MLB International Signing Period 2014: Analyzing All the Biggest Signings
Though the 2014-15 international signing period began only last Wednesday, July 2, it didn't take long for teams to lock up many of the best players in this year’s class.
As I detailed last week, the Yankees and the Red Sox are already considered the big winners this year, as both teams blew past their allotted international bonus pools so as to procure a variety of high-end prospects.
However, they weren't the only teams to land potential impact talent in the signing period’s opening days.
Here's a look at many of the other major signings since July 2.
The Yankees Go Big
|Dermis Garcia||SS/3B||Dominican Republic||$3.2M|
|Nelson Gomez||3B||Dominican Republic||$2.25M|
|Juan De Leon||OF||Dominican Republic||$2M|
|Hyo-Joon Park||SS||South Korea||$1.1M|
Only reflects signings for more than $1 million
The New York Yankees gave a $3.2 million bonus to Dominican shortstop Dermis Garcia, whom I profiled at Prospect Pipeline last week. The organization also signed Dominican third baseman Nelson Gomez for $2.25 million. According to Ben Badler of Baseball America (subscription required), Gomez "generates some of the best raw power in the class from his strong 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame."
In terms of their other seven-figure signings, the Yankees landed outfielders Juan De Leon ($2 million) and Jonathan Amundaray ($1.5 million) while also grabbing shortstops Wilkerman Garcia and Hyo-Joon Park for $1.35 million and $1.1 million, respectively.
Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com praised Garcia’s offensive potential, stating that he “has a good feel for hitting and should be able to hit for average,” but also noted that “some scouts believe he is better suited for second base or even third base because of his versatility and arm strength."
Sanchez also had good things to say about 18-year-old Park, who hails from South Korea: “A legitimate shortstop prospect, Park has the tools to stay at the position as he develops. What's more, some scouts think he has the potential to be above average in every facet of the game, except for power.”
The Yankees also gave a $1.1 million bonus to catcher Miguel Flames, who was tabbed as the best catching prospect in this year’s class by Baseball America’s Ben Badler:
Flames, a 16-year-old righthanded hitter, had been a third baseman until the end of last year, when he moved behind the plate. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, there are questions about whether Flames will stick behind the plate, but some scouts felt Flames was one of the better hitters available in Venezuela this year, especially after he dominated a national tournament last summer.
|Pedro Gonzalez||SS||Dominican Republic||Rockies||$1.3M|
|Amado Nunez||SS||Dominican Republic||White Sox||$900K|
|Ricky Aracena||SS||Dominican Republic||Royals||$850K|
|Yeremy Rosario||SS||Dominican Republic||Rockies||$800K|
The Colorado Rockies landed one of the better shortstops in this year’s international class Wednesday when they signed Dominican Pedro Gonzalez for $1.3 million, per Badler.
From Sanchez, who ranked Gonzalez as the No. 12 overall international prospect:
What's certain is that Gonzalez is tall and lean, and he's gaining weight. He's listed as a shortstop and is projected to stay on the left side of the infield because of his defensive abilities and future arm strength. Some evaluators have expressed some concern with his hitting mechanics, but like all prospects his age, Gonzalez will improve with instruction once he enters a team's academy. He displayed a good swing path and gap-power in International Prospect League games in the Dominican Republic and on the road as part of the team's travel squad.
They also grabbed another promising Dominican shortstop for $800,000 in Yeremy Rosario, who “could be the best shortstop available in this year’s class because of his actions on defense,” according to Sanchez.
The New York Mets' big signing last week was Venezuelan shortstop Kenny Hernandez, whom they inked to a $1 million deal, as reported by Sanchez on Twitter.
From Sanchez’s scouting report on the 16-year-old:
Why do scouts like Hernandez? Let's start with the fact that some evaluators believe he might have the best all-around swing in the entire class. The 6-foot, 160-pounder has good hands, strong wrists and the quick-twitch action in the batter's box that scouts love. Hernandez also has good bat control, plate discipline and a fluid swing that reminds some people of a young Shawn Green.
The Houston Astros signed Venezuelan shortstop Miguel Sierra for $1 million, per Sanchez on Twitter.
According to Badler, “Sierra is 16 but has instincts and fundamentals well beyond his years. A righthanded hitter, Sierra is 6 feet, 160 pounds and projects to stick at shortstop, with steady tools that play up in games because of his high baseball IQ.”
The Chicago White Sox signed Dominican shortstop Amado Nunez for $900,000, per Sanchez on Twitter.
From Sanchez's scouting report on Nunez:
Overall, scouts like his medium-frame build, his bat speed and his power potential. He has also been praised for his fluid swing and balanced setup at the plate. The broad-shouldered teen can also hit the ball to all fields. The shortstop could end up at third base in the future but will likely stay in the middle of the infield for now because of his soft hands, quick feet and range. He also has an average but accurate arm.
The Philadelphia Phillies signed Venezuelan SS Arquimedes Gamboa on a $900,000 bonus, reports Sanchez on Twitter.
