Photo courtesy of Twins Daily.
MLB free agency has begun and on day one the Pirates signed their first free agent to a new contract. Pittsburgh signed outfielder Gilberto Celestino to a minor league deal, and he will more than likely get an invitation to major league spring training.
Celestino was one of the top International free agents in 2015 and signed with the Houston Astros at age 16 for a signing bonus of $2.25 million. He split the 2016 season between the DSL Astros and the GCL Astros, hitting a combined .257 with 2 HRS and 19 RBI. He spent the 2017 season with the Greeneville Astros hitting .268 with 4 HR and 24 RBI.
In July of 2018 the Houston Astros traded Celestino, along with Jorge Alcala to the Minnesota Twins for relief pitcher Ryan Pressly. He climbed through the Twins organization over the next several seasons, and finally got the call to the big leagues in June of 2021. Celestino finished 2021 with 62 at bats and hit .136 with 2 HRS and 3 RBI. In 2022, Celestino was a regular playing in 122 games for the Twins, he hit .238 with 2 HR and 24 RBI in 311 at bats.
Coming into spring training last season, Celestino was fighting to make the Twins as a 4th outfielder. Unfortunately, he suffered a ruptured ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb, and underwent thumb surgery, with a recovery period of 6-8 weeks. Once activated, Minnesota sent Celestino to AAA where he finished the season hitting .243 with 4 HR and 31 RBI in 55 games. On October 1st he was designated for assignment by Minnesota.
The best skill set Celestino brings to the table is his defensive ability. He reads the ball well off the bat and covers a lot of ground in the outfield. He is willing to lay out and go get a ball, while playing most of his time in center field and right field. He has an above average MLB arm and throws from a higher overhand position with efficient accuracy. Celestino bats right handed and throws left handed, unique in a way that only under 100 baseball players all-time have done this.
Celestino is a spray hitter with limited power in his bat. He stays on the ball through the zone and is not a big strikeout type hitter. In fact last year at AAA he walked more than he struckout. He has average speed coming out of the right handed batter box, but always hustles and is a good baserunner. He is only going to be 25 when spring training starts and he has improved his approach each season. He has the chance to be a .270 hitter but he may never get to double digit homers.
The Pirates have very little outfield depth in their organization and this signing is a no-risk acquisition. With only Bryan Reynolds and Jack Suwinski cemented in starting roles, Celestino can potentially be the starting right fielder or move to center field and push Suwinski to right field. His bat is more of a complimentary bat to a big lineup and will not bring much to the Pirates lineup in terms of gap shots and power.
This signing may not excite many Pirates fans, but there is a definite chance Celestino can be a part of the Pirates team moving north at the end of March.