2013-14 International Prospects Rumors
Here are notes on two recent international signings.
- The Pirates have signed Dominican outfielder Jeremias Portorreal for $375K, Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects reports (and Ben Badler of Baseball America confirms). Badler notes that Portorreal, 16, could become a power bat, although he will likely be limited to first base or a corner outfield spot.
- Recent signee Luis Encarnacion adds depth to the Phillies' already-large collection of young third basemen, Bob Brookover of the Inquirer writes. The Phillies already have Cody Asche, Maikel Franco and Zach Green at third base. "I hope we have a problem where guys are competing for job," GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says. "These things always have a way of working themselves out, but I hope Maikel Franco becomes the guy we think he can become because he’s the prototypical run producer from the corner." Of course, it will be many years before the 16-year-old Encarnacion enters the picture at the Major League level, and he may well be at a different position once he does.
AUG. 9: The Devers signing is now official, as the 16-year-old signed his contract today, according to Badler.
JULY 2: The Red Sox made an international splash today, signing Dominican third baseman Rafael Devers for $1.5MM according to a tweet from Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes. Devers, perhaps the best left-handed hitter on the market, was ranked third among this year's class of international prospects by Baseball America's Ben Badler, and sixth by MLB.com. The Sox also agreed in principle with Venezuelan lefty Emmanuel DeJesus on a deal worth $780K, tweets MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.
Devers, 16, has average raw power that could become above-average, according to Badler. He needs work defensively but has an "advanced feel for hitting," writes Badler. DeJesus' stuff has some similarities to Felix Doubront, and Badler noted Boston's interest in the past. MLB.com ranked him 24th, noting that he "could end up in the bullpen one day."
The Red Sox have the seventh-largest international bonus pool at $3,179,900, according to BA. They appear to have about $900K remaining after these two signings.
The Phillies have signed Dominican third baseman Luis Encarnacion for a $1MM signing bonus, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports. Badler ranked Encarnacion as the No. 4 international prospect in this year's class, while MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez ranked him 12th. Earlier in the week, Badler reported that he'd be "shocked" if the Phillies didn't sign Encarnacion, who just became eligible to sign today -- his 16th birthday.
Encarnacion's value is all in his bat, Badler writes, as defensive limitations will cause him to move to left field or first base eventually. He has plus raw power from the right side of the plate and has shown that power off to scouts in games already. Over at MLB.com, Sanchez's scouting report notes that Encarnacion hits the ball to all fields with a solid line-drive stroke and already has shown home run power to his pull side. Scouts like Encarnacion's makeup and aggressive approach on the field as well.
While most of the top international prospects from this year's July 2 crop have signed, a few notables remain unsigned. Here's the latest on some of Latin America's top prospects, courtesy of Baseball America's Ben Badler...
- The Red Sox are expected to officially sign No. 3 international prospect Rafael Devers on Friday, Badler tweets. Boston reportedly reached a $1.5MM agreement with the Dominican third baseman back on July 2.
- Badler also tweets that No. 4 international prospect Luis Encarnacion turns 16 on Friday, at which point he will be eligible to sign. Badler adds that he will be "shocked" if the Phillies don't sign the power-hitting third baseman.
- One more from Badler, who writes that 19-year-old Cuban right-hander Norge Ruiz has cemented himself as a rising star in the eyes of scouts (subscription required). He's just 5'10" and 170 pounds, but Ruiz worked at 89-94 mph and flashed terrific command of two plus breaking pitches against the U.S. College national team last month.
The Cubs announced the signing of Eloy Jimenez, who was rated as the top international prospect in this year's July 2nd class by both Baseball America and MLB.com. The two sides first reached agreement on a deal on July 3rd and formalized things nearly a month later.
The deal is worth $2.8MM bonus as well as a $250K college scholarship, according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. That's a signficant payday for a 16-year-old, but he actually turned down an even more lucrative offer to sign with the Cubs (Twitter link). The Cubs got a lot done on the international market, signing Jimenez, Gleyber Torres ($1.7MM), Jen-Ho Tseng ($1.625MM), Jefferson Mejia ($850K), and Erling Moreno ($800K). In total, the Cubs spent $7.895MM on int'l free agents.
As Steve Adams explained in his analysis of the Cubs' international expenditures, the Cubs have gone far over their alotted bonus pool. The Cubs will likely face the maximum penalties for international spending next summer, which means that they won't be able to give any player more than $250K in 2014=15. They'll also have to pay a 100% tax on the overage.
The outfielder is 6'4" and 200 pounds, and Baseball America's Ben Badler says that his average raw power and flat swing produce line drives -- a combination that could lead to above-average home run power in the future. MLB.com raved about Jimenez in their Top 30:
"Considered the crown jewel of the Class of 2013, Jimenez has one of the best baseball bodies available this year and is considered to be the total package. The teenager has impressed scouts with his intelligence, plus-speed, and gap-to-gap power that is expected to improve as he grows into his body."
Zach Links contributed to this post.