According to Badler's scouting report (subscription required) on Gamboa:
Gamboa is one of the best athletes in the class and projects to play in the middle of the diamond, with the potential to be a good defensive shortstop ... The biggest question on Gamboa is how much impact he will have at the plate, but scouts highest on him like his swing and have seen him perform in games (he went 1-for-3 with three walks at the MLB showcase in San Pedro de Macoris in January). He’s a switch-hitter who’s better from the left side, with a loose, contact-oriented stroke. He puts the ball in play and sprays the ball around the field with occasional pop to the gaps. Power won’t be a big part of his game, but he has the chance to grow into 8-12 home runs. He could develop into a player along the lines of Braves middle infielder Jose Peraza, a fellow Venezuelan.
Kiley McDaniel of Scouting Baseball (subscription required) linked the Kansas City Royals to Dominican shortstop Ricky Aracena prior to the start of the current spending period, and they ultimately signed the 16-year-old for $850,000.
Think Rafael Furcal. At 5-foot-8, 155 pounds, Aracena isn't the biggest middle infielder on the market, but he makes up for his lack of size with a good bat and above-average tools.
Scouts like Aracena's switch-hitting abilities and that he has shown equal bat speed and homer power from both sides. He has impressed evaluators with his sound approach at the plate and his ability to drive the ball from gap to gap during Dominican Prospect League games.
The New York Yankees signed Venezuelan shortstop Diego Castillo for $750,000, per Sanchez on Twitter.
Sanchez offered the following scouting report on Castillo, who ranks as MLB.com's No. 16 prospect in this year's J2 class:
On defense, Castillo has good footwork and soft hands. He has one of the stronger arms in the class, and that's part of the reason the 5-foot-10, 150-pound infielder could stay at shortstop once he signs with a Major League club and moves through the ranks in the Minor Leagues.
A decent runner, Castillo has shown good instincts on the bases and good mechanics in the batter's box. The result is a repeatable swing. Some view him as a line-drive hitter that will not hit for much power. He played some games in the International Prospect League in the Dominican Republic.
|Anderson Espinoza||RHP||Venezuela||Red Sox||$1.8M|
|Juan Meza||RHP||Venezuela||Blue Jays||$1.6M|
|Chris Acosta||RHP||Dominican Republic||Red Sox||$1.5M|
|Huascar Ynoa||RHP||Dominican Republic||Twins||$800K|
The Boston Red Sox signed Dominican right-hander Chris Acosta to a deal worth $1.5 million, Sanchez reports on Twitter.
According to Sanchez's scouting report of Acosta:
Scouts like Acosta's tall and lean body along with his loose and easy arm actions on the mound. His fastball hovers in the 88 to 92 mph range, but his changeup might be his best overall pitch, and he can throw it in any count. Acosta's curveball has good rotation with bite, and he uses it in the strike zone early in counts and as a strikeout pitch.
Scouts like Acosta's command of all of his pitches and his overall feel for pitching. Some scouts believe he can look disinterested at times, and his delivery could use some work, but there is no denying his potential.
The Red Sox came back later in the day to sign another high-profile arm, as they landed Venezuelan right-hander Anderson Espinoza with a $2 million bonus.
Badler contends that the 16-year-old is the best pitcher in this year’s class, also noting that "at 6 feet, 175 pounds, he has a loose delivery, a fastball up to 94 mph with advanced secondary stuff and pitchability."
The Toronto Blue Jays also came away with one of the best pitching prospects on the board in Venezuelan right-hander Juan Meza, whom they signed for $1.6 million.
Badler notes that the 16-year-old Meza, who ranked as Baseball America's No. 10 overall prospect, has "a projectable frame at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds with a fastball that has touched the low-90s and is a good strike-thrower for his age."
The Houston Astros signed Venezuelan right-hander Franklin Perez for $1 million, as reported by Sanchez on Twitter.
According to Badler (subscription required):
He throws 88-91 mph but has the big, physical frame that leads scouts to believe he will throw in the mid-90s or higher within a few years. He delivers his fastball with strong finish and steep downhill plane. Perez’s fastball is his best pitch, but he already shows feel to spin a curveball with top-to-bottom action that could be a weapon when he’s able to harness it in the zone.
Lastly, the Minnesota Twins signed Dominican right-hander Huascar Ynoa for $800,000, according to Sanchez on Twitter. Huascar is the younger brother of right-handed pitching prospect Michael Ynoa, who signed with the A's for a record $4.25 million as a 16-year-old in 2008.
According to Sanchez's scouting report:
When Ynoa is on, he's really on, and he's arguably the best pitcher on the market. But when he's not on, he frustrates observers and draws the ire of scouts who have high expectations for the teenager. Evaluators love Ynoa's fastball, a pitch that hovers in the low 90s and was recently clocked at 94 mph. He also throws a cut fastball in the 90-91 mph range. Ynoa's repertoire also includes a splitter, curveball and a changeup -- the pitch some scouts believe is his best secondary pitch. Ynoa, who just turned 16 in May, is growing and still learning how to harness and repeat his delivery.
