2014-15 International Prospects Rumors

International Notes: Leyva, Mena

Here’s some news from the international player market…

  • The Orioles have signed Cuban right-hander Lazaro Leyva to a contract with a $725K bonus, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  Leyva didn’t rate a mention in the top-30 international prospect lists released by Baseball America or MLB.com prior to July 2, and there’s little information publicly known about Leyva, both scouting-wise and even in regards to his basic biography.  It’s no surprise that MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko tweets the deal will be official once Levya passes a physical and has his age confirmed.
  • Right-hander David Mena has left Cuba and is looking to establish residency in a South American country, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (via Twitter).  Mena, 21, would be subject to international signing pool guidelines if and when he becomes eligible to join an MLB team.

Mariners To Sign Christopher Torres

The Mariners have agreed to sign Dominican shortstop prospect Christopher Torres with a $375K bonus, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter links). Torres was rated the 18th-best overall international prospect available on this year’s July 2 market by MLB.com.

While Torres’s bonus is nothing to sneeze at, it falls well shy of the $2.1MM that he was reportedly promised by the Yankees before the club backed out of its commitment. New York is said to have been hit with a $20K fine over the situation.

As Ben Badler of Baseball America explained in reporting the dispute, Torres was left in a particularly difficult spot since other clubs had already promised their international pool space to other players. Torres’s trainer also told Badler that the player had previously been offered $1.6MM by Seattle before reaching terms with the Yankees. You’ll want to give Badler’s entire piece a read to understand the ordeal.

According to MLB.com, Torres brings a switch-hitting bat whose hit tool is better from the left side but delivers more power from the right. Defense and speed are his calling cards at present, though he has a large enough frame that he has some projection at the plate.

Yankees Notes: Tanaka, Torres, Judge, A-Rod

The Yankees’ playoff chances may hinge on a game of catch that will take place today at Yankee Stadium.  General manager Brian Cashman confirmed to George A. King III of the New York Post that Masahiro Tanaka will throw today for the first time since a slight UCL tear was discovered in the righty’s throwing elbow.  If Tanaka feels good after his session, he’ll continue his rehab process with an eye towards a return in September.  If he doesn’t feel right, Tanaka may have to undergo Tommy John surgery and could be in jeopardy of missing the entire 2015 season.

Here’s some more about the Bronx Bombers…

  • The trainer for Christopher Torres, a 16-year-old Dominican shortstop, made a complaint to the commissioner’s office claiming the Yankees backed out of an agreed-upon $2.1MM bonus with the youngster, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports.  The Yankees claim no deal was ever reached, while Torres’ trainer says that by not informing Torres of their decision until June, the shortstop was left unsigned with no teams had room left in their international budget.  Badler goes into great detail about the case and the gray area created when teams agree to sign international players months in advance of the July 2 signing period, which is against MLB rules but is very common around the league.
  • The Phillies asked for Aaron Judge in exchange for Marlon Byrd, according to Bill Madden of the New York Daily News.  Needless to say, the Yankees balked at giving up Judge, who was drafted 32nd overall in 2013 and is ranked by MLB.com as the fifth-best prospect in the Yankees’ farm system.
  • With the Yankees struggling at the plate and facing questions at third base and DH for 2015, Newsday’s David Lennon writes that Alex Rodriguez would’ve been a useful piece on the roster right now.  Had A-Rod worked out a 125-150 game suspension last August instead of appealing and ending up suspended for all of 2014, he would already have been eligible to return, Lennon notes.
  • Also from King’s piece, Rusney Castillo‘s private workout with the Yankees will take place on Friday.  The Cuban outfielder also has an upcoming session with the Mariners, and he has already worked out for the Phillies and Red Sox.  King hears from sources that Castillo could sign for between $35-45MM, which is a step up from the $25-35MM we last heard was Castillo’s likely price range, though given the heavy interest in his services and the big-market teams involved, it isn’t surprising his price tag is going up.

Phillies Sign Jonathan Arauz

Here are today’s international signings, with the latest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Phillies have signed 16-year-old Panamanian shortstop Jonathan Arauz to a contract worth a $600K bonus, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reports (Twitter link).  Arauz didn’t crack the top-30 international prospect rankings for either MLB.com or Baseball America, though BA’s Ben Badler reports that some scouts considered Arauz to be Panama’s best young player.  The switch-hitting Arauz is “better from the left side with gap power,” Badler writes, and the teenager has the strong arm and smooth hands that could allow him to stick at shortstop.  Philadelphia has been active since the international market opened up on July 2nd, also inking notable Venezuelan youngsters Arquimedes Gamboa and Daniel Brito to a combined $1.55MM in bonuses.

Mariners Sign Brayan Hernandez

JULY 28th: The Mariners officially signed Hernandez, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America (on Twitter).  The M’s also confirmed the signing, tweets Bob Dutton of The News Tribune.

