Sunday, July 12, 2009


Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates have not had a winning season since 1992, and the organization is leaving no stone unturned pursuing prospects that might help turn things around. The Bucs last week signed three high school players from Taiwan to minor league contracts. Two of them are from the same school.

Xiyuan Taichung City High School produced right-handed pitcher Sheng-qin Hong and outfielder Pin-hong Ji. Hong is a 165-pound six-footer who throws a 90 MPH fastball along with a curveball and changeup. His velocity is expected to increase as his body fills out. Ji is only 5-7 and 143 pounds, but very fast on the bases and a starter on both the 2005 Pony League World Series winners and Taiwan’s 2007 IBA Senior League champions. Both Hong and Ji are 18 years old.

Also signed was first baseman Ji-wei Xu, a 17-year-old from Kuang Fu High School. Xu is just shy of six feet tall and weighs 202 pounds. He has been compared to Jim Thome and Jason Giambi by scouts who spotted him crushing a long homer in a game last December.

All three signees will be sent to Australia’s Major League Baseball Academy for at least a couple months. Xu could be assigned to a Pirates minor league team as early as September, while Hong and Ji may not be assigned until next spring.

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