Other Notable Signings
|Jhoandro Alfaro||C||Colombia||White Sox||$750K|
|Julio Martinez||OF||Dominican Republic||Tigers||$600K|
The Chicago White Sox signed 16-year-old Colombian catcher Jhoandro Alfaro, the younger brother of Rangers catching prospect Jorge Alfaro, for $750,000, reports the Dominican Prospect League’s Twitter feed.
Badler notes that the 6’1”, 180-pound backstop “has a strong arm and is a more advanced defensive catcher than his older brother was when he signed, though he doesn’t have Jorge’s raw power or speed.”
The Philadelphia Phillies signed 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Daniel Brito for $650,000, who Badler notes is “extremely skinny at 6-foot-1, 140 pounds but handles the ball well from the left side with good actions and tools that could improve with strength.”
The Los Angeles Dodgers spent a big chunk of their allotted pool money on Venezuelan outfielder Romer Cuadrado, signing him for $750,000, per Badler. In that same report, Badler notes that Cuadrado is “raw but has projectable righthanded power from his 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame. He’s a corner outfielder with average arm strength.”
The Detroit Tigers signed Dominican outfielder Julio Martinez for $600,000, per Badler.
According to Sanchez's scouting report on Martinez:
The teenager is a big-bodied outfielder that projects in left field or at first base. He also has a decent arm that projects to be a slightly above-average tool, and he is working on improving his overall defensive play. But that's only a few of the reasons why evaluators find Martinez an attractive prospect.
On offense, Martinez succeeds at the plate by keeping hands inside and driving the ball to all fields. He's also impressed evaluators with his raw power during batting practice and his ability to make adjustments at the plate during games. He's not the fastest runner, but that doesn't seem to deter scouts.
The Miami Marlins signed Venezuelan outfielder Anderson Castro for $600,000, according to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com on Twitter.
According to Badler:
He’s 6-foot-4, 195 pounds and moves around well for his size with above-average speed, though as he fills out his big frame he will probably move to a corner. He has a strong, accurate arm for right field. He’s a righthanded hitter with projectable power, with the athleticism that could help bring along his righthanded bat.
Agreements in Place
|Adrian Rondon||SS||Dominican Republic||Rays||$3.3M|
|Gilbert Lara||SS||Dominican Republic||Brewers||$3.2M|
The Tampa Bay Rays reached an agreement to sign Dominican shortstop Adrian Rondon, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com on Twitter. Dionisio Soldevila, also of ESPNDeportes.com, later added via Twitter that the deal is for $3.3 million, though Rondon won’t be able to sign until he turns 16 on July 7.
Rondon is arguably the top prospect in this year’s international class, as he ranked first on Baseball America's Top 30 list and third on MLB.com’s.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound infielder can do it all. He has fluid actions on offense and defense and never seems out of control. He's expected to stay at shortstop when he signs with a Major League team because he projects to be a solid defender with a decent arm, quick feet and natural baseball instincts. He can also handle himself in the batter's box.
On offense, scouts like Rondon's pure bat. He makes solid contact and has gap-to-gap power that should improve once he enters an academy and develops as a player. He's already shown a good approach at the plate and shined during International Prospect League games in the Dominican Republic.
Lara, 16, is widely considered to be one of the top international prospects, ranking No. 5 overall on Baseball America’s list of the top 30 players in this year’s class.
Badler offered the following in his scouting report (subscription required) on Lara:
Lara is one of the most physically mature players for 2014 and it shows in his offensive game. His plus raw power ranks second in the class only to Dominican shortstop Dermis Garcia, but Lara takes his power to the games with much higher frequency. His swing and hitting approach are unorthodox, but he has good bat speed and seems to find a way to make it work against live pitching.
Shortstop isn’t an option for Lara, who’s a below-average runner and lacks natural infield actions. He might get a chance to begin his career at third base, where he does have a quick release to make up for below-average arm strength and a funky throwing stroke. He doesn’t have great hands, range or timing in the infield though, and he’s going to be so big that most scouts consider him a first baseman or left fielder exclusively.
The Seattle Mariners grabbed one of the premier talents in this year’s class last week when they agreed to sign Venezuelan outfielder Brayan Hernandez to a $1.85 million deal, per Sanchez on Twitter.
According to Sanchez:
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound outfielder is a contact hitter with a balanced setup at the plate. His natural swing leads some scouts to believe Hernandez will improve quickly once he receives regular instruction and plays regularly in games. He's also projected to show more power in the future if he continues to gain weight and maintain his athleticism. He's considered a line-drive hitter that can spray the ball to all fields.
Tall and lean, Hernandez has been praised for hand-eye coordination and speed on defense in the outfield. He also projects to be a plus-runner and has shown good instincts on the bases.