JULY 2nd: The Mariners have agreed to terms with top international prospect Brayan Hernandez, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. Hernandez, a 16-year-old outfielder from Venezuela, will receive a $1.85MM bonus, per Sanchez.

A switch-hitter, Hernandez ranked No. 8 on MLB.com’s list of top international amateurs and third on Baseball America’s version of the same list. Sanchez, BA’s Ben Badler and Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel have all connected the Mariners to Hernandez in the past, with McDaniel making the link all the way back in February.

Badler called Hernandez one of the most well-rounded players and best athletes in this year’s class. He has the potential to hit 15 to 20 homers with slightly above-average speed but a below-average throwing arm, per Badler. Sanchez calls him a contact hitter with a balanced setup that could improve quickly upon getting into regular games, due to a natural swing and strong hand-eye coordination.

A’s Acquire Rodolfo Fernandez From Brewers For International Bonus Slot

The Athletics announced that they have acquired minor league right-hander Rodolfo Fernandez from the Brewers for the No. 57 international bonus slot, which carries a value of $339K.

The Brewers have been rumored to be on the hunt for some additional bonus money, as they’ve agreed to terms with Dominican shortstop Gilbert Lara on a $3.2MM bonus but have an international bonus pool of just over $2.6MM. This new move boosts their overall bonus pool $2,950,800, which is still $249,200 short of Lara’s reported bonus. That means that their agreement with Lara would still result in an overage of 8.4 percent, which would be enough to prevent them from signing a player in next year’s signing period for any more than $500K.

While MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez has since listed Lara’s signing bonus, even that $149,200 overage would still result in a 5.05 percent overage. The Brew Crew needs to keep the overage under five percent in order to avoid restrictions on their spending next season, so it seems likely that the team will pursue further bonus slots in order to come in under that number. Further trades will have to be completed before Lara’s signing is officially announced, as teams cannot acquire additional bonus money once they have already exceeded their signing pool.

Fernandez, a 24-year-old Cuban right-hander, has a 2.87 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 31 1/3 innings at Low Class A this season. He didn’t rank among Milwaukee’s Top 30 prospects, per Baseball America or the team’s Top 20 prospects, per MLB.com. The trade serves as another example of teams moving international bonus money for relatively marginal returns.

Astros To Sign Ronny Rafael

The Astros have agreed to sign Dominican outfielder Ronny Rafael to a contract with a $1.5MM bonus, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter link).  The 20-year-old ranked 20th on MLB.com’s list of top 30 international prospects, while he checked in at 25th on Baseball America’s top-30 list.

A 6’0″, 177-pound product of Santo Domingo, the MLB.com scouting report notes that “some scouts believe Rafael is the perfect mix of power, speed and football-type athleticism” with plus speed and aggressive base-running, the ability to play any of the three outfield positions and good raw power.  BA’s scouting report is a little more pessimistic, calling Rafael a “strength-based tools guy who’s still learning feel for the game,” and “a free swinger whose pitch recognition needs work, so his offensive profile projects to be power over OBP.”

Rafael is the third international prospect to sign a seven-figure deal with the Astros, following their $1MM contracts with Franklin Perez and Miguel Sierra.  Houston has room to be aggressive since they have the highest international bonus pool of any team in MLB.

Royals Sign Ricky Aracena

Here are the day’s most notable international prospect signings from the (rankings via MLB.com and Baseball America):

  • The Royals have signed Dominican shortstop Ricky Aracena, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). Aracena, who ranked 24th on Sanchez’s Top 30 list and 17th per Baseball America’s Ben Badler, will receive a bonus of $850K, Sanchez says. Sanchez notes that Aracena is a switch-hitter with equal bat speed and home run power from each side of the plate, and he has the tools to stick at shortstop. Sanchez likens him to Rafael Furcal in terms of body type, while Badler (subscription required) compares him to a larger version of Jose Altuve. Scouts “marvel” at how polished and instinctive Aracena is at such a young age, according to Badler.

AL East Notes: Lester, Blue Jays, Hoffman, Yankees

ESPN’s Buster Olney thinks that extension talks between the Red Sox and Jon Lester are “all but over” and the left-hander will hit free agency, he said Wednesday on the WEEI radio. Olney states that if the Sox had approached Lester and offered something like $100MM over five years in Spring Training, a deal may have been reached, but that didn’t happen. The only way for a long-term deal to be reached now, in Olney’s opinion, may be to go the route the Phillies went to extend Cole Hamels in 2012 — offer top-of-the-market value ($140-150MM) on a final midseason offer.

