.
The 32-year-old Elmore has the most MLB experience of the group, having appeared in 217 games and logged 527 plate appearances. Elmore is just a .215/.292/.275 hitter in that time, but he’s demonstrated substantial versatility; in 2013, the Astros used him at every position on the diamond — including catcher and pitcher. Elmore has at least 106 innings at all four infield spots, 234 innings in the outfield (including 14 in center) and has also caught 4 1/3 innings and pitched two frames (one run allowed) in the Majors.
Escobar, 24, made his big league debut last year and received 60 grades on his fastball while coming up through the minors. He averaged 95.1 mph on that heater in his 5 2/3-inning cup of coffee last year, although he also walked four batters, hit another and threw a wild pitch in that short time. Escobar’s 2019 results in Triple-A were solid, particularly considering how hitter-friendly that league was last year: 4.09 ERA, 9.3 K/9, 5.2 BB/9, 1.15 HR/9 and a 46.6 percent grounder rate. That said, it’s not exactly a huge surprise that he was cut loose; Escobar did go unclaimed on waivers back in November.
As for the 29-year-old Johnson, he’s an eight-year minor league veteran who received the briefest of looks with the Angels back in 2018, appearing in 10 games but going hitless in 11 plate appearances. He has at least 450 innings at all four infield positions and, while he’s never shown much power, has been a consistent on-base threat with fairly low strikeout rates in his minor league career.