The Yankees have signed 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Leonardo Molina for a $1.4MM bonus, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. Molina, who ranked as the No. 5 international prospect according to both BA and MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, had to wait until August 1 to sign, as he just turned 16 years old today.
Back on July 1, Badler wrote that Molina arguably has better raw tools than top international prospect Eloy Jimenez, praising his plus-plus speed and strong, accurate arm from center field (subscription required). In a separate tweet, Badler adds that some teams actually preferred Molina to Jimenez.
Sanchez agreed with Badler's praise in his scouting report for MLB.com, noting that Molina is arguably the best athlete in this year's international class and had the ceiling of a five-tool center fielder if he can harness his ability. Both agree that his hitting ability isn't as advanced as his defensive game to this point.
Previously, the Yankees biggest international expenditure of this period had been Dominican shortstop Yonarius Rodriguez, who signed for $575K. Those two bonuses add up to $1,975,000 -- a number that exceeds the Yankees' allotted bonus pool by $97,100. While that may seem like a small overage, it's actually 5.1 percent above their bonus pool, which would put them into the second penalty bracket for exceeding their pool. Teams that exceed their pool by five to 10 percent must pay a 75 percent tax on the overage and are ineligible to sign a player in the 2014-15 class for more than $500K.
Of course, the reported numbers aren't final, and it seems highly unlikely that the Yankees would overcommit by a margin as small as $3,000. I'd imagine the number comes in under five percent, unless the team isn't done spending and is simply willing to accept penalties by signing more players, as we've seen with the Cubs.
Here's a look at today's significant international signings...
- The Reds have agreed to terms with Dominican left-hander Luis Tejada on a $600K bonus, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. Tejada, 19, originally signed with the Braves for $125K, but that contract was voided after it was learned that he lied about his age. While sitting out and serving a penalty for the false age, Tejada's velocity increased from 88-92 mph to the mid-90s, according to Badler, leading to a larger bonus. The $600K bonus is the largest handed out by the Reds since the July 2 signing period began. Cincinnati entered this year's signing period with the second-smallest international bonus pool.
The Indians and 19-year-old Cuban right-hander Leandro Linares have agreed to terms on a $950K bonus, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. The Tribe was said to be close to a deal in the $1MM vicinity over the weekend.
Badler calls him one of Cuba's top young pitchers and writes that the 6'3", 200-pound Linares sits 89-93 mph with his fastball, topping out at 94 mph. He also flashes a plus curveball at times and throws a potentially average changeup, according to Badler. Pitching in Cuba's 18U national league last season, he posted a 1.91 ERA with a 76-to-46 K/BB ratio in 66 innings. Not surprisingly, his command is the biggest issue for scouts.
Because Linares is younger than 23 and hasn't played in a Cuban professional league for at least three years, his signing comes out of the Indians' international bonus pool. Cleveland began the 2013-14 signing period with a pool of $3.64MM and has previously signed Dominican shortstop Willy Castro for $850K and outfielder Junior Soto for $600K.
The Indians are close to signing Cuban pitcher Leandro Linares for about $1MM, MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reports. Linares, now 19, previously pitched for the Cuban 16-and-under national team, and for Villa Clara in the Cuban 16-and-under and 18-and-under national championships, Sanchez notes. Linares is 6'3 and 205 pounds.
Since Linares is just 19 and has not played in a Cuban professional league for at least three years, his signing will have to come out of the Indians' international bonus pool. The Indians began the 2013-14 signing season with a bonus pool of $3.64MM. The Indians previously signed Dominican shortstop Willy Castro for $850K and outfielder Junior Soto for $600K.
Here are today's international signings...
- The Astros signed Dominican shortstop Wander Franco, Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle reports. According to Smith, the team began following the now 16-year-old Franco when he was just 13 (Twitter links). He'll receive $575,000, Ben Badler of Baseball America writes. In a short scouting report, Badler notes that the 6-foot, 180-pound Franco is a nephew of Angels shortstop Erick Aybar and former big leaguer Willy Aybar. Though not a toolsy player, the switch-hitting Franco impressed some teams with his performances against live pitching.
- Badler also reports that the Dodgers signed Alberto Estrella out of the Dominican Republic for $600,000. A 16-year-old right-handed hitter with power potential, Estrella is notable for his size, as he stands at 6'4" and weighs 195 pounds. Though he's played some shortstop and might be able to handle third base, his build suggests that he could end up moving to a corner outfield position or first base.
- The Orioles signed South Korean lefty Jung-hyun Yoon, Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net reported earlier this month (Twitter link). According to a report from Yonhap, Yoon was just a mid-round draft pick in the Korea Baseball Organization out of high school, but Orioles scout Choi Eun-chul says the team believes he's already good enough to pitch in A ball. However, the O's plan to start him in the Rookie League. Yoon, who has touched 92 mph with his fastball, says he hopes to emulate the success of the Dodgers' Hyun-jin Ryu. Yonhap's article didn't include a dollar figure for the signing.