Here’s more on Lester and the AL East…

  • Tim Britton of the Providence Journal spoke with Red Sox skipper John Farrell, who said that Lester has been a model example for how to handle a contract year. Lester has kept his contract discussions private and hasn’t created any sort of distraction or tension in the clubhouse, choosing instead to focus on the season at hand, according to Farrell.
  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons are noncommittal when asked what areas the Jays might seek to upgrade via trade this summer, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. Anthopoulos noted that it would be very difficult for a club to acquire anyone from the Jays’ current 25-man roster unless they were acquiring an upgrade at that same position, and he also discussed Brett Lawrie‘s role with the team when he returns from the DL.
  • In the video at the top of the previous link, Anthopoulos discussed the signings of top picks Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost. Anthopoulos touched on the team’s previous inability to sign first-rounders Tyler Beede and Phil Bickford, but noted that he wouldn’t draft a player he didn’t think he could sign. He added that Hoffman will head to Florida to continue his rehab from Tommy John, while Pentecost will eventually head to short-season Class A Vancouver (once he gets a passport). Anthopoulos also said that the team agreed to the full-slot value with Hoffman because they felt the “discount” on signing him was already built in to the fact that he fell to the No. 9 pick. He and his staff thought Hoffman had a chance to go in the Top 3 or even Top 2 picks before tearing his UCL.
  • The Yankees have garnered a lot of attention with their international spending spree today, and Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com tweets that the team could spend as much as $30MM on international free agents, once the 100 percent overage tax is accounted for. That figure assumes that the team eventually agrees to terms with Colombian outfielder Bryan Emery, as many expect them to.

Yankees To Sign Eight Top International Prospects

10:02pm: MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets that Arias received an $800K bonus, and Flames’ bonus is $1MM. Park’s bonus is $1.1MM, he adds in a second tweet.

7:19pm: Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel reports that the Yankees have signed Venezuelan outfielder Jonathan Amundary for a rumored $1.5MM bonus and Dominican outfielder Antonio Arias for a rumored $1MM (Twitter links).

Amundary is described by Badler as a toolsy project that has a crudeness about many aspects of his game but comes with plenty of upside. He ranked seventh on MLB.com’s list and 22nd on BA’s. Arias ranked ninth on MLB.com’s list and 28th on BA’s. Badler writes that Arias, like Amundary, is all about projection. Sanchez likens him to a Cameron Maybin style player and praises his quick hands, good balance and aggressiveness at the dish.

5:50pm: Badler now reports that the Yankees have inked Korean shortstop Hyo-Jun Park — his No. 18 prospect and No. 13 on MLB.com’s list. Park is a bit older than most prospects, as he is an 18-year-old high school senior out of Korea. Scouts feel he can stick at shortstop with plus speed and athleticism. Sanchez notes that while his power is his weakest tool, some believe he could hit 10+ homers once he adds some strength.

5:36pm: Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the Yankees have added to their impressive haul on this year’s international market by signing his No. 2 ranked prospect — Dominican outfielder Juan De Leon. The 16-year-old De Leon ranked No. 5 on the Top 30 list of MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Badler notes (subscription required) that he has the potential for plus power due thanks to possessing the best bat speed in this year’s class. De Leon has a strong arm and average speed, and scouts are split on whether he can remain in center field or will have to slide over to right, per scouting reports from Badler and Sanchez.

Also from Badler, the Yankees have signed Venezuelan catcher Miguel Flames, who ranked 16th on BA’s Top 30 and 25th on MLB.com’s list. The former third baseman draws praise for raw power, a strong throwing arm and good plate discipline, but he needs more work behind the plate and may have to move to first in some scouts’ opinions, per Sanchez.

3:05pm: Shortstop Dermis Garcia has agreed to a $3.2MM bonus with the Yankees, reports Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes.com (via Twitter). Garcia landed at the very top of MLB.com‘s list of the top prospects, while checking in at ninth on that of Baseball America, which said the key question is whether he can transition his power into game action. Kiley McDaniel first connected the two sides back in February, with Robert Murray tweeting last month that the two were circling in on an “approximate” $3.2MM bonus that proved to be the final amount.

2:20pm: The Yankees have also agreed to a $1.35MM bonus with Wilkerman Garcia, tweets Sanchez. Garcia, a shortstop, appeared at seventh on Baseball America’s list of the top international prospects and 14th on that of MLB.com.

12:38pm: The Yankees have agreed to a $2.25MM bonus with international prospect Nelson Gomez, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). Gomez is an infielder out of the Dominican Republic. Murray also approximated a $2.25MM bonus for Gomez last month (Twitter link).

Prospect analysts agree that Gomez is one of the best players available, with MLB.com ranking him second overall and Baseball America putting him at sixth. He has a large frame and offers power at the plate and with his arm. Those physical tools could play anywhere on the diamond, but of course his value depends in part upon his position. Though MLB.com says there is some chance he could stick at short, BA sees him as a third baseman who could have to shift over to first or into the outfield.

The Yankees have been widely expected to blow past their $2,193,100 bonus allocation, and Gomez’s reported bonus accounts for more than that on its own. The Yankees also inked Diego Castillo for a $750K bonus earlier today.